Nashashibi, Tippett shed light on American Muslims’ stories



Jessica White | Staff Writer

Rami Nashashibi, one of Islamica Magazine’s “10 Young Muslim Visionaries Shaping Islam in America,” began making an impact straight out of college.

Social activists throughout the world are studying and adopting Nashashibi’s Inner-City Muslim Action Network, formed in 1995 in Chicago. The nonprofit organization has been featured in national and international media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, PBS and BBC.

IMAN is one of the leading Muslim organizations in the United States. It works to provide alternatives to the difficult conditions of inner city life, with focuses on community service, social justice and understanding Islam. Consequently, IMAN has initiated community programs and projects with the hope of changing inner city conditions, particularly in Chicago’s south and southwest sides. The action network includes IMAN/ICIC Food Pantry, IMAN Health Clinic and IMAN’s Career Development Initiative.

Nashashibi, executive director of IMAN, will join radio producer and host Krista Tippett for a conversation based on this week’s lecture theme “Inspire. Commit. Act.” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

Tippett is interviewing each Interfaith Lecture speaker this week for her nationally syndicated radio program, “On Being.” She said she spoke briefly with Nashashibi after Sept. 11 and has wanted to do an in-depth interview since.

“He was working with at-risk youth who were in prison, or in trouble, or dealing with abusive families and really taking his Muslim faith, really putting it on the line of what this religion means when life is hard — in the midst of suffering and in the midst of evil,” Tippett said. “I was very drawn to that (after Sept. 11) because we were reflecting on Islam in the context of suffering and evil.”

Nashashibi has a doctorate in sociology and has taught at colleges and universities throughout the Chicago area. He has worked with several leading scholars in the areas of globalization, African-American studies and urban sociology, and he has been named one of Chicago’s top 10 global visionaries by Chicago Public Radio and one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

But Nashashimi did not grow up especially religious. He grew into a deeper reverence of Islamic tradition as he became older, Tippett said, and he has applied his faith “in the most practical way.”

“The American-Muslim story is really distinctive, and interesting and nourishing in many ways, but we just don’t know it,” Tippett said. “We have a lot of alarming images, and we don’t know the human story. So here’s this person of great personal integrity, but he’s also somebody who’s put a model in the world of just global importance.”