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Tell everyone about leaders in your community who are building bridges of friendship and understanding. Do you know someone is your community who is making a difference? Send us their story and we'll feature it on BridgesTV.com at add new Bridge-Builder.
 Dr. Wasim Khan - State Senate in DistrictShow/Hide
Dr. Wasim Khan
Dr. Wasim Khan embodies the American Dream. His story is the classic tale of a new immigrant who, through hard work, has found success in the United States.

Born in India to a prominent and progressive family, Khan was raised in a home where universal human values were prioritized. His family has worked for generations in public service with relatives serving in the highest echelons of India’s democratically-elected government.

After receiving his medical degree, Dr. Khan came to the United States to study public health and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School. During his time there, he received the Outstanding Volunteer Award at Harvard’s teaching hospital and his research has been widely recognized as providing major contributions to the field.

More than 10 years ago, Dr. Khan settled with his family in Parsippany and began working as a consultant for local health care companies such as Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Schering-Plough and Johnson & Johnson. He has assisted on the development of many FDA-approved medicines for diseases like diabetes, HIV-AIDS, high-cholesterol, transplant medicine and cancer. He was awarded both the Business Excellence and Shining Performance Awards while working on these projects.

In the tradition of his family, Dr. Khan has never strayed from dedicating his time and skills to helping others. Over the course of his career, he has established volunteer health programs in poor neighborhoods and worked with a number of global leaders and top academics to prevent the growth of extremism and terrorism abroad and to promote interfaith and inter-group understanding at home.

In addition to his interest in health care, Dr. Khan is an active environmentalist, a supporter of early childhood education and affordable housing. As a first-generation immigrant who has benefited from all that is right with America, he is now running for the State Senate in District 26 to ensure that everyone has those same opportunities.
Mr. Rabbi Brad Hirschfied

Listed four years in a row in Newsweek as one of America’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis,” and recognized as one of our nation’s leading “Preachers & Teachers,” by Beliefnet.com, think tank President, talk show host, interfaith activist, and diversity expert Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008). He also conceived and hosted two groundbreaking series for Bridges TV American Muslim TV Network, Building Bridges: Abrahamic Perspectives on the World Today (three seasons), and American Pilgrimage.

The only rabbi featured on ABC’s “Nightline UpClose,” Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide. A contributor on ethical issues for Tru-TV, he co-hosted the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula, and is frequently quoted in the press. A popular media guest on such shows as The Dennis Miller Show and Lars Larson, he has appeared on CNN, PBS, MTV and NPR, among others, and was featured on PBS’s “Frontline: Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” and the acclaimed documentary, Freaks Like Me. A regular commentator for The Huffington Post and one of Patheos.com’s Experts, he writes a column, For God’s Sake, for Newsweek/WashingtonPost.com’s “On Faith,” and his blog, Windows & Doors, appears on Beliefnet.com (the net’s largest site for spirituality and inspiration), and was featured on the homepage of Digg.com.

Rabbi Hirschfield is the President of Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center committed to religious pluralism and the healthier use of religion in American public life. He has inspired audiences from the Aspen Institute and the Washington National Cathedral, to the Islamic Society of North America and many leading universities and religious institutions. A featured speaker at Parliament of the World’s Religions in both Barcelona and Melbourne, he was also invited by the Governments of the United States and the Republic of Indonesia to participate at the Jakarta Interfaith Dialogue.

Hirschfield is the editor of Remember for Life: Holocaust Survivors’ Stories of Faith and Hope (The Jewish Publication Society, 2007). He is a co-author of Embracing Life & Facing Death: A Jewish Guide to Palliative Care (CLAL, 2003). An Orthodox rabbi, he received his M.A. and M. Phil from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and his B.A. from the University of Chicago. He is married 21 years and has 3 daughters. He enjoys hiking with his family, cooking for friends, and fly fishing when he can find the time to do it (which is almost never!). His hope is to contribute to a more peaceful world in which individuals lead happier lives by knowing better how to combine deep commitment with genuine openness.

Mr. Mark Herskind
Mark Herskind is a local (Ballie Lumber, Buffalo, NY) businessman. He is successful at what he does. He has a great family, some background in the military and goes to church on Sunday. He coaches his kids sports teams. Goes on date nights with his wife. Gives of his time and money generously. An all-around good guy.

