Nazir Harb Michel, ’08, has a deep sense of mission to the Muslim community, East-West relations and to his deep love of language. He credits Seattle University, especially the Honors program and Sullivan Scholars community, with transforming him into “someone with the courage and wherewithal to seek higher peaks and always work to improve himself.”
As a student, Nazir rekindled the Muslim Student Association (MSA) just two years after 9/11 wanting to build community. He set out to create a safe space for students to be themselves and part of that included their relationships with Islam and Muslim identity. He also wanted his community to celebrate their strengths, skills and passions beyond this identity. “We were scientists, engineers, philosophers, linguists, dancers, musicians, artists, and goofballs too,” he recalls of his peers and community members. The sense of connection and community Nazir helped to rebuild and create resulted in MSA being recognized with the Ignatian Spirit Award in 2007.
After graduating with degrees in International Studies and Sociology, he went on to earn two masters degrees—one from Princeton University and one from Georgetown University. He then earned his PhD in Arab Studies and Political Interactional Sociolinguistics from Georgetown University, where he also served as Muslim Life Program Coordinator.
As a post-doctoral research fellow, Nazir worked on Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project dedicated to educating the public about Islamophobia. He guided research on the Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam published in September 2016. Unfortunately, the report largely finds that most American Catholics hold troubling beliefs about Muslims and Islam. Unable to name similarities between Catholicism and Islam, only 14% of America Catholics have a favorable impression of Muslims. In addition, those who consume content from Catholic media have more unfavorable views of the Muslim community and of Islam. These findings have led the Bridge Initiative to produce factual content for Catholic media and help publishers to distinguish reliable sources from those with Islamophobic agendas.
After the birth of his second daughter, Nazir and his family returned to Seattle where he currently resides. He is the senior associate domain expert for the Middle East and North Africa at Dataminr, a company that turns global data into real-time alerts for tech, corporate and PR clients. He says of his current role, “it is in many ways the culmination of all my years of study and a place to bring to bear the constellation of values that I have been traveling by since my time at Seattle University.”
Nazir is speaking on “Being Muslim in America” on May 4 for Seattle U Alumni Association partner, the Ignatian Spirituality Center. Nazir hopes to create understanding about Muslim communities, open a channel for dialogue and communicate hope. “While I cannot represent all Muslims, I hope to be a sincere ambassador by sharing my stories. If we can build common ground and start to see eye to eye, we can begin to look past stereotypes and politics,” says Nazir.
This Ignitian Life
Being Muslim in America
May 4, 2019
Social: 9 a.m.
Program: 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
St. Joseph Parish Center