Using An Islamic View to Forge Connections

April 16, 2010

Author: James Warren

Source: The New York Times

When Rami Nashashibi and a top aide ambled toward the entrance of Taft High School in a bright morning sun last week, I assumed the outside loudspeakers would break into the theme from “Ghostbusters.”

For sure, Mr. Nashashibi is a community organizer, not a movie parapsychologist, and his goal was to help exterminate school violence, not spirits. But, just like Bill Murray, he was beckoned to the Northwest Side school to deal with a problem, in this case violence involving Muslim students, for whom the school administration had sought expert counsel.

Mr. Nashashibi, 38, is head of Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a Southwest Side nonprofit organization with a broad social justice and arts agenda for a diverse, low-income constituency. I.M.A.N. runs housing, criminal justice, cultural, religious, literacy and youth counseling programs; operates a small, free health clinic; and creates partnerships with priests, rabbis, corporations and the City of Chicago, among others.

And he’s seen as so quietly effective in shepherding the organization in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood that he is deemed nothing less than “the most impressive young Muslim of my generation” by Eboo Patel, head of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core and chairman of President Obama’s interfaith task force.