CAIRO – A Muslim activist is winning the admiration of Americans for his efforts to tackle issues that stoke tension between Muslims and non-Muslims and energize younger generations to balance between their faith and the western life.
“What I like about working with Haris and MPAC is that they understand both the needs of their community and the way Washington works,” Heather Hurlburt, director of the nonprofit National Security Network, told The Washington Post.Hulburt’s group cooperated with Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Washington to hold a series of hearings on extremism in the US.
“It’s an incredible challenge for a Muslim group to emerge as an advocate in the national security area, and they are really impressive.”
Tarin has won praise in the US for his efforts to tackle issues that stoke sentiments against US Muslims as extremism.
“We want to ensure that American Muslims are seen as an integral part of the American fabric, that they feel comfortable with both their faith and their American identity,” Tarin said.
“We want to be seen as partners, not suspects.”
Born to a former Afghan diplomat, Tarin grew up in Los Angeles and earned a BA at California State University, Northridge.
He taught Islamic and social studies at a Muslim school, before moving to a job at MPAC, the publicity arm of the Islamic Center of Southern California, to promote Islam in line with progressive, peaceful and nonsectarian values.
Over the span of past week only, the dynamic young Muslim showed a role model for active Muslim youth.
He spoke at a Washington panel on how the next US president can combat extremism without using security solutions.
Later on, he delivered a guest sermon for `Eid al-Adha, one of the two main Islamic occasions, in Alexandria, during which he wore casual Western clothes but recited prayers in perfect Arabic.
Tarin also hosted an election night party and discussion in Great Falls.
“We have a civic duty to engage in our society. If you don’t make your voice heard, someone else will,” he told the Muslim audience.
He also championed an ad campaign on District buses for religious tolerance in response to an ad campaign by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller describing Shari`ah as a threat.
To counter the transit ads, MPAC bought space for messages that call on people to unite against “bigotry and hatred.”
“These extremists are using scare tactics to push their agenda,” Tarin said.
“They want to marginalize Muslims and benefit from fear-mongering. We want to integrate Muslims and put out a message that is positive and mature.”
Tarin is also praised for helping young Muslims to bridge the cultural and religious gaps and balance between their faith and their western life.
“We respect how our parents think, but Muslim immigrants can also carry cultural baggage and misunderstandings, like how to treat women or non-Muslims,” said Hasan Shah, 33, a member and former Marine who works for a medical charity.
“Most of us were born and grew up here. We are both Americans and Muslims, and we need to balance that.
“Let’s look at Islam as it applies to America.”
Tarin won praise from US President Barack Obama for his his anti-violence agenda and his outreach to young Muslim Americans.
Last summer, MPAC organized a week-long youth leadership conference in the District, inviting young Muslims from across the US to meet administration officials and others.
The goal was to inspire them to get involved in politics and public life and to provide them with the skills and contacts to start.
“I felt like I could really make a change,” Mohammad Azraf Ullah, 18, a Herndon resident who is studying computer science at Northern Virginia Community College, said after attending the conference.
“The point was to learn techniques, engage people and get into the fabric of the US.”
MPAC’s message has resonated widely among students and younger professionals.
Last month, a group of young Muslims from Northern Virginia formed an organization called Make Space.“If we can pave the way, we can make sure others have the same opportunity,” said Ullah.
Related Links:US Muslim Youth Inspired For Leadership
America’s Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow
America's Diverse, Thriving, Striving Muslims
US Muslims Pray for One Nation, One God
Muslim Barbecue Eases Seattle Tensions