But there’s much more to Mark then meets the eye. At first glance you might think this is simply another white suburban Christian who wouldn’t care that much about world issues or Muslim-Christian understanding. And surely he wouldn’t care about a downtrodden place like the inner city of Buffalo or Somali refugees. But if you thought that about Mark, you’d be wrong. He is concerned about all of those things and actively gives massive amounts of his time, energy and talents to them.

I just returned from a trip to the Middle East with Mark. We spent seven days in Lebanon and Jordan meeting people who are actively contributing to these types of discussions and who are making a huge difference on the ground. Mark was at the center of each discussion. Contributing, questioning, praying. What motivates Mark is what motivates me – the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Mark is actually trying to follow Him. And where Jesus has led Mark is to the places most others ignore. Maybe you could join hands with Mark Herskind and the others who see a fresh new vision for downtown Buffalo. Let the shared values which Muslims and Christians hold, lead you to lend a helping hand. Mark would love it.
 Dr. Khalid J. Qazi - Director - Internal Medicine Training Program- Catholic Health SystemShow/Hide
Dr. Khalid J. Qazi

Khalid J. Qazi, , Ph.D., a native of Kashmir, chose to come to Buffalo in 1977 to practice medicine. In the 1970s the world was a different place for Muslims. Today in 2011, the American Muslim Community still faces difficulty with public acceptance and understanding. Dr. Qazi has worked tirelessly towards promoting diversity and the advancement of civil rights for American Muslims, while striving to create a positive, constructive relationship with The Business Community, Law Enforcement, the Media and our Political Representatives.

In 2002, Dr. Qazi was named an “Outstanding Citizen” by The Buffalo News for becoming a “strong, reassuring voice of reason” after the Sept. 11 attacks. He has continued to educate the region and create a bridge of understanding about the Muslim culture in his role as President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of WNY.

Dr. Qazi serves as Director for the Internal Medicine Training Program for the Catholic Health System. He also serves on the National Board of Directors for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, Calif. and the National Board of Directors for the Kashmiri-American Council in Washington, D.C.

 Mr. Carl Medearis - Relational ExpertShow/Hide
Mr. Carl Medearis

Carl Medearis is an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations. He acts as a catalyst for a number of current movements in the Middle East to promote peace-making and to promote cultural, political and religious dialog leading toward reconciliation. He is the author of the acclaimed book on these issues, Muslims, Christians and Jesus as well as the co-author of Tea with Hezbollah: Sitting at the Enemies’ Table. Carl, his wife Chris, and three kids lived in Beirut, Lebanon for 12 years. Through their unique and strategic approach around the Arab world, they encouraged university students, business professionals and political leaders to live their lives by the principles and teachings of Jesus in order to change their societies and nations. Today Carl spends much of his time working with leaders both in the West and in the Arab world with the hope of seeing the Arab Middle East and the West experience full and fruitful relationships through the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

I've had the chance to hear Carl speak and interact with him many times, so I have my personal reactions but I've also observed as other folks react to his speaking as well. I've heard folks say things like "I've heard about God all my life, but this is the first time it's ever made sense." "Carl talked about Jesus in a way that makes me want to learn more about what Jesus has to say."

Carl will tell folks he tries to follow Jesus. After spending time with him, I get a glimpse of Jesus that I didn't previously see or understand and I am compelled to want to follow Jesus. I think it's because while Jesus is so compelling, often the folks who claim to represent him don't do it so well--Carl seems to be able to express with his words and actions the teachings of Jesus in a way that goes beyond religion. Carl believes that true peace, reconciliation, and healing in the most difficult situations will come from following Jesus' teachings--and after spending time and watching leaders respond, I'm convinced he's right.

While religions tend to focus on "how are we different", Carl seeks to find common ground and build off of what we can agree on (I think he gets this from Jesus). His insights and perspectives are fresh and seem new, but I think it's because He just understands and can communicate the heart of Jesus' teachings without being religious.

As I've tried to follow Jesus and his teachings, I believe my heart and life have been changed by God. I have Carl to thank for re-introducing me to Jesus.

