My job as an imam and outreach director for the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, located minutes from the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, was created September 11, 2001, to convey a more accurate image of the American Muslim community and to create opportunities for interfaith cooperation and understanding distinct from the stereotypical image of Muslims as intolerant and violent religious anti-American extremists.
On the morning of the 9/11 attack, while I was calling my patients from the waiting room at Howard University Hospital, I saw the plumes of smoke in the distance coming from the Pentagon, and on the TV monitor watched the twin towers of the World Trade Center being destroyed.
I had been volunteering as the Muslim chaplain and imam at Howard University at that time, and the media began calling me for interviews.
By 2002, the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center asked me to be their first outreach director. I left my work as a biomedical researcher, working on my doctorate studying sickle cell disease, and took up this work.
Much like the tradition of the black church, I believe I was “called” to this ministry to bring people back together, to try to heal a lot of the pain, fear and anger that persisted. (More)