Rami Nashashibi has been using his Muslim faith as a foundation for community organization.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has honored Rami Nashashibi by awarding him a “genius grant.”

The award is $625,000 over five years with no strings attached. The grant has existed since 1981 and is given to people “who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.”

Mr. Nashashibi created the Inner-City Action Network (IMAN) in 1997 to help promote “health, wellness, and healing in the inner city.” The organization provides job training for individuals recently released from incarceration, works to provide a network of healthy food options for inner-city residents, promotes community building between divergent populations, and hosts cultural and educational workshops for empowerment, to name a few of their projects.

Mr. Nashashibi has stated his faith was a way to help him deal with the human misery occurring in his hometown of Chicago. His interpretation of Islam as a doctrine of community building, activism, and social justice led to the creation of IMAN. “It’s what you do as a Muslim: You commit your life to being a force for good, particularly in neighborhoods and communities that have struggled because of historical injustices, because of profound disparities. My understanding of Islam made a commitment to this kind of work non-negotiable”

This program has expanded from Chicago to Atlanta and is being used as a model for other programs in Los Angeles. Mr. Nashashibi has stated he has learned from working with a wide range of social and religious groups, and hopes to strengthen the community to make areas largely written off by society place of hope and pride for residents.

In a time where hate crimes against Muslim-Americans have reached historic proportions, the IMAM network stands as an answer to bigotry and the power of faith in bringing people together to create a strong community.

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