Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Sterling, VA

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much Chair Rizwan Jaka, to President Syed Moktadir, and to all the members of the ADAMS for welcoming me into your community. To all of you, Ramadan Kareem.

Imam Magid, I’d also like to thank you for that introduction - who knew? I’m going to be traveling all around the world saying, “and why don’t you have a street?” But above all, for your service. As an Imam to the greater Washington Muslim community, as a scholar of the Qur’an, and as a thought leader in directly confronting violent extremism and protecting religious minorities throughout the world. Also, as a community leader in encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. I’m sure you’ve saved more lives in performing the role and using the proverbial pulpit and your leadership to send that message, it’s probably made a meaningful difference.

We have a lot of USAID staff here with us embedded among you, including Fayrouz Saad, our Director of Public Engagement, Adam Philipps, our Director of Faith-Based Partnerships, and Katie Qutuand and Jaheda Guliwala from USAID’s Muslim Employee Resource Group Board. Katie and Jaheda who are both from [inaudible] and are going to be critical agents as we think about follow up. And I’ll just share here what I shared inside, which is that we’re really interested in ensuring that we have a workforce that looks like America and that means recruiting more people from your communities. Because we are not where we need to be. We, also of course, need to make sure the culture at USAID is one that is nourishing and welcoming of people from all faiths and all cultures; so working on that as well. And we also have to liven up the idea that they can make a difference in the world by doing development and humanitarian work overseas, building on the spirit that’s [inaudible] in places like this.

There’s one additional member of the USAID family I’d love to single out: Hiba Anwar. Where is Hiba? Oh, she’s in Kosovo. So I met Hiba’s parents, so they’re going to be duly embarrassed since Hiba’s not here to be embarrassed in person. But Hiba, as you all know, was raised here in this community.

As a child of Sterling, Hiba and her family were a part of ADAMS before there was ever a mosque—when gatherings were held in the homes of families who swung their doors wide open to their neighbors, or later in conference rooms at the offices of congregants. This community was—and still is, I gather—an anchor to Hiba, instilling in her a sense of community, a spirit of volunteerism, and a love of service—qualities that ultimately brought her to our Agency.

But Hiba’s experience is not just one of uplift; it is also one that will ring familiar with so many Muslim families—one of fear and resentment as well. When this community raised enough money to purchase this very land, as you all know so well, families Hiba grew up with, some of them at least, protested its construction. When the construction was ultimately approved, its groundbreaking fell just before 9/11, and the mood turned even darker. The signs marking the mark were vandalized. The Mosque and its leaders were investigated by the FBI. And Hiba’s own father, Arshad, who served as treasurer and is with us here, was asked to defend the community’s finances before a grand jury, though of course no wrongdoing was ever found.

To Hiba and your family, I want to thank you for sharing this story with me and with others to help people understand just how lovely, but also how difficult, it can feel to be a Muslim in America. But here we are today, in this beautiful mosque and community center, which has seen great expansion not just in its infrastructure, but in its reach, its services, and its impact throughout the DC, Maryland, and Virginia region.

The spirit of Ramadan, a sacred time—a time when Muslims recommit themselves to their faith, look inward, serve one another and lift up the less fortunate, and to say simply “Salaam”—”peace”— to those who address them in ignorance.

It is also a time—and this iftar is the ultimate demonstration of this—to remind us that we are all bound together as Americans—in freedom, in the right to practice our own faiths, and in the responsibility to look out for and seek to understand one another.

The Agency I am privileged to run, USAID, reflects that spirit of American generosity, and speaks to so many tenants of Islam. I come here today to celebrate that spirit, to take questions from you about the work we do all around the world to promote human dignity and to assist others, and to hear from you on how better we can look out for Muslim communities around the world.

I also want to recruit, as I mentioned—to hold up Hiba’s example, she’ll be our best ambassador here in this community, I’m sure better than me, and say that her path can be the path of your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters. We are blessed at USAID really, to be part of an incredible mission, and we want to extend our doors open to you just as you have to your community. I am sure Katie, Jaheda, and other USAID staff here tonight are happy to share their insights on working with USAID and the many paths to entry.

As this Ramadan comes to an end, and you look forward to celebrating Eid with your friends and family, I want to thank you for welcoming me here, and I look forward, now, to hearing from all of you.

Shukran, thank you.

Samantha Power All Dulles Area Muslim Society
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