…who happen to be Muslim
I invited Hassen Hussein, the director of business development at African Economic Development Solutions, to share his insights as part of the Muslim Journeys series at Concordia University. He is an American poet, scholar, writer and business professional. I got the sense I was putting him into a narrow box when he commented that he was a bit surprised to be asked to speak on his personal faith, which was just one dimension of who he was.
I have met many people in Minnesota whose personal faith is Islam, but who love America the Beautiful and work hard every day to build America and Minnesota. Here are some examples from various sectors: software, workforce, media, professional services, food and global trade.
Amina Deble, owner of East Village Grill in Minneapolis (pictured), is more than a successful restauranteur; she is also a global business leader through her involvement with the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Somalia, where she chairs the livestock sector, and is also representative of the chamber in the US. Visiting dignitaries often stop by her restaurant. She supports various community initiatives, including the new Somali Museum in Minneapolis, and works hard to build the Somali community in Minnesota and Somalia.
Odeh Muhawesh, with roots in Jordan, repeatedly shakes up the software industry with valuable products and companies others want to own. His latest venture is, Truscribe, is a market leader in animated whiteboard videos. Political and other leaders often seek his advice. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Saint Thomas where he engages in inter-faith dialogue. His latest book attempts to bridge Christianity and Islam.
Siad Ali is fluent in three languages, and that makes him an excellent outreach specialist for Senator Klobuchar. His studies across several countries and his workforce placement experience inspires his work on the Minneapolis School Board. He wants to build a world-class workforce in Minnesota, where ground zero is a highly engaged learning environment that works for all students.
Mukhtar Thakur, an engineer and core player in the construction of the Blue Line, also brings the sounds of Bollywood through Sangam Radio for decades and more recently Geetmala TV and Diversity in Focus on TPT. With roots in Africa and Asia, he often reflects on the experience of Uganda where Asian professionals and entrepreneurs were forced to leave their country overnight. That misplaced policy had a huge negative impact on the Ugandan economy as a critical number of entrepreneurs and professionals left the country for America, UK and Canada, whose economies benefited from their talents and resources. His core message to Minnesota — continue to be open and welcoming — that is your core competitive advantage.
Mnar Muhawesh was born in Minnesota in a family with roots in the Palestinian Authority. As a girl, her family moved for a few years back to the Middle East. While living in the West Bank, she experienced the harsh toll of war on children. It scarred her but also gave her a vision. How can she illustrate the talent, energy, creativity and compassion of women who wear the hijab? Being the first TV News anchor wearing the hijab was one way she showed the world. She also founded Mint Press News, a space for news unbridled by special interests and a forum for the voiceless.
Bruce Corrie, PhD, blogs at chai.news and is a professor of economics at Concordia University - Saint Paul.