Get ready for season 1 of 1400 OMG, a Toledo Society original. The series is written and presented by Professor Saeed Khan and is the millennial Muslim’s guide to what the heck happened in Islamic history. In season 1 we dive into key events during the last 200 years including the fall of the Islamic Caliphate, Muslims & WWI, the 1979 Mecca siege & the Iranian Revolution.
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Omar Hamid | Co-Founder of LaunchGood
Unlike most people strutting through the college/university cycles, Omar’s career really started to kick off during his high school years. A design whiz at a young age, Omar started his own agency out of his parents’ house – Alfenn. Servicing some very sizeable clients, Omar took the liberty of not doing the university motions and instead focused on developing his art.
Sooner rather than later, Omar got tapped on the shoulder by a man named Chris Blauvelt – the founder of a nascent start-up called LaunchGood. LaunchGood’s idea was simple – it was going to be the platform which connects Muslims with great ideas to thousands of funders across the globe. It was like a Kickstarter specifically tailored to the Muslim world. Omar took on the project but quickly found himself directing most of his time and energy to LaunchGood. It came to the point where he didn’t want to work on any other projects and instead tried over and over (sometimes without being asked) to perfect the LaunchGood platform. Omar had found his passion.
Eventually, Omar pursued this passion and went all in with LaunchGood as a dedicated co-founder. As we sit with Omar on the Transit Lounge, he tells us that the start-up experience is no easy one – “It’s like falling off a cliff and trying to build an aeroplane on your way down”. Omar’s philosophy rests on a fundamental pillar: Just do it and your Rizq (wealth) is from Allah. It is the effort that is sought – not the outcome. Omar could live through his start-up experience because of this very wisdom (an “unfair advantage” as he calls it) and how much he believed in the cause of LaunchGood.
Amid all of this start-up success in the United States, Omar’s next move was slightly different, but we won’t say we were surprised. Omar found himself plastered over billboards in the Arab world – not for a LaunchGood Marketing campaign or for some exclusive big budget design project – but as a budding TV celebrity in Qatar. Starting off as a phone call with a relative to discuss a “start-up idea”, this opportunity translated into Omar being a participant and an effective superstar in the Arab world. A seemingly strange digression from the crowdfunding industry, Stars of Science saw Omar design something that would address a problem faced by every Muslim at some point of their life – a chair for praying in the masjid.
On the season finale of The Transit Lounge, Omar talks more about his vision for LaunchGood, the reason why they don’t search for investors and the road ahead for him and his various projects.
LaunchGood has become the biggest Muslim-specific crowdfunding platform across the globe. Whilst many comfortably use the platform, they are unaware of the story behind its inception. Co-Founder Omar Hamid’s journey started in late high school, as he kicked off his design career by starting his own agency – that’s right – during high school. The design agency turned out to be a stunning success, and all was well and good, until Omar got his most engaging project yet – the LaunchGood website. He would soon realise that this project drew him in like none other before and lit a passion deep inside. Eventually, Omar went all in as a Co-Founder and began his journey to develop the Muslim World’s largest crowd funding platform.
Magid Magid | Sheffield’s unlikely Lord Mayor
Magid Magid came to Britain at the age of 5 after fleeing Somalia. Growing up in Sheffield, by the time Magid was finishing school, he found himself working 12 hour shifts at different factories. He wanted to make enough money to pursue things he was passionate about; travel, scuba diving and more.
During this time, however, a deeper concern started poking at Magid. He knew he was working a lot, but he needed to do something that could open up opportunities for the long haul; Magid knew he had to go to university. There was only one problem; Magid had no clue what to study. Considering accounting, finance and all the usual culprits – no degree appealed to him except one: Aquatic Zoology.
We know what you’re thinking. Aquatic Zoology – is that even a degree? As amazing as that is, what we found to be even more fascinating was how this Aquatic Zoology major would end up as Lord Mayor of Sheffield. University became an entry point for Magid to speak out for issues he believed in. Never embroiling himself into the politics of it all, Magid knew that he cared about key issues and he knew he was going to do something about them. And so he did. Uncertain at first, Magid ended up running for the President of the University Union and won – a landslide victory at that.
What this opportunity sparked in Magid took him a lot further than campus activism. Sharing a lot in common with the Greens, particularly their views on education, bottom-up structures and ethical funding, he volunteered actively and was eventually elected as a counsellor for the Greens. By 2017, Magid was elected by 3 other counsellors as Lord Mayor – yes, it’s as fancy as it sounds.
As we sit with Magid on The Transit Lounge, he describes how being a Somali Muslim in the public eye is no easy feat. He’s faced petitions to have him removed, smear campaigns and has even received death threats. Through it all, Magid maintains the same steadfast attitude – “This is who I am, you either take me or leave me”. He voices this same advice for struggling young Muslims – ‘believe in yourself, stay steadfast and be smart’.
On episode 11 of The Transit Lounge, Magid tells us more about his famous inauguration picture, how he adds his own flavour to century old traditions and the ways in which he connects to young people as a Mayor.
Magid Magid may have lived the most unconventional journey to politics there is. After leaving Somalia as a refugee, he arrived at Britain at the tender age of 5. After schooling and working long shifts at factories for cash, Magid eventually enrolled into university to study Aquatic Zoology. Apart from an exotic degree, Magid got a lot out of his time at university. He found a voice to speak out for things he believed in passionately, and eventually got elected as the President of the University Union. A strong believer in principle over politics, Magid joined the Greens party and quickly became an active member. Before he knew it, he would be elected as the youngest Lord Mayor of Sheffield (with quite a fancy inauguration). We trace Magid’s journey and the challenges he’s faced as a proud Muslim in politics.
Peter Gould | The Road to Zileej
In his early university career, Peter was going through an internal conversation that would radically alter the path of his life to come. Grappling with big questions of existence, Truth and ultimately, God, Peter found Islam gave him deep yet simple answers to these existential questions. After accepting Islam, Peter’s design took on a whole new form and wore the spirituality of his faith. Not known to him at the time, however, was that he would end up as a design celebrity in the Muslim world globally.
Peter’s journey to becoming a design authority was far from conventional. Rather than working for big corporate and gleaning skills from other experienced designers, Peter jumped straight into the deep end and started his own design agency. Initially working out of his garage, Peter made sure to embody one motto – business is about looking after people. And so Peter did just that – whatever client he had, he made sure to look after them well, and slowly but surely, Peter started landing some big names in Australia.
Committed to the Muslim community from the get-go, Peter wanted to translate his design skills to helping the community – but this was not without its challenges. Whilst Muslim organisations knew the value of good design, many suffered from the tragic ‘free sabeel illah’ model – the belief that everything for a good cause should come free (well, not always free – one client offered to find Peter a wife in exchange for a website design…). But with a positive mindset, a lot of travel and a passion for design, Peter worked on some of the biggest Muslim brands in across the globe- from the iconic Sami Yusuf to the prestigious Emirates – Peter has left his mark in many parts of the Muslim community.
Despite his powerful work in helping Muslim clients strategise their brands, Peter felt a gaping hole in his work, and really, within the wider Muslim community. Reflecting on the kind of products out there for his kids to play with, he realised there exists a serious lack of Islamic creative representation in the products used by Muslim families. In 2016, Peter co-founded Zileej – an innovation agency creating the next generation of meaningful toys, games and creative experiences for the Muslim world.
On episode 10 of the Transit Lounge, Peter goes deeper into his vision for Zileej, some past projects that are still running alongside his current work and what lies ahead for ‘Generation M’ and the Islamic economy.