NEW YORK – American media dub him as the “Muslim fireman” or the guy called upon to explain Islam to America, while he much rather prefers the “Muslim gardener,” Wajahat Ali says with a smile.
“You know, planting some seeds and maybe eating a mango or two.”
It’s hard to imagine Ali sitting still long, though.
The Muslim figure is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, a TV host, and a consultant for the US State Department.
The New York Times contributing opinion-writer seems to always have a long list of projects, from penning plays to investigating Islamophobia to writing dystopian fiction about life inside Muslim concentration camps.
“The Wi-Fi is sparse but the weed is plentiful,” he jokes. Ali is also developing a television series with novelist Dave Eggers about a Muslim police officer in the San Francisco Bay area.
He helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream, a daily news show that extended the conversation to social media and beyond. He was also a National Correspondent, Political Reporter, and Social Media Expert for Al Jazeera America.
He focused on stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.
In 2012, Ali worked with the US Department of State to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. He initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore.
He was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Ali co-hosted AJAM’s The Stream, which was nominated for the 2014 Shorty Award for Best Use of Social Media for News. His play The Domestic Crusaders was published by McSweeney’s and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center.
He has given many presentations, from Google to the United Nations to Princeton to The Abu Dhabi Book Festival. Ali’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, the Guardian, and Salon.