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Interview: Online presence of Texan interfaith mother shows spirit of Islam

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Amanda Quraishi is kind of a big deal. Chances are, if you're a progressive minded Muslim who is active on any of the most popular social media platforms, you've heard of her.

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Quraishi tells it likes it is and has been gracious enough to allow us this interview, an Examiner.com exclusive. Discover the woman behind the awards, popularity and Islamic themed endeavors.

Who are you, woman? And why do so many American Muslims know your name?
I'm just your average, everyday American Muslim wife, mother, technology professional, interfaith activist, blogger and internet aficionado.
I like people--all kinds--and try to make it a point to know as many of them as possible!

How did you come to Islam (chants, "Conversion Story, Conversion Story")?
What brought me to Islam was a very long (and sometimes difficult) journey that involved renouncing the religion of my youth and seeking out a new tradition. At one point I was actively searching for a new religion and studied lots of different ones. Islam ended up being the religion that made the most sense to me as far as how I view God (tawhid). I also fell in love with the social justice aspect of Islam. It is a very practical way of life that helps me to do good in my own family, my own community, and in the world.

Recently you were invited to participate in an interfaith forum that brings together religious people that are making change (Faith in America 2030 Challenge), how did that come about?
I went to Garrison, NY to work with a group of interfaith leaders for something called the Faith in America 2030 Challenge. It was a program I had to apply for. More than 200 people applied and 50 were selected. It was an honor to be one of the Muslims representing our national community there.
We got together to work on some of the 'big questions' facing people of faith in America today. In addition to having built an amazing network of colleagues at this gathering, we all left with some really solid ideas we could take back to our local communities.
Here's a blog post I wrote about the trip: http://muslimahmerican.com/2013/10/faith-in-america-2030-challenge/

You were featured in the American Muslims in Texas segment on Youtube this year, do you think it accomplished its goal?
My passion is using technology to accomplish faith-based social justice work. The short video that was produced captured that well, I think.

How do you do it all as a working mother, wife, practicing Muslim, and businesswoman?
Well, I don't always do it all. Sometimes things get missed or overlooked even when I'm trying my best. But most of the time, I just try to stay focused on the stuff I've committed to. I have a very strong support network of friends and family who make it possible for me to travel and take advantage of cool opportunities that come my way. My husband, Junaid, is absolutely my rock, and without him I wouldn't be able to do even half of the stuff I do right now.

Being a non-Muslim who was drawn to Islam, hat do you think the biggest misconception that non-Muslims have about Muslims? Contrastingly, what do you think the biggest issue Muslims have with non-Muslims?
Biggest misconception that non-Muslims have about Muslims is that there is just one kind of Muslim. Islam is a global religion that spans hundreds of cultures and within those cultures are sects, groups, and individuals with unique ways of doing things. This is actually my favorite thing about being Muslim. I love the diversity we have WITHIN our tradition.
I think the biggest misconception that Muslims have of non-Muslims, I think, is that non-Muslims are more likely to be loose morally. Not all non-Muslim people are like the people we see on bad reality TV shows.

What are the plans for the future, your end goal (professional, spiritual, and otherwise)?
I try not to make *too* many plans. I do have a few goals that I want to accomplish but I keep those flexible...you never know what the future holds and I've found that being open to things that aren't necessarily on my 'agenda' has allowed me to have some amazing experiences that I would have missed if I had been too tied to a single plan.
That being said, I want to develop my own interfaith initiative here in Austin through InterfaithActivism.org. I also want to commit to more writing. I tend to back-burner my writing too often and it's a shame because I have some stuff I really need to get out there!

Can you share with readers any initiatives you think people don't know about and would want to get involved in.
I'd like to invite everyone, regardless of where they live, to participate in the Holiday Project for 2014: http://interfaithactivism.org/about/the-holiday-project

There's also a couple GREAT interfaith organizations here in Texas that I think everyone needs to know about. They both have different aims, but depending on your personal area of interest, they are both well worth being involved with:
Interfaith Action of Central Texas (interfaithtexas.org) - They have a Refugee Assistance Program (many of the refugees they serve are Muslim), and a Hands on Housing program that lets faith communities work on houses for low-income elderly folks.

The other is Texas Impact (texasimpact.org) which lobbies the Texas State Legislature on behalf of faith communities. They do training on working with your elected officials to get your voice as a person of faith heard. They also write bills and try to get legislation passed that can help faith committees flourish in Texas. (They were responsible for helping pass the Halal Food bill passed in 2003.)

If you have anything to promote or something that warrants attention, please share it with us here!
I'm part of the advisory committee for a project called Hope for Senegal: http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/hope-for-senegal/94136

It's a small but very successful initiative which provides financial assistance, educational supplies, and equipment to a large high school in Senegal, Africa. It was started by my friend Yasmin Turk, and she goes over every year to help them implement the stuff we collect here for them. It is truly a labor of love, and it is a perfect example of how a small group of people can make a positive impact on the world.
Also, my friend Lila Igram has a small non-profit called Connecther: http://www.connecther.org
It provides micro-financing for non-profit initiatives that are improving the lives of girls and women in developing countries. You can select a part of the world that you are most interested in developing, and choose a project to support from a list. All of these are verified 501c3 organizations and you can make small donations toward to help them meet their goals.

Thank you. You are amazing, woman!

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