Episode 8: Hanan Dover – PsychCentral, Mission of Hope & a few taboos

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.

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In case you missed it, check out our interviews with social justice advocate Dalia Mogahed & British MP Naz Shah.

Riyaad Minty | AJ+, TRT and everything in between.

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.

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts.

Prof. John Esposito – Georgetown’s Unlikely Scholar of Islam

Professor John Esposito – Muslim Scholar

You are a 13-year-old boy, wide-eyed and beaming with energy. You live in a semi-enclave of middle-class Italian neighbourhoods tucked comfortably within Brooklyn New York. Neither of your parents made it past a high school education. The question starts to cross your mind – what is it that I want to do with my life?

As was the dilemma of a young John Esposito, who unbeknownst to him, would later go on to become one of the biggest authorities on Islamic Studies in the modern world. Leaving home at the tender age of 14, Professor Esposito spent 10 years with Capuchin Franciscan Church Order in training. At this point, you would be forgiven in thinking the good professor was on the path to becoming a priest.

After leaving the seminary, however, John Esposito took on a master’s program and later a PhD – specialising in a strange and unpopular subfield of a subfield – Islam. To contextualise, during the 1960s, Islam wasn’t a hot-button topic like it is now. Frankly, a specialisation in Islam as an academic was little more than a bad career move. On the first episode of The Transit Lounge – a podcast from Toledo Society – the professor grapples with this paradox. Always a practical person and ‘street smart’ as others eruditely pin him to be, his choice to specialise in Islam is one which the professor still cannot explain.

So, the silence of a niche academic field overtook him, but only for so long.

In 1979, an event in the Middle East transpired; its’ shockwaves would bring Islam to the fore of robust political discussion for many years to come; The Iranian Revolution. From here on, the Professor signed 3 book contracts to start with and went on to publish over 50 more. Quickly gaining momentum in the global Islamic discourse, the Professor became a senior member of the UN Alliance of Civilisations, began lecturing Islamic studies at the esteemed Georgetown University and is now the director of the Bridge Initiative combatting Islamophobia.

Professor Esposito describes his success as a combination of two things: hard work and luck. Part of it is putting in the hours and part of it is ‘being in the right place at the right time’. But how much of it could really be luck? On the episode, we uncover some astonishing coincidences that made Professor Esposito’s career (including a funny story involving an unlikely donor). But there seemed to be something deeper than these two factors at play; an ingredient only uncovered after much contemplation and probing.

In the podcast, we reflect over what this ingredient is, in between the tears and laughter we share with Professor Esposito. Tune in to hear more about the name you’ve heard but the story you don’t yet know in episode 1 of our Transit Lounge podcast.