Becoming American: Muslim Neighbors Embracing a Judeo-Christian Country,” in Meaning of my Neighbor’s Faith

The Meaning of My Neighbor’s Faith addresses two of the most critical challenges of our time: immigration and religious diversity. The diverse group of contributors, representing a variety of religious traditions, disciplines, and methodologies, explore “the meaning of my neighbor’s faith” in the age of migration. Each author reflects on the meaning of religious traditions in the context of the unprecedented migrations of people who look and believe differently than their hosts. The volume is the work of scholars dedicated to advancing religious understanding of the debate and discussions on immigration in the light of religious diversity in America and other places in the world. 

“Engaging Pluralism: Civil Society and Service,” in Building a Shared Future: Citizenship and Identity. Eds. Emmanuel Kattan and Yasir Suleiman. British Council and University of Cambridge.

The e-books series address four themes in public dialogue about Islam: ‘The Power of Words and Images’, ‘Citizenship and Identity’, ‘Islam, Knowledge and Innovation’, and ‘Religion, Politics and the Public Sphere’. They are collections of essays written for a conference held in Cambridge in March 2012, ‘Building a Shared Future: Rethinking Muslim/non-Muslim Relations’, organised by the Centre of Islamic Studies and the British Council’s Our Shared Future project. Contributing authors include scholars, academics, journalists and civil society leaders from the US and Europe.

The American Ismaili Community,” The Ismaili USA Magazine

From neighborhoods to nations, from villages to virtual networks, the notion of community has been recast over time and space. Even at the same time and location, ideas of community vary by the ways in which each individual feels connected to others, which is often shaped by age, gender, migration history, ethnicity, and experience. I spoke with American-born and immigrant Ismailis from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, ranging in age from 17-80 years to understand what it means to them to be a member of the “American Ismaili Muslim community.”

Bürger­rechte und Aktivismus in Trumps Amerika: Der Fall Houston, Texas, Humanistische Union

Wie viele andere texani­sche Metro­polen ist Houston eine blaue, demokra­ti­sche Insel in einem Meer roter, ländli­cher und republi­ka­nisch regierter Gebiete, die den Großteil von Texas ausma­chen. Die Städte in Texas mit ihrer florie­renden Wirtschaft werden durch Einwan­de­rung, Binnen­mi­gra­tion und hohe Gebur­ten­zahlen, sowie einen Zustrom von Millen­nials und Minder­heiten vielfäl­tiger, liberaler und demokra­ti­scher. Da im Weißen Haus, im Kongress und in den meisten Gouver­neur­s­äm­tern Republi­kaner an der Macht sind, versu­chen die demokra­ti­schen Bürger­meister der großen texani­schen Städte über lokale Verord­nungen eine liberale Politik zur Regelung des Waffen­be­sitzes, zum Mindest­lohn, zu Trans­gen­der-Fragen und zur Migra­tion umzuset­zen

Careful, some holiday donations can land you in jail, The Hill

The ubiquitous jingle of Salvation Army workers soliciting donations marks the holidays for many Americans. With one-third of Americans giving charitably in December, our end-of-year generosity elicits tax deductions that enlarge our wallets and warm fuzzies that increase our happiness, trust and social connection. Philanthropy reached record levels in 2017, with more than $410 billion given in charity. Despite speculation that the 2017 tax reform law would hurt American charities in 2018, as of Giving Tuesday (Dec. 3), donations are up 4 percent for the year and 10 percent online. Indeed, 2018 could see a greater boost with the year’s record-breaking gifts.

Charitable Giving among Muslim Americans: Ten Years after 9/11, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Policy Brief #46

Note: This brief circulated at the White House via the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Dr. Jamal was encouraged to offer Congressional Testimony on the same.

Like other faith and minority communities, Muslim Americans have been renegotiating their cultural and faith practices in a context where they are a minority. Many of them view their acts of giving, both in cash and in volunteer work, as acts of faith and citizenship in western contexts. These beliefs and practices have facilitated their position as more socially accepted and more economically and politically secure than that of their co-religionists in other many European countries. Until 9/11…

“Engaging Pluralism: Civil Society and Service,” Building a Shared Future: Citizenship and Identity, British Council

Pluralism, religious freedom and volunteering are as central to American public life as they are to Islamic beliefs, practices and notions of civic engagement.19 There is a rich historic tradition of service, civil society and sound governance in Muslim societies that emphasises communal obligations to improve the quality of life of concerned peoples. American Muslims have institutionalised and refashioned this ethos in the American context in the last several decades. Yet there exists a pervasive ‘clash of ignorance’ wherein educational systems and media outlets among Westerners as well as Muslims (in the US and abroad) have failed to educate each about ‘the other’ and have neglected a long history of respect and cooperation between Muslims and Westerners, and their respective civilisations, as well as the immense diversity of interpretation and social and ethical practices that mark each set of societies.

