Born into a prestigious Iraqi family descended from Islam’s prophet, Imam Hassan Qazwini started life anew when he moved to the United States in 1992.
He knew little English, was unfamiliar with American culture and uncertain about his future.
But now, Qazwini of Dearborn heads one the largest U.S. mosques — the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn — and has become a nationally known figure who has advised President George W. Bush, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Muslims from metro Detroit to Baghdad.
His compelling life story — with details about his influence with top leaders — is told in a book he wrote that was published recently by Random House.
Titled “American Crescent,” the memoir starts with his family’s suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime and how some of them escaped to Kuwait, including Qazwini.
From there Qazwini moved to Iran in 1980, and then to California with the blessing of his father, a major Shi’ite Muslim cleric. In 1997, Qazwini became the imam at the Islamic Center, which was in Detroit.
The idea for the book came out of his efforts to reach non-Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“My main goal was to educate non-Muslim readers about Islam,” said Qazwini, 43. “We have been witnessing widespread misconceptions about our faith. … We’ve been bombarded with negative views about Islam.”
“If you want to learn about Islam,” he writes in the book, “turn off the TV.”