AMCLI director Nadia Roumani discussed identity, charitable giving and civic engagement with John E. Kobara, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the California Community Foundation. He published her thoughts, along with those of two other American Muslim women, on Huffington Post.
What’s your advice to the philanthropic community about how to invest in and how to advance the American Muslim community and its needs?
Nadia: I would say, and not because we’re sitting in this office, I would model CCF’s approach to One Nation, because the truth is that most foundations are taking one of two approaches. One is a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) or security lens, where you’re basically saying civic engagement is the methodology for countering violent extremism. That lens sets up a troubling scenario where any non-civically-engaged Muslim is a potential terrorist threat. The second tends to look at us as an underleveraged pool of resources that can be brought into strategies that are already in place, but without thinking about the unique ways those issues impact this community. It’s more about mobilizing them for their assets but not building their capacity in the long run. CCF took a different approach. They asked, how do you engage this community on the issues they have prioritized? How do we enable them to show up and shape the issues that matter to them as full participants, engaged, inspired and rooted in their unique faith experiences? And that takes time, it takes long-term investment, it takes capacity building, it takes a lot of patience. And the more that can be elevated as a model, I think it will show the amazing benefits versus doing it from one of these other two frames.