Muslim American Leadership

Ari Alexander is guest blogging (via Blackberry) from the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid, organized by the Muslim World League under the patronage of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

I had lunch today with Nihad Awad and Ibrahim Cooper, the top two people from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Dalia Mogahed and Ahmed Younis, the top two people from the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. It was an interesting taste of two generations, two approaches to contributing.

Ahmed used to be in charge of MPAC and describes those years as being an activist. Dalia came from the private sector, before getting involved in Gallup’s historically unprecedented effort to gather scientific polling data from Muslims in 150 countries. The two leaders from CAIR, however, lacked the same dynamism, the same curiosity.

In short, Dalia and Ahmed are the kind of Muslim-American leaders changing the face of Islam in America. They are hip. They are fast. They are highly educated. They cross borders and cultures with ease. And they are genuine – even dreamy – partners to anyone who would get to have the privilege to work with them. And they are shining stars for the Muslim world in representing Muslims in their travels, lectures, books and analyses.

I spent most of the conversation sharing elements of Judaism, analyzing some key aspects in Jewish demographics and describing some of the differences between groups of Jews. It was incredibly interesting.

This is just the sort of exchange that can only take place outside of the primary sessions – back and forth, comparison of experiences, insights quite widespread in one’s own community that come as a wonderful intellectual surprise to the other.

They taught me that polling shows that Palestinians have the same level of anger and depression as the poorest 100 counties in America. They shared with me that the same percentage of Israelis and Palestinians say they have a desire to permanently leave their respective societies.

They told me about being raised Egyptian in LA and Egyptian in Madison, respectively. I wish we had been friends through my 20s. I look forward to developing these ties as we move forward.

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