November 27, 2012
Omar Sarcibey’ work on U.S. and international affairs has run in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Newsweek International and other outlets.
Since 2005, He has focused on Islam and Muslims in America, and is now writing Crescent Mirror in a Glass House, a book based on my reporting that reflects as much about the USA as it does about Muslims.
Before working as a journalist, Omar Sacirbey was an advisor with the Bosnian Foreign Ministry, serving at the United Nations in New York, Sarajevo and The Hague.
He holds Master’s degrees from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
You can learn more about his work by visiting his website.
- In April 2012, Omar visited the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon, MA about 25 miles south of Boston, for a lesson on Islamic law, or Shariah, with some 200 Muslims in attendance, most of them immigrants.
To many people, Shariah evokes images of harsh punishments in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia but Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan, a resident scholar at the Islamic Learning Foundation in Villa Park, IL and the class’s instructor said,
“The stoning and the hand-cutting and the other harsh punishments that we hear about, that is anti-Shariah.”
Khan said that only a small part of Shariah is devoted to questions of governance, and that Shariah, more than anything, is a personal moral compass stressing charity, kindness, and other virtues.
“Every day you hear someone misinterpreting and misrepresenting the Quran,”
Naeem Baig, Director of the Social Justice Council at the Islamic Circle of North America, the group that sponsored the event, suggested that the class’s participants seek to educate those around them on the topic, starting with their non-Muslim neighbors, in order to increase understanding.
- In June 2012, Omar completed a fascinating article on the shortage of American-born imams who can effectively connect with American congregations, especially the youth.
The story was originally published by Religion News Service and it was then quickly picked up by a number of other media, including The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.
- In July 2012, The Washington Post published a new compelling story by Omar Sacirbey in which he focuses on the initiative of a Boston mosque to keep young Somali immigrants off the streets.
Read this great piece here.
Why does immigration reporting matter today?
Immigration reporting matters today because immigrants, new and old, continue to be a large and important part of the American population.
Collectively, they make important contributions to American society, and also face unique challenges. Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the diversity of immigrants just within the small Muslim community that I cover – not just ethnic diversity, but diversity of beliefs, practices, incomes, education, and other characteristics. I know that some news outlets still have immigration reporters, but in a perfect world it seems these outlets would have at least 2-3-4 reporters who could specialize in specific immigrant groups.
What resources would you recommend on the topic? (articles, websites, video, movies, books, etc.).
Your own two feet. There’s nothing like going to where the immigrants are – their places of worship, their homes, the restaurants and business at which they hang out, the social service agencies that try to help them – and talking to them directly and seeing them in their world.
What makes an outstanding reporter?
Spending a lot of time with the people you write about. Being respectful, fair, listening, which are not only the right things to do, but they help gain the trust of the person you are interviewing.
Who are your journalism inspirations?
Roy Gutman. Christiane Amanpour. David Rohde.
While on the ground, what is your most memorable anecdote?
While working on my second story, about the efforts of a local mosque to keep Somali youths off the streets, published by the Religion News Service on July 12, I was surprised to hear from several interviewees that at least some Somali youth have been sent back to the war-torn country by frustrated families.
Although fighting has ebbed, Somalia can still be dangerous.
Interestingly, there were different views within the Somali community here about sending troubled Somalis back. Faduma Farah, who works with troubled Somali youth, likened it to a death sentence, while Abdullah Ashur, who owns a restaurant popular with local Somalis, said many Somalis do better “back home.” “They get there and they feel very comfortable,” Ashur said. “There are none of the temptations that you have here. It’s like being in rehab.”
What are your next projects?
I’m in the middle of reporting several stories that I hope to file by July 31. One is about the preconceptions that Muslim immigrants bring with them to the U.S.
A second is about two Iraqi refugee mothers, who are different and alike in interesting ways, and their approaches to raising their children as Muslims in America.
I am also working on a story about Iraqi Shiite refugees adjusting to American life, and another story about how new Muslim immigrants mark their first month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast, in the United States.
In August, I’ll be finishing stories about Muslim immigrants adapting to new sexual mores; what binds Bosnian Muslims to their identity; the complications of divorcing couples in the U.S. who were married abroad; and Muslim immigrants working to end female genital mutilation.