As you know, eighteen years ago I co-founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to
elevate the discourse on Islam and foster environments in which Muslims thrive
. ASMA strove to strengthen an expression of Islam - one based on cultural and religious harmony and an appreciation for diversity. In this right, ASMA flourished as a unique bastion for American Muslims to explore their dual identity as Americans and Muslims.
Post-9/11, we were overwhelmingly confronted with two challenges:
the widespread marginalization of Muslim women around the globe and alienation of Muslim youth
, both left without a unifying voice.
we realized that we needed a vision
, one that would
reverse the trend of alienation and foster positive action
to give voice to the struggles of pioneering leaders
. In 2004, we founded the
Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT)
, and in 2005 the
Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)
each of which embodied my belief in the power of women to transform the world, and the next generation's commitment to carry our values forward. From humble beginnings, this network now includes thousands of civil society and thought leaders from around the globe.
Recent developments surrounding the rise of violent extremist groups have once again thrust Muslim women and youth into the spotlight. Recognizing a natural synergy between these key groups, and an opportunity to harness their collective energy by working collaboratively,
I have redirected my efforts by forming WISE as a new independent organization where I will serve as Executive Director
I have stepped down as Executive Director of ASMA which will now be headed by Imam Feisal and you will be hearing directly from him about its direction, vision and reorganization.
In making this transition, WISE partnered with the highly reputable New York based nonprofit
Fund for the City of New York (FCNY)
, which will provide organizational and fiscal support, allowing us to rapidly operationalize our activities as we begin this exciting new chapter.
On June 2, 2015 WISE was launched as its own organization
. We showcased our ongoing work in Afghanistan with our Afghan partner, Jamila Afghani, whose dedication to
training imams in combatting violence against women and violent extremism has been extraordinary
). One imam who participated in the Imam Training Program said,
"The scriptural evidence for non-violence provided to us enabled me to convince 80 Taliban to lay down their arms."
Our success with the Imam Training Program in Afghanistan inspired us to
take our own stand against violent extremism from here in the United States
. WISE, along with 20 expert contributors and Muslim Community leaders, is launching a grassroots community-based program to combat the potential growth of violent extremism within our own communities.
By creating a
(set to be released this September 2015),
Muslims at every level will learn grassroots techniques for combating violent extremism and promoting Islam's message of peace and inclusion.
As part of this project, and in partnership with our network of Muslim peer groups, we will be conducting a survey to gather important and original data to gauge the aggregate views of Muslims in America, which will then be inputted into the Guide. We will be sending out this survey tomorrow, so stay tuned.
WISE, along with its dedicated Advisory Board, looks forward to your support as we work together to create a new age of inclusion, acceptance, and respect for all. We invite you to join us in this new endeavor by staying connected with us on social media: