Realizing the (Muslim) American Dream
Today's guest blogger is Zeenat Rahman, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Interfaith Youth Core, where she oversees policy initiatives and international programs for the organization.
At the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, President Obama spoke candidly about the spirit of service that has shaped his life. It is an ethic he first saw in his mother through her work improving the lives of the rural poor from Indonesia to Pakistan. Later in his life, he continued her legacy through his work in Chicago's underprivileged communities.
Last week, I attended the swearing-in ceremony of Farah Pandith as Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the State Department, the first position of its kind. Like Obama, Farah spoke about how her mother, an immigrant from Kashmir, demonstrated through her actions the importance of using your strengths to give back. She believed that every problem must have a solution, and that every individual must take the responsibility to act. She never let her children forget that one of the great privileges of living in America is the opportunity to live out these principles with those who are different than you. Growing up, Farah knew that this imperative was part of being an American - and also part of being a Muslim.
I looked at the three women at the podium - Farah in the center, Secretary Clinton standing to her left, and Farah's mother to her right holding the red Qur'an on which Farah took her oath of office. I was struck by the similarities in these women: each holds the ethic of public service above all and embodies that ethic with their lives.
Many have commented that engagement between the U.S. and Muslim communities around the world must go beyond rhetoric into action. Farah's appointment is an important first step in this direction. In her previous position at State, Farah dreamed up and executed many innovative ideas--she held a summit in France that connected Muslim social entrepreneurs to investors, and in Italy she organized a media training session for Muslim journalists. Time and time again, she created the spaces and opportunities for citizen to citizen engagement-- uplifting best practice examples, connecting like-minded individuals, and then getting out of the way.
In her new position, Farah will need to not only dream big, but to make certain that, both here and abroad, all sectors of society--citizens, community organizations, business, and faith-based groups--dare to take part in the solution.
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.
September 21, 2009; 6:37 AM ET
Religion & Leadership
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