Business World Must Adjust for Diversity by Theresa D. McClellan, Fort Bend Business Journal

What makes your workplace strong? Embrace diversity.

That was one of the underlying messages in a recent talk given by Dr. Zahra Jamal to the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce. 

Jamal, who received a Ph.D in social anthropology from Harvard, has taught at multiple universities including Harvard and MIT, consulted for the United Nations State Department, and currently serves as the associate director at the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance with RIce University. 

She spoke to business and organizational leaders, educators, lawyers, and civic leaders.

“Ismailis”, Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States of America. Ed. Jocelyne Cesari. Greenwood Press

"A Sister in Humanity”, I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, Whitecloud Press

“No, she can’t enter!” the visa officer shouted. I was standing in the vestibule of the Dushanbe airport, waiting to be granted entry into Tajikistan shortly after 9/11. Another South Asian Canadian Muslim woman, also named Zahra, had sailed through. The combination of my American nationality, Muslim-sounding name, and South Asian ethnicity caused grave

concern among the airport officials. They had been influenced by the media’s questioning of American Muslims’ trustworthiness, its portrayals of the so-called Axis of Evil, and tensions surrounding the India-Pakistan race to employ nuclear energy. Politics, history, religion, and fear intertwined at that moment to mark me as “the other.”

The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation (review), Comparative Studies of South Asia Africa and the Middle East

The thirteenth century witnessed the Mongols’ utter destruction and devastation of the Muslim world. In their wake, the Abbasid capital of Baghdad lay in ruins, its caliph, the head of the Sunni Islamdom, murdered. Yet, in the Mongol chronicles, success was not to be claimed until the minority Ismaili Muslims, a commanding voice of Shiism in the medieval Islamic world, were exterminated. The great Genghis Khan sought to destroy the intellectually and politically significant Ismailis, along with their ministate and vast libraries at the mountain fortress of Alamut, in Iran. “None of that people should be spared, not even the babe in its cradle,” he vowed. ‘Ata-Malik Juwayni, Hulagu Khan’s attendant and historian, and subsequent historiographers, proclaimed that the Ismailis and their Imam had been completely annihilated. Until the early nineteenth century, Western scholars presumed such declarations to be bona fide fact and repeated these assertions in their own historical accounts.

Embodying Ethics, Performing Pluralism: Volunteerism Among Ismailis in Houston, TX, Pluralism Project Archive, Harvard University

Muslims in America reflect the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, traditions, and practices that constitutes the global Muslim community. They engage with the American context in which they are situated in a multiplicity of ways. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the summer of 2003, I explore how voluntarism among Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili and Sunni Muslims in Houston, Texas provides a lens to examine how they negotiate pluralism within their communities and in American society, and how they manage the intersection of religion, politics, and service in America. For many Muslims, voluntarism or community service is a means of putting Islamic ethics into practice in daily life. Voluntarism is also a key concept of American civic and multi-religious culture, referring to active citizenship and denominationalism, respectively. Indeed the Muslims I interviewed see no conflict between faith and citizenship. Many of them strive to build bridges with other communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to put into practice their philosophy of respecting and engaging in pluralism.

“Volunteerism: An Interview with Zahra Jamal” in The Ismaili: United States of America. Los Angeles: Communications and Publication Portfolio

To Be a Good Muslim is to Be a Good Citizen, Huffington Post

The Quranic imperative is to help those in need; the religion of the beneficiary does not matter. Voluntarism is thus integral to the daily lives of many Muslims, both in Muslim societies and in Western societies. From Ramadan food drives in local mosques in Boston, to volunteering with the police force in Mumbai, to giving toys to orphans in Beirut, to raising money in Abu Dhabi for Darfur victims, Muslims are serving others in numerous ways. Muslim Americans also volunteer avidly in their local communities — in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, PTAs and homeless shelters, as well as globally with the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders and the Aga Khan Development Network.

Hajj Diaries: The Multiple Dimensions of Muslim Pilgrimage, Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post, with Rizwan Mawani

During the hajj, the boundaries of ethnicity, race, gender, class and wealth are temporarily erased… The hajj is one of the only, and by far the largest public ritual amongst Muslims in which men and women pray and perform their rites together, in unison.