 Mr. Mel Lehman - Director of Common Humanity OrganizationShow/Hide
Mr. Mel Lehman

Mel Lehman works to build understanding and peace between Americans and the Middle East .  He directs an organization called Common Humanity which maintains a website www.CommonHumanity.org

He first traveled to Iraq in Christmas of 1996 as a communications executive of Church World Service of the National Council of Churches.  After 20 years at Church World Service he left in 1998 to spend more time working to help end the U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq .  He has made a total of 7 trips to Iraq and altogether has spent some 4 months there.  His work has included editing a newsletter, publishing articles, and speaking.  In December of 2002 he led a delegation of doctors to Iraq to teach medicine and was invited back again by the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

Unfortunately the U. S. invasion several months later has prevented his work inside Iraq since then.  He has continued to work on building understanding between Americans and the Middle East .  He has organized 4 Concert for Peace Tours which have brought Syrian musicians to American churches where they have been enthusiastically received.  He has taken Christmas cards from children in American churches to children in churches in the Middle East as part of a pen pal exchange.  He has published several articles and occasionally speaks about peace in the Middle East , and is currently working on a book about peacemaking from a Christian perspective.  Each year he helps lead a team of doctors to Syria to lecture on medical issues.

Mel Lehman grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  After attending Eastern Mennonite College he received Master’s degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York .   He currently lives and works in New York City .  He is 61 years old.  His alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University , recently published an article in its alumni magazine about his work: 

 Dr. Ola Elsaid - Director and Chair of JJ FoundationShow/Hide
Dr. Ola Elsaid

Dr. Ola Elsaid is a resident of Rochester MI. Born 1970 in Giza, Egypt she grew up in West africa and immigrated to the united states in 1995. One of the youngest physicians to graduate medical school, Ola started medical school when she was 15years old. Prior to settling in the United states, she practiced Medicine in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

With an entrepreneurial business spirit Dr. Elsaid is the founder and Director of a healthcare consulting company in Michigan, SleepConsultants LLC that provides consulting and management services to hospitals and physician practices in the field of sleep medicine.

Dr. Elsaid Earned her Medical degree from Cairo University and her MBA from Oakland University. She is a principal investor and managing director of Romeo Sleep center. A four bed sleep diagnostic facility. Prior to Romeo sleep center, she directed the Mid-Michigan sleep center, The institute of sleep and provided consulting and educational services for a number of other companies across the state of Michigan. Dr. Elsaid developed the first training program in Michigan for sleep technology. She trained and developed the careers of several individuals of all faiths in the community. All of her students went on to hold positions in local hospitals and independent sleep centers. Dr. Alaa Kandil, one of her students, now holds a residency position at Mount Sinai hospital in New York. "She gave me an opportunity when I first arrived to Detroit and did not know what to do. She offered both myself and my wife training and hired us in one of her sleep facilities. That gave me an opportunity to progress in my Medical career and become a physician."

Dr. Elsaid is the Director and Chair of JJ Foundation, a non-profit devoted to providing educational scholarships for students from middle east countries. She hopes to have a major role in integrating new comers into the American society and eliminating the differences that create isolation.

 Mr. Adnan Durrani - Chief Executive Officer and Chief Halal OfficerShow/Hide
Mr. Adnan Durrani

Mr. Durrani serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Halal Officer of the Company. Mr. Durrani has been an entrepreneur and investment professional for over 26 years, as President of Condor Ventures, Inc., a venture firm devoted to strategic investing in natural food companies. His entrepreneurial ventures have resulted in a successful track record of scaling and growing niche beverage and natural food product lines into mainstream branded companies, using grassroots marketing strategies and developing distribution relationships with major supermarket chains.


Mr. Durrani founded Vermont Pure in 1991. Today, Vermont Pure/Crystal Rock (www.crystalrock.com) is the 2nd largest bottled water company in the Northeast U.S. Mr. Durrani was also a principal investor and financial partner in Stonyfield Farms, Inc (www.stonyfield.com), and helped build it from $25 million in sales in 1994 to over $70 million and led its sale to Groupe Danone in 2001. Stonyfield today generates over $300 million in sales annually. He was also a principal of Delicious Brands, Inc, which he scaled, with the financial backing of Carl Icahn (www.icahnreport.com), to become the 5th largest cookie brand in the U.S. He is a Director and Chair of Finance for READ Global (Rural Education and Development Enterprise, www.readglobal.org), a nonprofit devoted to building libraries in war-torn communities in India, Bhutan, and Nepal and which is primarily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org). Mr. Durrani is a Director of O.P.E.N. (www.opennyc.org), the "Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America" (NY Chapter). He also served on the Board, and was Finance Chairman, of Social Venture Network (www.svn.org).


