Rumors circulated that President Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim and Adil Mohammed, 57, couldn’t help but wonder: Why?
Why would it be secret? Why is it a controversy? “That was looked upon as a bad thing,” Mohammed says. Faced with fear, distrust, even hatred, Mohammed knew how to best respond.
“I’ve always known there’s a secret to it, and it’s not such a secret. The secret is you just put yourself out there,” says Mohammed. “You can’t isolate yourself. Be open. Don’t become secretive. Don’t become a cult. Any time you are closed, you run the risk of becoming a cult.”
Mohammed came to the United States in 1983 at age 22 to attend graduate school. He rented an apartment while attending the University of Louisville and spent time with his landlady watching evening network news. She taught him the basics to function in American society, like writing a check and addressing an envelope, and gave him an important taste of America.
“That’s how I got into America, or America got into me,” says Mohammed.
After completing his master’s degree in industrial engineering, he went to work for General Motors as a project manager until being laid off in 2009. He and a business partner formed Med+IT Systems in 2014 and is also in the process of developing mobile apps.
“Coming from India, I was always comfortable coming from a multi-faith, multi-cultural society. I was actually in a minority. I grew up learning how to deal with other faiths and work together and be nice,” Mohammed says.
“At some point in my life I made the decision that America is my home.” When that realization occurred to him he decided to plant his roots and “put himself out there” as he had learned from his upbringing in India.
“I have to truly make this home. I have to be involved in things. I have to be open with everyone around me. I can’t stay away from the community where I’ve made a home.”
Within a year, Mohammed joined with a core group of four or five other Flint-area Muslims and formed American Muslim Community Services.
“We are going to start doing things within the community. We are not going to stay in our own community. Anything we do, we are going to be about helping the larger community and not just helping our own small community,” Mohammed says of the formation of the group. “We picked a name: We are American, we are Muslim, and we want to serve the community.”
AMCS gives SAT coaching classes, offers nutritional assistance through two Flint Muslim Food Pantry locations, and operates the Muslim Outreach Free Medical Clinic.
“Our mosque has an open house two or three times a year and that’s great, but unless you step out of the mosque and mingle with others and interact, how can you say you have an open mind. That’s the two-way street. Don’t just invite others to come to you, you have to step out, too.”
The AMCS slogan is “Connecting Communities. For Good.”
Mohammed explains the concept behind the slogan.
“Everybody is part of a circle,” he says detailing two of his circles as the India Club and the Flint Islamic Center. “Let’s not just sit in our own little circle. We can still be a part of those circles but also be a part of the other communities. No one has to break out of the one to go to the other,” he says. “But you are connected.
“That’s what I want the AMCS to be. The AMCS needs to be a catalyst for connecting the Muslim communities with the other communities, but not necessarily faith-based.”
Mohammed is also the co-founder of the blossoming International Center of Greater Flint.
“I’m interested in knowing your story and I hope you are interested in knowing my story,” says Mohammed. “I’m not asking you to agree with me, but at least if we know each other’s stories, we’ll be in a better place.”