A rare gem is working for Finn Church Aid (FCA) in peace work. Mohamed Elsanousi worked closely with the U.S. inter-religious communities and for the US government to counter radicalisation and violent extremism in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September.
Mohamed Elsanousi was born into a Sudanese family. His father was a farmer and trader. The family didn’t have electricity or running water in their village, yet four of the 17 children went on to get university education.
Mohamed in particular advanced in his studies. Teachers noticed the hard working young man and his road took him to Islamabad, Pakistan, for further studies. In Pakistan, Elsanousi got a Bachelor’s degree in Sharia and law. He financed his studies by purchasing Pakistani fabrics and selling them on to Qatar. After graduating he was admitted to Indiana University, where he eventually graduated with a Master and Doctorate of Law and Society.
In September 2001, airplanes hit the WTC towers in New York. A terrorist hunt began in the US, one that grew into more and more hysterical proportions over the years.
Elsanousi had a leading position in the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In that capacity he represented ISNA in various efforts spearheaded by the U.S. government aimed to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism.
Elsanousi served in Secretary Hillary Clinton and John Kerry Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Currently, Elsanousi works for Finn Church Aid as the Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers in Washington DC office. In his work he focuses on preventing violent radicalisation, especially in the Middle East and North America. He has also been mediating peace between different Muslim groups in the Central African Republic.
Legally trained, Elsanousi could be described as an American Imam who is sort of responsible for the international relationships of this planet. But does he believe in the American dream?
“Absolutely!” he says. “I love America! If you work hard, you succeed. Hope for a better tomorrow is something every young person should learn about.”
Elsanousi takes hope and spreading hope very seriously. Education and increasing someone’s knowledge are extremely important, because as much as hope is about an individual’s own opportunities, it is also about a respectful coexistence.
“There are many different schools of study in Islam, just as there is about the study of the Bible. Whoever claims that the message of Islam is warlike is only an agent of purely greedy and selfish political motives,” Elsanousi summarises.
“Islam, like all world religions, teaches how a person can live in peace with himself and with others. We have a great responsibility to spread this common message to help people from different cultures to learn to understand each other and be able to meet each other,” says Elsanousi.
Text: Eriikka Käyhkö, Photo: Ville Asikainen