The Hope We Share

I am incredibly honored by this – thank you. I will continue to speak, to write, to stand for a nation of human dignity and a more cohesive world built upon respect for “the other.” Awards are not an assurance that the work is done – they are a renewal of intention and a reminder of what must be done.

And along the road to finding peace, a humble reminder from my remarks tonight:

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster. For when you gaze long into the abyss – the abyss gazes also into you.”



Prayers for Kuala Lumpur and Beijing

Imagine spending two days at the airport in complete torment, not knowing whether your loved ones – your mother, your father, your own sister or brother – has passed or has survived. A situation that no one can envy.

To friends in the media – the majority of those aboard the Malaysian Airlines flight that has now gone missing are not Americans, no, but they are human beings of equal human worth. We’re no less proud of our American identity in realizing this. It is genuinely difficult to accommodate the grief of an entire world within one nation – and this goes for any nation – but I wish that our media brought forward that critical point more often when discussing life, death, and tragedy. There is human value and there is strategic value (for those who only function on strategy) in better humanizing those who face tragedy beyond our borders.

My thoughts and prayers remain with both Kuala Lumpur and Beijing – I hope they find closure soon.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. Let’s work toward the day when these days of specific recognition are no longer necessary. But for now, their importance is understood.

In honor of the day – a shout-out to my grandmother Madiha, the homemaker and the wise, my mother Sonia, the Research Scientist, and my sister Tammy, the professor. All of them deserve my honor, my pride, and my respect.

Women are of equal worth to men, this can no longer be negotiated, whether in political circles, religious circles, family circles, or elsewhere. Women’s rights, frankly, are human rights. It is not on us as men to provide them nor to take them away.

This is not to say that a woman who chooses to run for President of a nation is worth more than one who chooses, perhaps, to be a full-time mother – it is to say that each woman who breathes the same air that we men do, has the ultimate say in how she traverses her own life. It is simply not our right to determine theirs.

Yet to know that nearly one million young girls are sold into slavery each year, that millions of young girls marry before they are old enough to understand the implications, and that millions more have their lives taken through a twisted lens of honor – we must know – that we still have plenty of work to do.

Next Generation Leadership Award

I am deeply honored that the interfaith/intrafaith organization Muslims for Peace has selected me to be its ‘Next Generation Leadership’ honoree for their Gala this Sunday. Knowing the incredible work that so many others do – those who frankly inspire me daily, in-person and here on social media – I am deeply humbled by their selection.

More than any award or recognition, I pray for the strength to continue promoting exceptional educational advancement through my entrepreneurship, and to build a common respect that surpasses a mere tolerance through my speaking and my writing – so as to help forge a more united nation of Americans, that is stronger. And a world of greater understanding and empathy, that is more peaceful.

Thank you, to all of the leaders and visionaries with whom I have had the opportunity to cross paths, for what you do! And for challenging me to do what I do better.

Ukrainian Aid

Since there are a lot of folks spitting this one out, to be completely factual, we’re not actually giving Ukraine $1 billion as though we’re taking money meant for potholes on federal highways, we’re just “cosigning” their loans, up to $1 billion. It doesn’t change the core debate over whether we should be so heavily involved in another foreign crisis, but it makes a huge difference in how we view the aid.

That is, unless Ukraine defaults on purpose because they were with Russia all along. In which case, well, that would just be mean.

Reflections on the Oscars

To have Zainab Abdul Nabi – an aspiring filmmaker – present an Oscar last night. To have Sarah Ishaq’s ‘Karama Has No Walls’ and Jehane Noujaim’s ‘The Square’ nominated for Best Documentary. To have Hani Abu-Assad’s ‘Omar’ nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. To have Barkhad Abdi nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

There are some within the Muslim community who continue to downplay the vivid cultural advancements made by Muslims within the Hollywood sphere and elsewhere as folly – so long as there seems to be little ’empathy’ for those who may be targeted here at home, or for innocents abroad whose lives are tragically taken in collateral damage.

You cannot be this shortsighted. Change in perception takes time. But beyond quelling dark extremism itself, the most challenging step toward addressing the most difficult conversations – of bringing about real change in the way that we as an American society view the other – is to humanize the other. And in that regard, in participating in the arts and in other productive industries – in producing work that is worthy of the Oscars – all of the above deserve a standing ovation, and nothing less.

Whether you are an American Muslim or a non-Muslim who may understandably ask ‘where are the public Muslims?’ – one should be very proud of Oscar Night 2014. And perhaps most importantly, one should encourage this visible shift in positive and sincere high profile participation – whether from the mosque’s pulpit in California, from the university campus in Michigan, or from the living room in New York – to forge its path forward.