Rami Nashashibi —
A New Coming Together

Rami Nashashibi uses graffiti, calligraphy, and hip-hop in his work as a healing force on the South Side of Chicago. A Palestinian-American, he started his activism with at-risk urban Muslim families, especially youth, while he was still a college student. Now he’s the leader of a globally-emulated project converging religious virtues, the arts, and social action. And he is a fascinating face of a Muslim-American dream flourishing against the odds in post-9/11 America.

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is founder and executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). He is a visiting assistant professor of Sociology of Religion and Muslim Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary.

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Participants attend one of IMAN's Community Cafes in New York City.

Photo by Savera Iftikhar

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What a breath of fresh air! So inspiring! Thank you to both Rami Nashashibi and Krista Tippett for giving us this uplifting example of what's possible.

In listening to this, I was struck by Mr. Nashashibi's comment in response to a question concerning a speaker who denied Mohammed's existence. While such a denial may make me cringe (and I write as a conservative Christian), I would want to ask him how he deals with what I will refer to (in very broad strokes) as certain members of the NYT reader-set who assert that anything that has religion as a starting point is stuff and nonsense. This particularly benighted group of people, I think, would constitute a far more challenging and, yes, sad encounter, but also possibly very fruitful. I am grateful that I took the time to listen to this.

Hi Peter,

Anti-religious atheist liberals often make Creationism and religion synonymous in their minds. They are freaked out about climate change (and rightly so).
Acknowledging that organized religion has an inconsistent history is a good place to start, so they know you won't disagree with them when they point out how bad religion can be. Mostly they've only let themselves see the negative influence religion has had on history, and it's real easy to do that.

If any of them know the work of journalist Chris Hedges, a brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning author, who got the Pulitzer for more than one of his books (he is a NT Times set darling) of nonfiction current international and national politics, you might shock such people by telling them that he is also a Presbyterian minister. I like one of his quotes; "Good people use religion to do good things, and bad people use religion to do bad things." That kind of cuts to the heart of the matter, doesn't it?

Mention MLK and Gandhi, a lot. Ask them if they want to live in a world without people like that, and point out that a majority of Nobel Peace Prize winners are devout, in one religion or another. Only 60% of scientists are committed atheists; a much smaller percentage than some atheist fundamentalists might think. Krista Tippet has an Onbeing interview somewhere in the archives with two astrophysicists who are Catholic priests.

An unknown fact; most medical people who work in the 3rd world are very religious. This doesn't show up in media because it isn't sensationalist news; so it gets ignored. This applies to the vast majority of health workers who went to Africa to help with Ebola. Anyone who works in that field will tell you that the religious ones don't burn out, and the atheists do. A friend who is an RN, an atheist, who loved doing this kind of stuff, made that observation to me, and I've found stuff in the media that backs up her anecdotal observations. She was open minded enough, as an atheist, to see the religious folks got a certain kind of endurance juice from their religions that she lacked.

Reza Aslan, author of Zealot, is supportive of the continuation of religion, and he says brilliant things about this in youtube vidoes. I always heard anti-religious atheists spout out about how there have never been any viscious atheist political regimes that were anti-religion, and most of us lefties can only think of Stalin. I saw Aslan mention PolPotism, and Maoism, along with Stalinism, as three regimes that intentionally wiped out religion through mass murder. It kind of shows that atheism can be used as nastily as religion gets used sometimes. Aslan also had lots of cool stuff to say about the Muslim world; things we never hear about in the west. He does interviews on youtube that specifically address the rising tide of anti-Muslim prejudice in the US. I learned from one of his interviews that seven Muslim nations in Asia have elected women as prime minister leaders, and fewer European nations have women leaders. Turkey and Indonesia were on the list; I don't remember the whole thing or I'd spout it out. (On the other side, lots of people think Hitler was an atheist. And he wasn't. He mentions God in Mien Kampf, and uses Christian antisemitism to support his genocide goals. That's for your information; not for that set that sucks up the negative stuff and ignores the positive stuff.) I could give you lots of stuff like this, if you want, but you may get more than enough info from other folks who respond. None of my suggestions will work for someone who is close-minded; just like fundamentalists of any religion. I call atheists of this ilk fundamentalist atheist materialists. Reza Alsan uses that expression, too, but I started about 10 years ago, way before he was of any renown.

