Sharifa Alkhateeb, ‘Feminist Within Islam’, Dies at 58

By Jennifer Bayot

Sharifa Alkhateeb, an advocate for Muslim culture in the United States who helped place courses in Middle Eastern cultures and Arabic in public schools, died on Oct. 21 at her home in Ashburn, Va. She was 58.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said her daughter Nasreen.
Ms. Alkhateeb, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, spent much of her life interpreting Islam. Even as she adhered to Muslim traditions like covering her hair, she encouraged Muslim women to be active in their larger communities.

“She was dedicated to understanding Islam for herself as opposed to Islam coming to us with all the cultural wrappings,’’ said her sister Nafeesa Ahmad. In 1992, she founded the North American Council for Muslim Women, an education and advocacy group, and was president of the Muslim Education Council, which instructed public-school teachers on Middle Eastern cultures, Islam and Muslim society.

In 2000, she created the Peaceful Families Project, which studies and raises awareness of domestic violence in Muslim communities and is financed by the Department of Justice.
At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, she was chairwoman of the Muslim caucus.

Ms. Alkhateeb wrote and lectured extensively to challenge stereotypes of Muslims, and particularly of Muslim women. She was a co-author of “The Arab World Notebook,” a secondary school textbook; for eight years she waged a campaign, which was successful, to make Arabic part of the language offerings in several high schools in Northern Virginia. Publishers of social studies textbooks would seek her comments, and she was an adviser to North American Muslim student groups…..

After the Sept. 11 attacks, she became a team leader of the Community Resilience Project, a counseling center in Northern Virginia supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In addition to her daughter Nasreen Alkhateeb, of Brooklyn, and her sister Nafeesa Ahmad, of Oakland, Calif., Ms. Alkhateeb is survived by her husband, Mejdi; a brother, Muhammad Ahmad, of Horsham, Pa; her sisters Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn of Manhattan and Sayyida Ahmad Jordan of Los Angeles; her daughters Layla Alkhateeb of Arlington, Va., and Maha Buthayna Alkhateeb of Potomac Falls, Va.; and a grandson. (Courtesy The New York Times)

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