Islamic Outreach

About Dr. Amer Salih Araim

I was born in Faluja, Iraq in 1940. At the age of 26, I began my first diplomatic assignment in Washington D.C. That was my first visit to America, and it marked a major new chapter in my life. Since then, I have been constantly exploring and appreciating American culture and values. For several years, while I was away traveling or working in other parts of the world, I maintained contacts in the United States, hoping to return. Finally, I came to settle in this country for good in 1978 when I began working with the United Nations. I worked for the UN for over 20 years as a senior political affairs officer. During my time at the UN, I worked on many issues, but chief among them was the campaign against Apartheid in South Africa. In 1987, I completed my dissertation work in political science and received my doctorate. After retirement from the UN in 1999, I began a new career path by teaching at academic institutions, lecturing on Islam and participating in interfaith dialogue. In 2001, I moved to Walnut Creek, California and continued both my teaching and interfaith activities.

The tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 affected me in a profound way, as they did many others. For me, 9-11 was a double tragedy. New York was the city I loved, the city I had worked in for 22 years, and the place where I raised my children. The fact that Muslim terrorists were responsible for the attacks both disgusted and saddened me. As I grieved, I realized that I had to act, both as an American and as a Muslim. Not only was my religion under attack, Islam was being accused of fomenting the terrorist acts themselves. Americans were shocked and they were angry. I knew I had to do something. At a memorial service held at Civic Park, Walnut Creek, California few days after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I condemned terrorism and called for strengthening interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Over the next few weeks, I began speaking against terrorism, and explaining my religion to anyone who would listen. I realized that there was a need to reach out to Americans, who had many questions about Islam. In the years since, I have spoken at churches, mosques, universities, labor unions and women’s groups. I spoke wherever I could find an audience. I wanted to explain Islam to Americans. I wanted also to explain America to Muslims. I wanted to build bridges.

Since then, I have continued with my interfaith activities. In 2002, I became a member of the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County. I worked to rebuild the image of Islam, and to reassure my fellow Americans that Islam was a religion of peace and coexistence. In looking back on the results of my efforts, I was not disappointed. On almost a daily basis, I have been amazed at the generous spirit and forgiving nature of my fellow Americans. They remind me every day of why I came to live here so many years ago. Last year, with the support of my wife and Muslim friends in the Bay area, we established the Islamic Community Outreach of California (ICOC). We want to be a part of the community, and a part of the solution.