If you do decide to answer me; what do you mean by "Conservative Christian"? Is it a political statement or a religious statement, or both? (I assume you are not in the Tea Party, or you wouldn't even be writing on this website . . . or maybe I show my own prejudices when I write that. If I am wrong, help me correct myself, please. I don't want to be prejudiced . . . .) When you write "NY Times set" I definitely think of NY liberals, and maybe I am wrong about that, too. So if you choose to answer, please define that expression as well.

If you answer give me something in the email title that lets me know it's you; like "peter from on being" or something. I erase personal emails that come from people I don't know before I open them.

Good luck to you, Bryna

Another remarkable show. Another reason that On Being is essential radio. The Rami Nashashibi session joins the previous weeks' discussions in opening our minds and urging us to think before we judge -- especially on some of our most complex issues.Thank you Krista Tippett.

Thanks for the interview. Can you post the graffiti art by Zore on the Qur'an passage "we created you ionline.nto nations and tribes so that you may get to know one another, not hate one another"? I cannot find it online.

Great discussion and inspiring figure. May God help him in his mission and grant him great tranquility. Thank you for sharing this NPR, this was so profound.

Rami explains his thoughts that too much time is spent by American Muslims explaining the differences between those involved in 9/11, and that efforts should be devoted to seizing upon the common interests of those marginalized in society by joining other faiths in advancing justice. With this I agree, but where should the the fear of Islam within the U.S. be addressed? In the Q&A, Rami suggests that the "lunacy and irrationality" of the conservative Christian needs to be confronted, and that the engagement of a skeptical woman at a previous event proved useful. Many Americans are confused by the media reports of the hatred and violence against Westerners and the U.S. by fundamentalist, or extremest, the harshness of Shari law, the treatment of women, and the sectarian violence within Islam itself. I believe very much that there is commonality between the the faiths, and that Rami's cause for justice for the marginalized recognizes these shared values in a most compelling way. But how do we engage the fear of Jihad and the violence of extremism throughout the Greater Middle East an d Northern Africa. Within the Muslim faith, how is the value of Rami's justice distinguished between justice advanced by Jihad? We read these reports in the media each day. As the program recognizes, it is a real fear. But how do we engage the fear, and what is the proper forum?

This program started me on a bit of research. I am somewhat puzzled by African American participation in Islam given Arab Muslim participation in the slave trade, past and present. Anyone interested can find plenty on the subject on the Internet. Clearly neither Portuguese nor Dutch nor Barbary Coast Muslims nor Africans themselves nor America can claim innocence. Right now the practice continues in northern Sudan and Saudi Arabia and is accepted by some of the Muslim radicals who have gained power in the wake of the Arab "spring".

Another comment by Mr. Nashashibi, that hearing Hebrew spoken was frightening to him, makes me wonder what he would feel if he was a Jew living in Israel hearing the Iranians brag that their new centrifuges will make the nuclear annihilation of Israel happen sooner than when they were constrained by their older, slower, centrifuges. Happy talk is nice but isn't it time to face reality?

By the way, I forgot the most important point of my earlier comment-fantastic program! Keep up the great work Rami.

I am deeply concerned that this espousal of an ever loving, every beautiful Islam should be promulgated without challenge. The contradictions, beginning with Islamic conversion by sword of millions up to today's Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood---- also calling themselves action organizations--- promote food distribution and charity for the poor but at the very same time, make blood threats against perceived enemies and promote the lowest and most vicious kind of human hatred through gruesome smears and libels.
Krista, aren't these internal contradictions worth at least a bit of a question?

This was an incredible interview. I want to know who recorded the hip hop song used in small clips throughout the broadcast. Could anyone point me in the right direction? Thanks very much.

