About the Founders
MPSN began in 1994 as the first intern sponsorship program for Muslims in Washington, D.C.. Originally named MSN (“Muslim Student Network”), it was founded by Marghoob and Iffat Quraishi (God bless them and grant them both peace), two American Muslim pioneers who had a reputation for working creatively and effectively with American Muslim youth. Their M(P)SN vision was to build connections and expertise in public policy among American Muslims at the start of their careers.
Marghoob Quraishi was a Muslim activist and international policy thinker who came of age in the last years of the British Empire in India. He was a graduate of the Stanford School of Business (’59), President and CEO of his own consulting company, and of a public company with branches in New York, Boston, London and Paris. But his working hours always included a large chunk of time dedicated to Muslim institutions, such as serving on the Advisory Board of the First Islamic Bank in Luxembourg, and founding Muslim American organizations like the Stanford Islamic Society, the American Muslim Association for Businessmen and Professionals, and the Strategic Research Foundation, an early Muslim American think tank.
We are building on an amazing legacy that the Quraishi family, and many others, started in 1993. There are very few organizations that have maintained a singular focus on the intersection of public service and community development for 25 years.
- Usman Ahmed,
MPSN Board of Directors
Renae Iffat Quraishi, the first in her working class American family to go to college (Willamette and San Jose State University), was a public school teacher and social justice activist of the 1950s civil rights movement. She brought her unique creativity, optimism, and persistence to the growing California Muslim community when she and Marghoob married. “Mr. and Mrs. Q,” as they are affectionately known to MPSN alumni, together built many innovative American Muslim institutions such as the Muslim Youth Camp of California, The Stanford Islamic School, Talibah House (Muslim residence for women at UC Berkeley), and the Muslim Public Service Network.
MPSN exists today because Mrs. Q, frustrated by the ongoing Bosnian genocide in the face of US sanctions, gathered a group of college students to go to Washington to lobby Congress. That visit quickly revealed that a long term strategy was needed - something that would get American Muslims a “seat at the table” in the policy centers of Washington. So she and Mr. Q came up with the idea of helping the best and brightest young American Muslims - our “movers and shakers,” as Mr. Q called them - to go to Washington for summer internships in policy and public service. The plan was unique and ahead of its time: these Muslim college and graduate students would not only get free room and board for the summer, but also a first-of-its-kind curriculum from Muslim scholars on topics with immediate relevance for those who are likely to be the only Muslim in the room in their day jobs.
Mr. and Mrs. Q didn’t just run their organizations, they “parented” them – often treating those involved as if they were working on a family project. They spent many summer hours in the MPSN house with the students. Our alumni still remember hours of conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Q about philosophy, music, politics, history, society, language, culture, and religion, usually also mixed with invaluable insight about personal goals, hopes and struggles.
Mr. and Mrs. Q genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the energy of young people. They took young people seriously, and worked hard to give them tools to make themselves – and the world – better. It’s been said that they focused on youth so much because they knew the value of the long game -- of planting and cultivating seeds that will come to fruition decades and decades in the future. When they created MPSN, they weren’t expecting immediate results. They were thinking about the best way to make real impact twenty, fifty, even one hundred years in the future.
One of the key components of this impact was the Network they set out to create. Mr. and Mrs. Q knew that big ideas only work when you empower others to collaborate, inspiring them to contribute their talents and roll up their sleeves together. As MPSN nears its third decade, it is a testament to Mr. and Mrs. Q’s foresight and creative thinking. MPSN alumni still feel connected to each other, even across class years, because of the collaborative ethic that Mr. and Mrs. Q instilled in the program at its inception. And they have seats at many tables. When MPSN started, there was only a handful of Muslim staffers on capitol hill and only one senior advisor in the federal government. Today, MPSN alumni include Senior State Department advisors, President Obama's liason to the OIC, a Forbes "40 under 40" business leader, an Emmy-award-winning producer at Al-Jazeera, book authors in American culture, politics, and foreign policy, Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign manager.
For its first decade, MSN operated under the umbrella of the Islamic Education Institute (a California-based nonprofit). When Mr. Q passed away in 2005, the remaining Board of Directors re-incorporated it in Washington, D.C. as the “Muslim Public Service Network" and it continues under that name today, with various combinations of alumni and supporters in the Directors’ seats.
Mr. and Mrs. Q have now both returned to their Lord (Mrs. Q passed in February 2018), but they left behind an amazing institution, people and inspiration. Today's MPSN strives to live up to Mrs. Q's familiar reminder at the end of each summer:
“Leave the place better than you found it.”