Mukit Hossain, Muslim activist in Northern Virginia, dies

Mukit Hossain gave up the "rat race" in Northern Virginia to raise goats in Spotsylvania County.
Mukit Hossain gave up the "rat race" in Northern Virginia to raise goats in Spotsylvania County. (Sarah L. Voisin/the Washington Post)
By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 28, 2010; 10:32 PM

Mukit Hossain, a former Northern Virginia telecommunications executive and grass-roots activist who was instrumental in encouraging fellow Muslims to become more politically engaged after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, died Nov. 27 of a heart attack. He was 54.

Mr. Hossain died at his farm in Spotsylvania County, where he and his family had moved two years ago to escape the faster pace of Washington's suburbs. He had recently started a business raising goats to yield meat that is both naturally raised and halal, or in accordance with Islamic law.

His death shocked members of the Muslim community, who knew Mr. Hossain as a tireless community organizer and advocate of civil liberties.

"He was just an embodiment of what one person can do by himself," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He had a fire in his belly."

As president of the Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee, Mr. Hossain was part of a wave of activists who had worked since the 2001 attacks to bring Muslim Americans into the public sphere, boosting their influence in local, state and national politics.

He had felt compelled to become active in civic life in 2002 after federal authorities raided Muslims' residences and businesses in Northern Virginia in search of terrorist connections.

"That was when I realized if we want to have a voice in government, we have to speak up early on," Mr. Hossain told the Christian Science Monitor in 2003. "We can't wait until someone comes knocking on the door, to look for a voice."

A trustee of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, he spoke at mosques about the importance of becoming politically involved. He also organized voter-registration drives and arranged for taxi drivers to skip their shifts at Dulles International Airport to take voters to the polls.

"Many of the Muslims who came to this country came from countries where voting was a dangerous and dirty thing to do," he told The Washington Post in 2006. "We have to convince them that voting is not only safe and clean but it is a civic responsibility."

His PAC's efforts were part of a political push that helped lead to such milestones as the election in 2006 of software engineer Saqib Ali to the Maryland House of Delegates - the first Muslim in the Washington region to be elected to state office.

Mr. Hossain's work transcended religious and ethnic boundaries. In 2006, he joined with Jewish leaders to push successfully for a Virginia state law that made it illegal to falsely label kosher and halal foods.

He also started Food Source, an organization to feed the homeless in Fairfax, and used his organizing skills on behalf of undocumented workers - particularly as immigration became a defining political issue in Prince William and Loudoun counties.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company