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Dalia Mogahed: Researcher and Thought Leader on Muslim Issues

Published on 09/19/2017

What is your life’s purpose?
My life’s purpose is to serve God by serving humanity.

How are you living your purpose?
I work every day to tell the truth through rigorous research to bring about more informed cross-religious and cultural understanding.

I did this at Gallup by leading the largest study of Muslims ever done, covering 90% of the faith community’s population. I co-authored a book with this research called Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think with John L. Esposito, which has been taught in universities around the world and translated into more than 15 languages, including Mandarin Chinese (not easy for any book on religion).

The book also resulted in President Obama appointing me to his advisory council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships where I fulfilled my purpose by bringing the voice of ordinary people to the halls of power.

I now lead research at The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding where I study American Muslim communities and their challenges and opportunities. I fulfill my purpose by informing the public about their Muslim neighbor in a way that is evidence-based and objective, helping support an informed citizenry, the foundation of our democracy.

The Daily Show

How did you find your purpose?
I found my purpose by reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 15 and then the Quran when I was 17. The first ignited my sense of justice, the need for national healing and an understanding of Islam’s deep history in the civil rights movement. The second fueled my activism with spiritual meaning.

What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
A personal purpose is not like a magic place one discovers one day after searching the world. It is an internal space that we build with each life experience. Everyone has the seed of it and all we must do is listen carefully to what moves and calls to us. As we respond to this voice, we place a brick to build this room within us. We are always building and remodeling this room of purpose within us. We hold artifacts within it, books, films, stories, and after a while we may discard these and replace them. People will stay in this room for a period of time, and some forever, while others will just pass by. The most important thing is to never become too attached to any one occupant or artifact.  They don’t make the room. They beautify it for a time, but when it’s time for them to leave, we have to let go and keep evolving. We must never stop building, never stop creating this room and we must never forget it exists. Finding our purpose is really about building our purpose, and it is a lifelong process of self-discovery.

What resources do you recommend?
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Reclaim Your Heart by Yasmin Mogahed (my sister)
Institute for Social Policy and Understanding

Connect with Dalia Mogahed
Email: info@ispu.org
TED Talk: “What It’s Like to Be Muslim in America”
Twitter: @dmogahed
Instagram: @daliamogahed

Dalia Mogahed is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, where she leads the organization’s pioneering research and thought leadership programs on American Muslims. Mogahed is former Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, where she led the analysis of surveys of Muslim communities worldwide. With John L. Esposito, she co-authored the book Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. President Barack Obama appointed Mogahed to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. She was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about U.S. engagement with Muslim communities. Her 2016 TED talk was named one of the top TED talks that year. She is a frequent expert commentator in global media outlets and international forums. She is also the CEO of Mogahed Consulting.

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