By Fatima Kermalli
It is a privilege for Muslims4peace to pick this year’s top 25 American Muslims. These are individuals who have exceled in their respective fields and substantiated the capabilities Muslims have to make a positive difference in society. Henceforth, is the following prime picks of 2018:
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is an American Islamic scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College. He is a proponent of classical learning in Islam and has promoted Islamic sciences and classical teaching methodologies throughout the world. He is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. In addition, he serves as vice-president for the Global Center for Guidance and Renewal. He is one of the signatories of A Common Word Between Us and You, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders calling for peace and understanding. The Guardian has referred to Yusuf as “arguably the West’s most influential Islamic scholar,” and The New Yorker magazine called that him “perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world.
Shaykh Zaid Shakir is a Muslim American scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. He teaches courses on Arabic, law, history, and Islamic spirituality. He is co-founder and chairman of United For Change,In 2015, he signed the official Memorandum of Understanding between Zaytuna College and Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. summa cum laude graduate, he obtained a BA in International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C., earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic Sciences.
Khalid Latif is An Executive Director and Chaplain or Imam for the Islamic Center at New York University (NYU) since 2007. He was initially appointed as the first Muslim chaplain at NYU in 2005 and also at Princeton University in 2006. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg nominated Latif to become the youngest chaplain in history of the New York City Police Department when he was 24 years old.
Hassanain Rajabali is speaker who has traveled the world lecturing on Islam. He currently lives in Dearborn, Michigan. He is a graduate from the University of Colorado with a degree in molecular biology and psychology. Rajbali is currently the director of Camp Taha, the world’s first Muslim owned camp located in Columbiaville, Michigan and Wise Learning, an institution which aspires to instill wisdom in the Muslim youth based on Islamic values and principles.
Hasan Minhaj is a comedian and actor who was a senior correspondent on The Daily Show from 2014–18. He was also the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.]His first stand-up comedy special, Homecoming King, received positive reviews from critics which won him a Peabody Award in 2018. Minhaj will host his own weekly show, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, on October of this year. Minhaj attended the University of California, Davis, where he majored in political science. In 2008, he won Wild 94.9’s “Best Comic Standing” competition.
Linda Sarsour is an American political activist and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. She is an advocate for American Muslims, as well as for Black Lives Matter, immigration policy, and mass incarceration. She has been a supporter of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party. Sarsour was co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March and of the 2017 Day without a Woman strike and protest. Sarsour continually works towards civil rights of American Muslims as well as other minorities.
Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American author, public intellectual, religious studies scholar, producer, and television host. He has written three books on religion: No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Aslan is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association. He is also a professor of creative writing at University of California, Riverside. He is also currently a board member of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Aslan holds a B.A. in religious studies from Santa Clara University, a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Harvard Divinity School, a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in fiction writing from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara
Faran Haroon Tahir (born February 16, 1964) is a Pakistani-American actor who appears in American television series and films, best known for his roles as Raza in Iron Man and Captain Robau in Star Trek. Tahir graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a BA in Theatre and then a graduate degree from the American Repertory Theater’s (A.R.T.) Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, Commissioner of the Department of Health, serving the first Muslim-American Cabinet member in the history of New Jersey. Dr. Elnahal worked as a physician executive in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), serving as the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health (ADUSH) for Quality, Safety, and Value in the Veterans Health Administration. He was also an adjunct assistant professor at the Georgetown University Department of Health Policy and Management.
Fareed Rafiq Zakaria born January 20, 1964) is an Indian-American journalist, political scientist and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. He has been a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time.
Zakaria attended the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in 1986, where he was president of the Yale Political Union, editor in chief of the Yale Political Monthly, a member of the Scroll and Key society, and a member of the Party of the Right. He later gained a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University in 1993, where he studied under Samuel P. Huntington and Stanley Hoffmann, as well as international relations theorist Robert Keohane.
Keith Maurice Ellison (born August 4, 1963) is an American politician and lawyer who has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district since 2007 and titular Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee since 2017. Ellison is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), the Minnesota state Democratic Party affiliate. The district centers on Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. He is a vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a Chief Deputy Whip, and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.
Ellison was the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress, and the first African American to have been elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1987, attended the University of Minnesota Law School. While there, he wrote several articles in support of Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Ellison graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1990.On November 6, 2018, Ellison elected Attorney General and becoming the first African American elected to statewide office in Minnesota, as well as the first Muslim to win election to any statewide office.
Dean Obeidallah (born December 17, 1969; Arabic: عبيدالله) is an American comedian. He is the host of SiriusXM Progress’ The Dean Obeidallah Show. A frequent contributor to CNN, his work has also appeared in various publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. Obeidallah received a J.D. from Fordham Law School and practiced law from 1993-1998 with the firm of Beattie Padovano. His first stand up comedy show was as part of the NJ Bar Association’s stand up comedy show. He then left the practice of law and was accepted into the prestigious NBC Page program in 1998. Thereafter from October 1999 through May 2007 he was a rights and clearance researcher for Saturday Night Live while performing stand up comedy in the comedy clubs of New York City.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American sabre fencer, and a member of the United States fencing team. She was the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. She earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.
