A month-long celebration lobbied and requested by MALA that highlights the contributions of Muslims to American society, commerce, culture, and scientific innovation
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CHICAGO, December 22, 2021
In December 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a proclamation that recognizes January as Muslim Heritage Month in Illinois. The proclamation, which was lobbied and requested by Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA), highlights the contributions of Muslims to American society, commerce, culture, and scientific innovation, and acknowledges a number of Notable Muslim Americans including Fazlur Rahman Khan, Muhammad Ali, Naeem Khan, Anousheh Ansari, Jasmin Moghbeli, Farooq Kathwari, and many others.

In response to the proclamation, Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of Ethan Allen and a long-time Member of MALA’s Community Builders’ Advisory Board stated, “I am proud to be an American by choice. This country has given me an opportunity to contribute in many areas including leading an iconic American enterprise and to be engaged in many civic areas. It is an honor to receive the recognition from the Governor and the state of Illinois.”

Bashir Muhammad, Principal of Net-Telligence Group and another MALA advisor, said of the proclamation, “I am happy to hear that Muslim American Heritage will be honored here in Illinois. Having your community recognized and acknowledged is empowering. I hope this recognition encourages Muslims to continue building for peace.”

Governor Pritzker’s proclamation encourages the observance of Muslim Heritage Month through the celebrations of cultural arts, community discourse, and further public recognition of Muslim artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and leaders from all sectors. This proclamation characterizes Muslim Heritage Month as an opportunity for residents to “take time to learn about and honor the history and contributions of Muslim communities in Illinois, the United States, and accross the world.”

As the primary proponent of this proclamation, MALA has worked hard since its founding in 2015 to build awareness around the contributions of Muslims to the fabric of American Society. MALA is a nonpartisan, non-theological 501c(3) organization dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Muslim American heritage through oral history and community engagement. Founded in Chicago by a group of refugees, cultural leaders, and first-generation Americans, MALA has built a profound presence in the cultural heritage space, partnering regularly with institutions such as Envestnet | Yodlee, Chicago Cubs Charities, Loyola University, and a host of other cultural organizations in Chicago and across the United States of America.

Muslim American Heritage

“Muslim American Heritage” spotlights the contributions of Americans of Muslim heritage to the United States from its founding through the present.

Muslims have been shaping American society ever since Moustafa Azemouri arrived on the shores of what is today Florida as an enslaved member of a 1528 Spanish expedition exploring the Southwest. In the nearly 400 years since, people of Muslim heritage have played an important yet often unrecognized role in shaping America, from ballet to NASA lunar missions to the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

The Muslim American Heritage Celebration was created to help promote public appreciation of “Muslim-Americana” – the diverse contributions Muslims have made to our nation’s culture and progress. The program provides resources for schools, civic groups, congregations, and even individual families to celebrate both the accomplishments of Americans of Muslim heritage and the fundamental freedoms that have enabled us to thrive.

From the early days, Muslim Americans embraced their country’s entrepreneurial spirit, propelling the country’s development forward. The ice cream waffle cone was created at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Syrian-American Ernest Hamwi. Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Bangladeshi-American called the “Einstein of structural engineering,” created a structural system that established and continues to define America’s skyline.

Today, Muslim Americans embody the American dream – and spirit – and are an integral part of the realization of democracy and freedom. We have also played major roles in the economy, with well-known entrepreneurs and executives like Farooq Kathwari, the president, chairman and chief executive officer of Ethan Allen; Michael Chowdry, founder of Atlas Air; Tariq Farid, co-founder of Edible Arrangements; Syed Javaid Anwar, CEO of Midland Energy; Mohamed A. El-Erain, former chief executive officer of PIMCO; Fuad El-Hibri, founder of Emergent BioSolutions; and Shahid Khan, owner and CEO and Flex-N-Gate. All of these individuals embody the American dream.

Muslim American Heritage observance can come a multitude of ways, including (but not limited to) (1) arts and music festivals, (2) salon-type events featuring Gold Age Muslim American poetry, literature, language, and calligraphy, (3) various awards and scholarship contests for Muslim American professionals in theater, sports, education, science, public life, journalism, culinary arts, and literature, (4) screenings of films by and/or featuring Muslim Americans, and (5) exploring the cuisines of Muslim American heritage.

Muslim American Heritage Month is coordinated by an Honorary Committee and a coalition of civic organizations under MALA’s sponsorship. The national observance is a non-partisan civic effort embracing the broad diversity of Americans of Muslim heritage.

Learning Resources

MALA is part of a coalition of diverse organizational members bringing together a wide range of nonprofits and institutions – including museums, corporate sponsors, community organizations, foundations, and media companies to celebrate the contributions of Americans of Muslim heritage to the United States from its founding through the present.

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