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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)

"If we allow one group to be targeted today, then what prevents another group to be targeted tomorrow?" Mr. Hossain told the Associated Press. "We have to overcome this cycle."

In 2005, he launched an effort to give immigrant day laborers, who sometimes were exposed to fierce weather while waiting for work on Herndon's sidewalks, a place to escape the elements.

Before the job center was approved by Herndon's town council, Mr. Hossain raised thousands of dollars to buy winter coats for the workers. He was named Herndon Citizen of the Year and was recognized for his efforts in a joint resolution from the Virginia General Assembly.

After it was approved, the job center - which sat on public land - became a flash point in the national immigration debate as residents questioned a policy of using taxpayers' resources to aid undocumented workers. A conservative legal group filed a lawsuit to force the center's closure; representatives of the Minutemen, an anti-immigration group, staged a protest.

Mr. Hossain said the controversy bled into his professional life. He had been trying to start an Internet phone company, but after his name began appearing in news reports as a supporter of the jobs center, he said, a venture capital firm pulled its promised $1.5 million investment.

The day labor center closed in 2007 after Herndon voters ousted politicians who had supported it.

"There had been quite a brouhaha over these men," Mr. Hossain said at a 2006 Christmas dinner he helped organize for the day laborers. "But at the end of the day, we have a moral obligation to reach out and support them."

Mukit Hossain was born Aug. 5, 1956, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He came to the United States in the mid-1970s on a full scholarship to Duke University, where he received degrees in economics, mathematics and philosophy. He went on to receive a master's degree in econometrics from North Carolina State University.

He worked in telecommunications for companies in Durham, N.C., Chicago and New Jersey before moving to the Washington area in the late 1990s to work for LCI International, now owned by Qwest.

He was an executive for companies such as Winstar and Teleglobe before he went into business for himself.

By 2008, he had tired of what he called the "corporate rat race." He and his family moved from Loudoun County's Cascades section to a quieter life in Spotsylvania.

Survivors include his wife of 12 years, Sabrina Abedin Hossain of Spotsylvania; two daughters, Maya and Hana Hossain, both of Spotsylvania; three sisters; and a brother.

Mr. Hossain had no agricultural experience when he decided to become a farmer. Friends didn't know quite what to make of his move from political activism to animal husbandry, he told The Post last spring.

But with a growing number of Muslims in Washington's Virginia suburbs, he said, there was pent-up demand for naturally raised halal goat meat.

By April, he had made his first meat delivery to a couple in Centreville. He had 67 goats on his 15-acre farm and 150 on the way; his children harvested eggs from the chickens in their yard. "It's the most peaceful job I have ever done," he said.

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