The Toledo area is home to a citizens from a variety of backgrounds, including a
Muslim population, who built the first mosque in Toledo 70 years ago. Today, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, located in Perrysburg, is a Muslim gathering place, overseen by Director Imam Ahmad Deeb, a young and dedicated leader. We met up with him to share his thoughts on the community he works so hard to encourage and enrich.
What was your childhood dream job?
I’ll be honest, I had several. I wanted to be a pilot at one point, because I traveled once, I loved traveling, being on a plane. I also had artistic desires, so acting and music is something that drew me. Hip hop, acting, music and hip hop in particular. I like the idea of medicine, but that was it. I was a pre-med student in college, but then I realized I really love working with people and I really love doing it from the context of my faith tradition and teaching the faith.
What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off?
I like to spend time with family, away from technology. If I’m able to, I like to leave the city. I like to travel.
How do you like to spend an evening after work?
With family or maybe with a book or at the gym. My work day actually ends around 8:30 PM, which is the time of the last prayer here, so I’ll go work out at the gym, play some basketball or something.
What’s your favorite food?
Who was your childhood idol?
Subconsciously it was my father, I didn’t know it, because I was a teenager, and your childhood hero can’t be your dad, as a rebellious teenager. Malcolm X would be the most direct hero for me. I’ve got books everywhere just about Malcolm. He meant a lot to me. He helped me in my identity formation, helped me in my faith, helped me as a man. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is an American convert from Santa Barbara, otherwise known as Mark Hanson, one of the most influential Muslim scholars, probably in history.
If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go and why?
That’s a tough one. I would say Capetown, South Africa. I lived there, I have so many friends
there. It’s also one of the most beautiful places on the planet, mountains, oceans, summer penguins. I would also say Damascus, Syria because that’s my ethnic homeland.
Where did you grow up?
Orlando, Florida. It’s a very diverse city, I grew up mainly around the black and Latino population. But the Muslim community is so diverse, black, white, Asian, immigrant, non-immigrant, Pakistani, Middle-Eastern, everything. A lot of my friends growing up were Puerto Rican.
What led you to become Imam for the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo?
I think it was a conversation with leadership here, they wanted someone who wasn’t necessarily going to be just an employee, they wanted someone that would be the spiritual leader, and provide a vision, and that’s what I was into. I have a vision for what community should look like. I don’t want to be someone just performing the basic functions of what this particular job does.
If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be and why?
That’s a hard one. I will say I’m only two and a half years into the Toledo area and I don’t feel like I am qualified to be opining on this properly, but the social message that I feel is closest to my heart is loneliness, I think people are very lonely.
If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
It would probably be Malcolm X.
What’s your favorite movie?
Good Will Hunting. The acting is absolutely great, the story line is very real to me.
These young men from broken backgrounds navigating their pain, you know I resonate with that. Complicated background, navigating life and realizing the importance of mentorship along the way.
If you could give advice to yourself at ten years old, what would it be?
Choose your friends wisely.
If you could give a speech to any person or group, who would you talk to and what would it be about?
It would probably be about Islam, and the history of Islam in America, to those who may feel fear or bigotry toward me for being a Muslim, to those who fear Islam. I don’t see these people as racist lost causes, but as ignorant people who may have justifiable fear that then ends up fueling hatred for the “other”.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
More pious, more kind, God-willing, a better human being. I have career ambitions, but none of those mean anything to me if I am not a better human being as a result.