Zahra Jamal’s Remarks to UNA-USA and City of Houston on International Women's Day 2019

The data is clear

Empowering women with education and work improves the economic stability, physical and mental health, and food security of women, families and communities. It also reduces poverty, inequalities, and crime. 

Yet we face a Global Leadership Deficit

Half of humanity is absent from top leadership across public, private enterprise, and civil society. This global leadership deficit means: – We have an incomplete vision of global challenges and innovative solutions for social change – Our decisions and processes for change are less informed, effective, impactful, and transformative than they could be

Welcoming Houston Task Force Recommendations

Mission: To recommend and implement policies and programs that foster the integration of immigrants and refugees into the civic, social, and economic fabric of Houston


  • Build on existing efforts to support immigrants and facilitate their integration into Houston
  • Formalize existing best practices to expand them across Houston
  • Provide the City and community organizations with cutting-edge ideas and best practices from across the country
  • Empower stakeholders to successfully implement recommendations
  • Bring all stakeholders to the table to begin an ongoing cross-sectoral conversation about immigrants and refugees

Hate Crimes on the Rise: What You Can Do, Interfaith America

As of 2018, 80% of all hate crimes in the U.S. were committed against racial and religious minorities, including their religious institutions. Crimes against Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other houses of worship in Oak Creek 2012, Charleston 2015, Victoria TX 2017, Pittsburgh 2018, have only continued during the pandemic with attacks across the country on Protestant and Catholic churches, violence against Jewish communities, and assaults of Muslim and Sikh individuals and communities. These numbers are expected to increase as sacred spaces slowly re-open during the pandemic, and as the 2020 election nears. 

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan? Boniuk Institute

Ramadan is deemed to be the holiest month of the Islamic calendar because God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the world, anointing Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family) as His final messenger. Muslims globally observe this pillar of Islam to turn towards God and away from their egos through fasting, prayer, Quran study, charitable giving, and spiritual introspection.

Careful, some holiday donations can land you in jail, The Hill

The ubiquitous jingle of Salvation Army workers soliciting donations marks the holidays for many Americans. With one-third of Americans giving charitably in December, our end-of-year generosity elicits tax deductions that enlarge our wallets and warm fuzzies that increase our happiness, trust and social connection. Philanthropy reached record levels in 2017, with more than $410 billion given in charity. Despite speculation that the 2017 tax reform law would hurt American charities in 2018, as of Giving Tuesday (Dec. 3), donations are up 4 percent for the year and 10 percent online. Indeed, 2018 could see a greater boost with the year’s record-breaking gifts.

What Motivates Your Vote? Letter to the Editor, The New York Times

When I cast my ballot this November, the top issue for me will be how candidates plan to enact and enforce legislation, policies and programs that end discrimination and violence against women, and promote gender equity in all domains. Globally, about 35 percent of women, or 1.3 billion females, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. 

As a gender expert and an assault survivor, as a woman of color and a patriot, the #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport movements have emboldened my resolve to fight for dignity, respect and fairness to be accorded to the half of humankind that has historically been marginalized. While women’s rights have improved dramatically in a the United States over the past few decades, the responsibility to guarantee full human rights to all women–especiallly women of color, Muslim women, queer women, Native women and women with disabilities–remains unfulfilled. For me, a candidate’s support for women’s rights is critical.

Muslim women celebrate hisoric swearing-in of Rashida Tlab and Ilhan Omar, Think Progress

Last November, at a time of heightened anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar made history, becoming the first Muslim women to get elected to Congress. And across the country on Thursday, Muslim American women watched as Reps. Tlaib (D-MI) and Omar (D-MN) were sworn into the House in an emotional ceremony that launched the most diverse Congress in U.S. history.

“In the face of massive rises in hate groups and hate crimes … it is American Muslim women who are living out the common values inherent in the Quran and the American Constitution: dignity and respect for all, freedom of religion, and obeying the laws of the land,” Zahra Nasiruddin Jamal, of Houston, Texas, told ThinkProgress.

Quebec Is Poised to Undermine Religious Freedom, Foreign Policy

Europe’s wave of burqa bans comes crashing down in the Americas. 

With a proposed ban on public employees wearing religious symbols in Quebec to be debated by the legislature by June 14, the Canadian province is poised to potentially become the first regional government in North America to ban the veil for government staff. Like many bans on religious symbols, this one, in theory, will also target turbans and yarmulkes. In practice, it will hit Muslim women who wear the hijab hardest.