Sharifa Alkhateeb (1946 – 2004) was a Muslim leader and pioneer who was passionate about serving Muslim communities in the US. She was a writer, researcher, and educator involved in a range of feminist causes, domestic violence prevention, and interfaith work, among other things. She was a community mobilizer bringing people together to address issues that were still taboo such as domestic violence. Sharifa integrated Islamic teachings into her work and was persistent about breaking barriers that prevented the development of services, programming and policies.
From 1989 to 2004, Sharifa was the president of the Muslim Education Council, an organization focused on teaching administrators about Islamic culture. In 1992, she founded the North American Council for Muslim Women (NACMW), the first national organization for American Muslim women. She served as the chairwoman for the Muslim Caucus to the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Muslim women in Beijing in 1995.
Sharifa Alkhateeb was the first woman to receive the Community Service Award from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), recognizing her lifetime commitment and dedication to serving Muslims in America. She has left behind a legacy of her many accomplishments that serve as an inspiration and a model to many.
You may view more about Sharifa's legacy in this video from FaithTrust Institute.
During her leadership of the North American Council for Muslim Women, Sharifa Alkhateeb became interested in the prevalence of domestic violence in Muslim communities in the US. In 1993, she conducted the first documented survey designed to assess the incidence of domestic violence among Muslim leaders in the US (1). Her preliminary research findings showed the incidence of physical and sexual abuse to be 10%. Her survey did not measure psychological or verbal abuse.
In 2000, with funding from the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, she established the Peaceful Families Project as the Muslim program at FaithTrust Institute, a national multi-faith domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization based in Seattle. Her goal was to utilize Islamic teachings that promote justice and peace to address cultural attitudes that might contribute to domestic violence. Many of the current Muslim-focused domestic violence programs around the country credit her with breaking some of the barriers that had existed in their community, paving the way for advocates to establish new services and programs for victims of abuse.
Since its inception, Peaceful Families Project has undergone many structural changes, most significantly, the loss of Sharifa Alkhateeb’s leadership in 2004. The program continued under the leadership of Salma Elkadi Abugideiri and Sharifa’s daughter, Maha Buthayna Alkhateeb. As a result of funding cuts in 2007, PFP was not able to continue as a program under FaithTrust Institute. In 2008, Peaceful Families Project was established as a national 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. It has continued to be a pioneer in providing resources about domestic violence in Muslim communities and in providing educational programming that is grounded in Islamic teachings that promote justice, equality, and tranquility.
(1) Alkhateeb, S. (1999). Ending domestic violence in Muslim families. Journal of Religion and Abuse, 1 (44), 49-59.