He has been recognized by BBMG and SVN as one of the entrepreneurs who engineered “20 Ideas That Changed The Way The World Does Business”. The select list of these inductees include: Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s), Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farms) , Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize, Grameen Bank), and Steve Case (AOL). Mr. Durrani sits on the Board of the Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of Columbia University (“Board of Visitors”), where he is also Chairman of the Entrepreneurial Advisory Board. Mr. Durrani has been a frequent lecturer at Silicon Valley Technology Conference in Palo Alto. Mr. Durrani received an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and economics from Columbia University. He is also a Charter Member of the American Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies. He often lectures on Islam and remains active in facilitating interfaith forums in New York City and Connecticut area synagogues, churches, and mosques. Most recently, he has been invited by the Vatican and Ambassador to the Holy Sees (www.vatican.va) to be a speaker on Interfaith In Business in October, 2010, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.


Mr. Durrani currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and son.

 Miss Dalia Mogahed - The Executive Director of the Gallup CenterShow/Hide
Miss Dalia Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed (born 1974 in Cairo, Egypt and immigrated to the United States at the age of 4) is an American Muslim scholar of Egyptian origin. She is the Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a non-partisan research center that provides data and analysis to reflect the views of Muslims all over the world. She was selected as an advisor by U.S. President Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.


Dalia Mogahed chairs the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which conducts research and statistics on Muslims throughout the world. Prior to joining Gallup, Mogahed was the founder and director of a cross-cultural consulting practice in the United States, which offered workshops, training programs, and one-to-one coaching on diversity and cultural understanding. Mogahed's clients included school districts, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, and community service organizations, as well as local and national media outlets.


Mogahed earned her Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) with emphasis on strategy from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her undergraduate degree from one of the top schools in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon graduation, she joined Procter & Gamble as a marketing products researcher.


Along with John Esposito, she has co-authored the book Who speaks for Islam? What a billion Muslims really think. It is based on six years of research and more than 50,000 interviews representing Muslims in more than 35 predominantly Muslim nations. Representing more than 90% of the world's Muslim community, it makes this poll the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind. Her analysis has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy magazine, the Harvard International Review, the Middle East Policy journal, and many other academic and popular journals.

 Mr. Mukhit Hossain - Civil Rights Activist, VirginiaShow/Hide
Mr. Mukhit Hossain

Mukit Hossain sells meat to the large Muslim community in Virginia. His whole family helps on the farm.Mukit Hossain, who was a senior executive and civil rights activist in Northern Virginia, now raises halal goats — goats raised and slaughtered by Islamic rites.

Mukhit Hossain passed away in November 2010, yet his legacy and impact still is felt today with the work, dedication, and service he provided the Muslim community in Virginia.

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 Dr. Nadeem Iqbal - Founder of North Carolina Eid Festival, Inc.Show/Hide
Dr. Nadeem Iqbal

Dr. Nadeem Iqbal is a long time resident of Research Triangle Area and a dynamic leader within the Muslim American community in North Carolina, whose contributions can be felt throughout the U.S. and beyond. He is a life long promoter of inclusion of all communities into each others celebrations and has done that through organizing various social and cultural organizations open to all. He was a co-founder of Pakistani Student Association at NC State University, Raleigh, NC over 25 years ago, and a founding member of the Pakistani American Association over 20 years ago in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.

He is also among the very few who laid down the foundation of the largest Islamic Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, now serving thousands of area Muslims. He also has served in community leadership roles in various political organizations, including "Muslim American Public Affairs Council" of North Carolina and "Triangle for Obama", and is a stanch media advocate for more than 20 years.Dr. Nadeem Iqbal made his biggest contribution when he materialized his ground-breaking vision of celebrating Muslim Eid as an American Holiday Event by establishing a non-profit organization "NC Eid Festival, Inc." in 2007. For the last three years, NC Eid Festival has celebrated "Cary Eid Festival" in North Carolina which is endorsed and sponsored by the Town of Cary city council, which is indeed a rare accomplishment for any Muslim community in USA. Open to all, Cary Eid Festival attracts artists, performers and vendors from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, making this a "Festival Without Borders".

Cary Eid Festival 2009 included a key-note speech by the U.S. Congressman David Price, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. Rep. Price elaborated in detail the generosity of Muslim American community and their contributions for the American society. NC Eid Festival has made a great contribution in creating a two way learning street exposing common American citizens to the Muslim culture, while providing opportunities to Muslim Americans to learn various art forms and culture of America. This Festival has received warm reviews from the mainstream media, including local affiliate of NBC TV.

