Shifting Gears

By Willoughby, Jay | Islamic Horizons, March 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Shifting Gears


Willoughby, Jay, Islamic Horizons


Dr. SAYYID M. SYEED, NATIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE ISLAMIC Society of North America (ISNA) Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., has announced that he will be retiring from the organization yearend 2017.

He told Islamic Horizons magazine, however, that he will stay in the region to continue his cooperation "with individuals and institutions that are dedicated to a dialogue of civilizations and faiths."

Syeed, who has been associated with MSA/I SNA for more than four decades, became active in the MSA during the mid-1970s. By 1980 he was serving as its president, and during his three years in office the association began its transformation into I SNA. Under his stewardship as secretary general (1994-2006), ISNAs impact and appeal grew in terms of the number of new Islamic centers, interfaith dialogues and financial stability. In addition, as chairman of Islamic Horizons' editorial board (1982-84; 1994-2006), he initiated its revival as ISNAs nationally distributed flagship magazine. It was listed among the winners of the DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards presented by the interfaith Religion Communicators Council: the "Best of Class" and the "Award of Excellence" categories for its March/April 2009 issue, and the "Certificate of Merit" category for the Nov./Dec. 2009 issue.

In 2007 he moved to Washington D.C. to pursue his new role: leading the ISNA Office of Interfaith and Community Alliance. Located on Capitol Hill, he began an outreach campaign by building grass roots and national partnerships with faith organizations and working with various branches of the federal government, think tanks, religious and academic institutions. The ultimate goal - to present an accurate understanding of Islam and Muslims - obviously became far more challenging after 9/11. This reality caused him to work even harder.

INTERFAITH ACTIVITIES

Dr. Syeed's many years of personal investment in the interfaith movement have paid off handsomely. One example of this is the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign with American Muslims against Anti-Muslim Sentiment (www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org), a powerful multi-faith campaign founded in 2010 that now embraces more than 30 national and regional Christian and Jewish faith organizations. This coalition has taken interfaith dialogue to a newlevel.

Seeking to help the Palestinians, he founded the National Interreligious Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI; www. nili-mideastpeace.org) in collaboration with other American religious leaders. As firm advocates for the two-state solution and an end to Palestinian suffering, they met with Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry; top Palestinian, Israeli and Jewish leaders; and convened conferences, seminars and meetings.

After visiting the former Soviet Union in his capacity as secretary general of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO; 1984-88), he was a co-founder of the Americans for Soviet Muslim Rights. The new organizations goal was to keep the world up-to-date on what was going on with the USSR's 70 million Muslims.

An avid reader and admirer of the poet-philosopher Allama Mohammad Iqbal, Dr. Syeed believed that America's newly emerging and extremely diverse Muslim community should take the lead in integrating new knowledge and experiences with the traditional Islamic worldview. Among the team of thinkers and scholars who founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (HIT) in 1981, he spent ten years there building a network of scholars and organizing multiple conferences on formulating new approaches to Islamic economics, anthropology, sociology, and political science in the U.S. and elsewhere.

During his tenure at HIT, he also held the posts of general secretary of the IIIT-affiliated Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), a national professional organization founded in 1972; and co-founder, editor and then editor-in-chief ( 1984-94) of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJI SS). …

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