Monday, June 17, 2024 Jun 17, 2024
78° F Dallas, TX

Omar Suleiman Makes Me Want to Believe

The charismatic imam from Irving, by way of New Orleans, has become one of Dallas' spiritual leaders.

Spiritually, I am sort of a mutt. I was born Methodist, before being baptized Catholic when I was 5 or so. I was an altar boy and went to Catholic school, a devout practitioner until college, when I couldn’t reconcile the sudden death of a friend with the God I understood. Along the way, I learned about some aspects of Islam through Five Percenter hip-hop groups like Brand Nubian and Poor Righteous Teachers, and reading Malcolm X. Later, I married a mostly non-practicing Jewish woman who took me to temple occasionally — her stepfather is a rabbi — and Passover regularly, before we divorced. I’ve been to T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House for Easter service.

I felt a connection at each step, but nothing lasting. It had been years since I had prayed and really meant it. But I did just that one evening in January when Imam Omar Suleiman asked me to, at a candlelight vigil at Thanks-Giving Square opposing the Trump administration’s short-lived travel ban. What struck me about him then — and when he spoke at Thanks-Giving Square last July after the downtown shooting, and all the other times I’ve been around him — is his ability to very simply get to the humanity at the core of all religions.

That’s part of why I wanted to write about him for months. I finally got the chance to profile him in the July issue of D. But he’s so involved in so many things, I only was able to touch on his work with the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. So after you read my story, check out this Huffington Post piece about Yaqeen, too.