In 2014, Ibtihaj and her siblings launched their own clothing company, Louella, which gears towards modest fashionable clothing in the United States market. She is also a sports ambassador, serving on the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative. In 2017 Mattel introduced a Barbie in a Hijab, which is designed after Ibtihaj
Fazlur Rahman Khan (Bengali: ফজলুর রহমান খান, Fozlur Rôhman Khan) (3 April 1929 – 27 March 1982) was a Bangladeshi-American structural engineer and architect, who initiated important structural systems for skyscrapers. Considered the “father of tubular designs” for high-rises. Khan was also a pioneer in computer-aided design (CAD). He was the designer of the Sears Tower, since renamed Willis Tower, the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1998, and the 100-story John Hancock Center. Khan was also an active designer of other kinds of structures, including the Hajj airport terminal, the McMath–Pierce solar telescope, and several stadium structures. In three years Khan earned two master’s degrees – one in structural engineering and one in theoretical and applied mechanics – and a PhD in structural engineering
Mahershalalhashbaz Ali Gilmore known as Mahershala Ali is an American actor and rapper. Ali began his career as a regular on television series, such as Crossing Jordan and Threat Matrix, before his breakthrough role as Richard Tyler in the science fiction series The 4400.
For his performance as Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award, the SAG Award and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and also received Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award nominations. His win at the 89th Academy Awards made him the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar for acting.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr.; April 16, 1947) is an American retired professional basketball player who played 20 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Milwaukee Bucksand the Los Angeles Lakers. During his career as a center, Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member. A member of six NBA championship teams as a player and two as an assistant coach, Abdul-Jabbar twice was voted NBA Finals MVP. In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
Rashida Talib is an American politician and attorney. She is a Democratic former member of the Michigan House of Representatives. Until term-limited out, she represented the 6th District which is in Southwest Detroit and stretches from an area just south of Downtown to the city’s southern border, and west to the city of Dearborn. Upon taking office on January 1, 2009, Tlaib became the first Muslim American woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature, and the second Muslim woman in history to be elected to any U.S. state legislature. In 2018, Tlaib won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from Michigan’s 13th congressional district. She ran unopposed in the general election and became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, alongside Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Abdullah Hammoud is a Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives, representing District 15. Hammoud is running in the general election on November 6, 2018, after advancing from the primary on August 7, 2018. State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud is serving his first term in the Michigan House of Representatives, emerging as a strong voice for civil rights and a leading mind for health policy. He represents the 15th House District, comprised of his hometown city, Dearborn. As a proud son of immigrant parents, Hammoud has been unwavering in his commitment to Michigan and Dearborn for more than a decade.
Ilhan Omar (born 1982) is a Somali-American politician from Minnesota. In 2016, she was elected a Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, making her the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States. She is the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network.
Omar is the Democratic Farmer Labor nominee for U. S. Representative in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, having won the primary on August 14, 2018. She graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies in 2011.
On November 6, 2018, Omar became the first Somali American elected to the United States Congress, representing Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, which spans Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Golden Valley and other suburbs. Along with Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, she was one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Omar is also the first Muslim former refugee to be elected to the House and the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota.
Najah Bazzy is a global leader in Transcultural Nursing. She is Founder/CEO of Zaman International Hope for Humanity Center focusing on marginalized women living in extreme poverty. Zaman has helped more than 1.5 million people. She is also a professor, author, diversity leader and medical ethics consultant. She has an ambassador style of diplomacy and is globally recognized as an interfaith advocate.
Mehdi Hasan s a British political journalist, broadcaster and author. Mehdi Hasan is the co-author of a biography of Ed Miliband and the political editor of the UK version of The Huffington Post. He is the presenter of the Al Jazeera English shows: The Café, Head to Head and UpFront. In 2015, Hasan moved to Washington DC to work full-time for Al Jazeera on UpFront and hosts the Deconstructed podcast on the investigative journal The Intercept.
Suhaib Webb is an American Muslim Imam who converted from Christianity to Islam in 1992. He has previously been the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC). He frequently lectures in the United States and Malaysia, and records public lecture series on Islam and contemporary Muslim matters. After graduating from Al-Azhar, he moved to Santa Clara in the San Francisco Bay area, where he worked with the bay area Muslim American Society Office & Muslim Community Association. On December 1, 2011, Webb was inaugurated as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC), the largest Islamic center in New England.
Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in 2010. Webb’s website, SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent Awards, and his tweets won him the vote of “Best Muslim Tweeter” of 2010.
Salman “Sal” Khan (born October 11, 1976) is an American educator and entrepreneur who founded Khan Academy, a free online education platform and an organization with which he has produced over 6,500 video lessons teaching a wide spectrum of academic subjects, originally focusing on mathematics and sciences. He is also the founder of Khan Lab School, a brick-and-mortar school associated with Khan Academy. In 2012, Time named Salman Khan in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Dalia Moghahed s an American scholar of Egyptian origin. She is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in Washington, D.C. She is also President and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Muslim societies and the Middle East. Mogahed is former Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, She was selected as an advisor by U.S. President Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Farhana Khera, is the first executive director of Muslim Advocates. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates in 2005, Ms. Khera was Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. In the Senate, she worked for six years directly for Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee., Ms. Khera wrote the first drafts of the End Racial Profiling Act and organized the first ever Congressional hearing on racial profiling
Abdulrahman Mohamed El-Sayed (born October 31, 1984) is an American political activist, former professor, physician, and civil servant. He was an unsuccessful candidate in Michigan’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary election. El-Sayed was executive director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the City of Detroit from 2015 to 2017. Appointed at age 30, he was the youngest health director in a major U.S. city. Previously, he was assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. On February 9, 2017, the Detroit News reported that El-Sayed would resign as health director to run for governor.