Sharifa Ahmad Alkhateeb was honored during Women’s History Month after leaving her mark on history.
Founder of the North American Council for Muslim Women, Alkhateeb exposed and worked to eradicate domestic violence in the Islamic culture. A scholar, journalist and educator, she worked to bridge cultural voids and to create a better understanding of her people.
Alkhateeb, 58, had pancreatic cancer and died at her Ashburn home Oct. 21, 2004.
THE FAIRFAX COUNTY Board of Supervisors, on behalf of its residents, paid tribute to her legacy Friday, presenting a plaque to the ADAMS Center. Alkhateeb, a community activist and leader at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, also dedicated much of her time to advising schools, police departments, corporate directors, governmental agencies and textbook publishers on the nature of Islamic life.
She produced the television show "Middle Eastern Parenting" from 1993 to 1997 and presided over the Muslim Education Council. In 1995, she served as chairwoman of the Muslim caucus at the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. Just before the presentation, Rizwan Jaka, president of the ADAMS Center, applauded Alkhateeb’s work on behalf of Muslin women and on bridging Islamic and American cultures. "God bless her soul. She was truly a leader and an activist," he said. "We should do more to follow her example."
HER DAUGHTER, Maha Alkhateeb, spoke briefly. "We are very proud of our mom," she said. "She has done a lot of work for the ADAMS community and Fairfax public schools."
She said her family plans to continue the Peaceful Families Project, which researches violence in the Muslim community. The family members also will publish and document her work. After the ceremony, the daughter said she had known of her mother’s activism, but she had discovered even more of her accomplishments since her death.
Fairfax Supervisor Penny Gross (Mason District) said Sharifa Alkhateeb had taught everyone to "step out a little further."
"It was an honor to know her," Gross said. "It was very sad we lost her early."
Gross used the opportunity to encourage the Muslims to fill out the school census, to ensure they are well represented in the official tally of school-aged children.
Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, described the activist as "a wonderful bridge between communities."
"She helped make Fairfax a different place and a tolerant place," he said, emphasizing tolerant. "She was a cultural interpreter. … She made a difference."
AFTER Sept. 11, 2001, Sharifa Alkhateeb took on a leading role in the Community Resilience Project of Northern Virginia, a counseling and education program sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She also organized an interfaith consortium of synagogues, churches and mosques to educate people about religious and cultural concerns.