Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Dr. Sharifa Alkhateeb (1946-2004)

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Dr. Sharifa Alkhateeb (1946-2004)

Article excerpt

Dr. Sharifa Alkhateeb's smile and her voice, bubbling with optimism and determination, are now gone. But her memory will remain with everyone who knew her for a very long time to come. Alkhateeb died Oct. 21 of pancreatic cancer in Ashburn, VA. After a lifetime spent working to help the disadvantaged and the vulnerable in her community, and educating Americans about Islam, Alkhateeb can rest assured she made a difference.

Born in Philadelphia, the daughter of a Yemeni father and a Czech mother, she grew up as the only Muslim in a Christian and Jewish neighborhood. By the age of 16 she began attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she joined the Muslim Student Association and began to wear a headscarf. Growing up in the feminist movement of the 1960s, she blended the best of both Islamic and American ways, and became a strong voice for herself and other Muslim women.

She and her Iraqi-born husband, Mejdi Alkhateeb, lived in Saudi Arabia from 1978 to 1987, where she taught and worked as a journalist for the English-language newspaper, the Saudi Gazette.

When she moved to Northern Virginia in 1988, Alkhateeb dedicated her life to working against domestic violence and to helping families heal. She was the creator and director of the Peaceful Families Project, a nationwide survey of domestic violence within the Muslim community, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

While she valiantly fought for women's rights from within the Muslim community, Alkhateeb struggled for a greater Muslim role in the wider political debate. She was widely recognized as a leading spokesperson on Muslim women in the United States.

As an activist, speaker, writer, and organizer, Alkhateeb's contributions to the American Muslim community were phenomenal. She was president of the North American Council for Muslim Women, as well as of the Muslim Educational Council, a Mid-Atlantic non-profit organization educating public school staff and administrators about Middle Eastern culture, Muslims, and Islam. She held an M. A. in Comparative Religion, edited the Marmaduke Pickthall Translation of the Qur'an, and co-authored the Arab World Notebook (available from the AET Book Club), used in public school history classrooms nationwide.

From 1993 to 1997, Alkhateeb produced, wrote and hosted a monthly television program for Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) called "Middle Eastern Parenting." A diversity trainer for FCPS for five years, she was a key figure in building a serious working relationship between her county's school system and the Arab- and Muslim-American communities. …

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