What a nice show - Mr. Nashashibi is so wonderful to listen to and Ms. Tippet did a warm and informative interview.

I just heard Krista Tippett say that Islam is now the 2nd largest religious group in America. I was surprised by this and looked it up online, and this is not true according to my googling...it is the 2nd largest religion in the world...i believe this was a mistake, and an important detail, given the points that are being made. according to some of the sites i looked at Islam is smaller than the numbers of Buddhists, Jews and Mormons...

What a joy to find such clear thinking. Thanks for posintg!

Wham bam thank you, ma'am, my qusetions are answered!

Rami Nashashibi was a Muslim that was born in Jordan. He came to the south side of Chicago with his family. He has his doctorate in Sociology. He started a non-profit while he was in school that brings Arab kids together. I found it really interesting that he brought Arab kids and African American Muslim kids together in south side of Chicago. I liked how he talked about how these different neighborhoods in Chicago are all divided into different groups. It's just amazing how he was able to bring everyone together. He was talking how some of these schools have over a fifty percent drop out rate and how kids born there are three more times likely to be arrested. What a great program to pull a community together and show these kids that there is hope and future out there for them. I was kind of surprised that thirty percent of Muslims in America are African American.

I liked the part where he talked about his reaction to the 9/11 tragedy. I thought it was interesting how he said that he and his fellow Muslims reacted first in shock. Just like the rest of America. I think after the incident that people get angry and some people start to think that if your Muslim then you must have endorsed it. I also think that they did not need to come out as a community and say they did not agree with violence or what had happened. People have been hiding behind religion forever to justify their horrific acts. I don't know about you but up to 9/11 I don't think I was taught much about the Muslim community. It was not until after 9/11 and when we were at war with terrorism that the media really started to cover the Muslim faith and what it was about

I thought this was an interesting interview. Rami was born in Jordan and settled in the southwest side of Chicago. He saw that there were many unfortunate families that migrated and were living there. Rami brought together about 900 people and raised about $20,000, which helped start nine programs. And now today that same tradition goes on and now they have about 20,000 people show up and have celebrities and politicians that come. This has all helped the muslim community come together.

I found it interesting when Rami was talking about post 9/11, about how he felt. I know as an American I am guilty of fearing the American Muslims following the tragedy. But he said that he had the same feelings as Americans when the tragedy happened. Everyone was frantically calling their family members, Wondering if they had any family in the world trade centers.

Not only did he have the same emotions that most Americans had he also was thinking what does this mean for the American Muslims? Which is a great question. unfortunately, people tend to stereotype, and he had every reason to wonder what it would do to the American Muslim community. I am glad that he is out there talking about it and relaying that not all Muslims are going to commit an act so destructive. He also talks about how the anxieties are still there for everyone. And the Muslims are doing their part.

Listening this morning I was struck with the truth that your guest told of America being a place to talk about difficult cultural issues and it reminded me of why I appreciate my adoptive land and am proud to call it home for two of my children. Thank you for the program.

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation between Krista Tippett, Rami Nashashibi and a clearly engaged audience. I am an African American Muslim who converted to Islam nearly 30 years ago. Though I was very moved after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and attending many lectures by Louis Farrakhan, I did not come to the faith through the Nation of Islam (though I think they were pivotal to the growth and transformation of a disenfranchised Black America.)It was the clarity of the Glorious Qur'an that spoke to my heart and the practical application of faith as expressed through the leadership of Imam Warith Deen Muhammed that was the catalyst for me. I was happy Krista made the leadership distinction and Rami elaborated on the importance of Imam Muhammed's work and legacy among African American Muslims in particular and his impact in the world broadly. I am so grateful for On Being for bringing intelligent conversations such as this to the discerning, mainstream audience. Rami Nashashibi is engaged in important work and is to be commended for exemplifying the excellence of true humanity. Thank you Krista Tippett for your outstanding work and for the balance you bring to spiritual discourse.