Dr. Iqbal is currently Chair of NC Eid Festival, Inc. board consisting of eight diverse ethnicities.As we are observing an up-surge in distrust against Muslims as evident in opposition to Cordoba Center in New York City, it is extremely important we recognize and support inter-faith and inter-cultural effort like Cary Eid Festival. You can learn more about this wonderful organization at: http://www.NCEidFestival.org


 Miss Lena Khan - Film Maker, Los AngelesShow/Hide
Miss Lena Khan

Her three-minute short A Land Called Paradise, essentially a music video set to a song of the same name by Muslim country singer Kareem Salama, won a $20,000 grand prize from One Nation, a Muslim advocacy group that sponsored the film competition. Khan directed dozens of men and women of diverse backgrounds to hold up handwritten signs that express messages they want the world to know about them as Muslim Americans. The statements are as whimsical as “I, too, shop at Victoria’s Secret,” and as serious as “My sister died on September 11.”

One of the judges for the 2007 One Nation competition, former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, gave A Land Called Paradise high marks for its “beautiful cinematic language,” while journalist Mariane Pearl commended the film “for its freshness and sense of humor while addressing vital emotions felt by the Muslim population and the rest of us.”

Pulling off A Land Called Paradise was a major effort, Khan recalled. The project started with a question: “If you could say something to everybody in the world who is not Muslim, what would you say?”

“I sent out e-mails; I went to mosques; I used every major Muslim Listserv I could think of,” she said.

The first response Khan received was “Islam inhibits my suicidal thoughts.” “That’s when I knew that this was the video I was going to do,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought of that. I was trying to fix the representations of Muslims, but I don’t think I can speak for all of them. And this was my first clue. I got 2,500 responses, collected them, narrowed them down, and made the video.”

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 Mr. Rafi-uddin Shikoh - Founder, DinarStandardShow/Hide
Mr. Rafi-uddin Shikoh

Rafi-uddin Shikoh is leading the development of DinarStandard™–a growth and investment strategy consultancy focused on the emerging Muslim markets.

Rafi-uddin has been leading the delivery of Muslim market analysis, feasibility studies and growth strategies for clients. He has also led DinarStandard.com publication special reports such as the DS100™ ranking of Top 100 Businesses in the Muslim World, Leading Brands of the Muslim World, Top 10 Opportunity Trends, and various other reports and features.

As an emerging expert on Muslim markets, he is regularly quoted in media such as The Economist, Forbes, LA Times, BBC World News, BrandChannel, Arab News (Saudi Arabia), Khaleej Times, Sabah (Turkey), The Star (Malaysia), Geo TV (Pakistan) and many more. Rafi-uddin has 12+ years of marketing strategy, e-business strategy consulting and technology management experience with small to Fortune 500 sized companies in the US such as Marsh & McLennan, Hartford, Sun Microsystems, Acxiom and Thomson Reuters. He has an MBA from UNC-Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, and a BSc. in Marketing from Southwest State University, Minnesota, USA. He was born in Pakistan and spent 14 years of his early schooling in the Sultanate of Oman.

 Mr. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Center, L.A. LakersShow/Hide
Mr. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis “Lew” Alcindor, Jr., April 16, 1947) is an American retired basketball player, coach, actor, and author. During his career with the NBA‘s Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers from 1969 to 1989, Abdul-Jabbar scored more points than any other player in league history, won six NBA championships and a record six regular season MVP Awards. In college at UCLA, he played on three championship teams, and his high school team won 71 consecutive games.

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 Mr. Sohaib Sultan - Author, The Koran for DummiesShow/Hide
Mr. Sohaib Sultan

Sohaib N. Sultan is a second generation American born and raised Muslim Chaplain of South Asian descent. He grew up in Indianapolis, IN and spent several years abroad in the Middle East. Most recently, Sultan served as the Muslim Chaplain for Trinity College and Wesleyan University in CT. Now, he has joined Princeton University full-time to serve as their first Muslim Life Coordinator. Sultan holds a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Indiana University.

Currently, Sultan is finishing his M.A. in Islamic Studies & Christian-Muslim Relations, and Islamic Chaplaincy from the Hartford Theological Seminary. Sultan is a public lecturer on Islam, Muslim Culture, and Muslim-Western Relations in the U.S. and abroad. He is also the author of The Koran for Dummies (Wiley, 2004) and The Qur’an and Sayings of Prophet Muhammad: Selections Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths, 2007), as well as numerous published articles on the Islamic faith and tradition. Sultan lives with his wife, Arshe Ahmed, in Cranbury, NJ.

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