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.
Arguably the forerunner in Islamic related design across the world, Peter Gould’s journey is fascinating on both a personal and business level. By the time Peter hit university, he discovered two crucial things that would inform his work to come; his passion for design and his belief in Islam. Instead of working at a corporate firm to channel his design talents, Peter took the road less travelled by and started his own design agency from scratch. From here on, Peter worked with some of the biggest brands in and out of the Muslim World – from icons like Sami Yusuf to brands like Emirates Park Zoo and Colgate. Alongside servicing major clients, Peter is now working on some projects of his own. In the episode, Peter walks us through the journey that finally culminated in his most recent project, Zileej – a design agency creating the next generation of meaningful toys, games and creative experiences for the Muslim World.
Listen to Peter’s journey wherever you get your podcasts.
Shahed Amanullah | Silicon Valley & Muslim Start-ups
In the late 1990’s, the tech start-up space was absolutely booming. The world was coming to terms with the power of technology, and after seeing some incredibly successful ideas, investors were ready to throw stupidly large amounts of money at tech start-ups. In this environment, Shahed Amanullah saw an opportunity which he couldn’t miss. Teaching himself how to code and desperately looking at ways to get involved, Shahed eventually landed his first gig in the start-up space. He managed to score a job as a creative director for a 40 million dollar backed tech start-up.
Whilst the tech company went under in less than a couple of years, the experience and exposure that Shahed got was invaluable. For starters, Shahed learnt that Silicon Valley was surprisingly Muslim friendly. In fact, it was a competitive advantage to be a Muslim because of all the Muslim connections (and there were many of them) you would inherit. This environment gave rise to Shahed’s first big project: Zabihah.com
Whilst Zabihah.com now hosts thousands of halal restaurant reviews from all over the world, it humbly started off as a way for Shahed to share all the cool Halal places he came across with his Muslim friends in Silicon Valley. As the website stayed up, Shahed started noticing postings from all over the world and knew he was onto something. 6 years later, Yelp.com came to be – and quickly became the standard worldwide restaurant review platform. They did what Zabihah did for Muslims but did it for the entire world. Here, Shahed learnt his first important lesson about the Muslim Start-Up philosophy – products should be “By Muslims, for everyone”.
On the Transit Lounge, Shahed describes that there are two main ways to go about start-ups as a Muslim. Either you go the path that he learnt (“By Muslims, for everyone”), or you do the wrong way – take a Western idea, cripple it and try selling it to Muslims. Shahed believes Muslim start-ups need to move beyond copying other ideas – they need to carry a Muslim spirit and an embedded social purpose. Our belief system is filled with rich values that we can share with the world, and we shouldn’t shy away from those things.
It’s through this desire to see authentic Muslim businesses thrive, that Shahed’s brainchild enters – Affinis Labs.\Affinis Labs seeks to change the Muslim mindset when it comes to start-ups. We don’t need to be mediocre or think small anymore – we have the talent and we can source the funds. According to Shahed, all that needs to change is the way we think about our abilities.
On episode 9 of The Transit Lounge, Shahed delves more into his other start-up projects such as Zakatify, describes his expansive career inlcuding his role at the World Bank and the US State Department, and lends us some hard-hitting truths about the Muslim mindset today and the way forward.
If there is anyone who has walked the world through his career, its Shahed Amanullah. He’s worked at several major engineer firms, at the World Bank, in real estate development and in the US State Department. But these jobs have only been in between what Shahed is truly passionate about – creating, leading and supporting impactful start-ups. A Silicon Valley native, he founded Zabihah.com – a Yelp for Muslims (before Yelp was a thing), Zakatify – an app changing the way we do Zakat and is currently the founder and CTO of Affinis Labs. We cover all bases with Shahed – from Muslims in Silicon Valley, to what makes a successful start-up and how Muslims should approach business today.
In case you missed it, check out our interview with fellow South African entrepreneur, Haroon Meer on how to scale a successful start-up.
Also check out this great episode with Mohamad Jebara on entrepreneurship and Islamic values.
Recent times have seen massive strides in Muslim mental health awareness. The ways in which we understand wellness have shifted a great deal and it’s increasingly clear that mental illness is not to be pushed under the rug. However, we often don’t hear of the individuals who tirelessly work on the ground to create this awareness. One such personality is Hanan Dover: Vice President of the International Association of Muslim Psychologists and a Founder of PsychCentral. Hanan’s fight against the taboos and superstitions surrounding Muslim mental health, alongside the struggles of being an outspoken Muslim woman, mother and community leader (who’s on her fifth degree and counting!), Hanan’s story is nothing short of inspiring.
Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Hanan Dover.
Sama has curly hair that she loves. But when she goes to school some kids in her class make fun of her because of her curls. Sama goes home upset and tries to cut her curls. She just wants to be normal like everyone else.
Listen to the podcast to find out what happens next.
Riyaad Minty | Co-founder of AJ+
The AJ+ phenomenon is a familiar sight for anyone using the internet today. Short, flashy and yet compelling, AJ+ videos have become a staple in the modern news industry. Far less known, however, is the young South African who played a major role in building it: Riyaad Minty.
As a first year law student, there wasn’t much on Riyaad’s plate apart from going to classes and participating in the Muslim Students Association. From the outset, Riyaad seemed like a very normal 18 year old. His next course of action, however, was far less typical. With an idea in mind and a vision to achieve, Riyaad decided to drop out of University after his first year. Partnering with his cousin, Riyaad had a start-up idea which changed the way greetings and ringtones were digitised. Despite the success of his start-up at a young age, Riyaad’s journey really kicked off when he was picked up by a global media giant: Al Jazeera.
At 22 years old, Riyaad left everything and moved to Doha as an e-marketing specialist at Al Jazeera. As a strong believer in the counter voice that Al Jazeera provided, Riyaad was able to bear the less picturesque parts of working as a junior in big media; sharing tables, working unrealistic budgets and battling his age to be taken seriously by anyone.
In speaking to Riyaad on The Transit Lounge, we feel a strong sense of perseverance and faith behind his successes – “When everyone is telling you no, that’s when you know you are on to something good”. Almost paradoxical, Riyaad draws his strength from the fact that an idea sounds so absurd – a sure step in becoming a disruptor in any given space.
Riyaad’s creative genius met his unparalleled drive to achieve for one reason: his strong belief that Muslims need to be “going somewhere”. From practically inventing “Live-Tweeting” news coverage with his team, to pushing for coverage of the Egyptian leg of the Arab spring, to finally playing a major role in bringing AJ+ to the world, Riyaad’s philosophy of defying the norm saw no end.
On episode 7 of The Transit Lounge, Riyaad tells us more about the spirituality which led him to refuse job offers from major tech giants, his current projects at TRT World, and shares a personal struggle which we can all derive strength from.