Baasit Bhutta is an undergraduate student in the College, class of 2018, majoring in political economy and minoring in both Islam and Muslim-Christian understanding and business administration. He is interested in how religion is used to organize institutions, especially focusing on applications of Islam. Baasit has conducted research in religious studies through Georgetown's Figge Fellowship and currently works as a research assistant in the Prince Alaweed Bin-Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding. In his spare time, Baasit enjoys reading and spending time with friends. At the Berkley Center, Baasit is a student fellow in the 2017-2018 Doyle Undergraduate Fellows program and blogs about faith-based civil interest groups in Washington, D.C.
I have engaged in several different types of faith-based peacemaking and community building. In high school I was involved in the Arkansas Multi-Faith Youth Group, which was the first of its kind in the state. I have also volunteered in a few different community service projects through Georgetown University’s Muslim Students Association. Out of all my experiences in different avenues of community building and peacemaking, the most impactful was my involvement last summer in the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF). The time I spent working at a faith-based non-governmental organization (NGO) in Washington inspired me to become a Doyle Fellow.
One of the advantages of working at an NGO focused on my faith tradition was the space it created for me to dive deeply. I could focus on specific questions within my faith tradition and examine the ways in which issues intersect with more profound ideas. I came to insights about my faith tradition that I could not have achieved without serious and sustained engagement. Additionally, working at a NGO focused on my faith tradition connected me to similar-minded individuals, building up the relationships and networks between institutions that facilitate efficient knowledge sharing.
The part of my internship which inspired me to become a Doyle Fellow was becoming part of the Washington, D.C. faith-based NGO ecosystem. Before my internship, I had no idea how many people were working on a wide variety of issues from the perspective of their faith tradition. Through CIRF, I met many organizations which take inspiration from their Christian faith to promote values which Muslims share.
My experiences at CIRF changed my perspective on what was possible in terms of interfaith cooperation. I saw firsthand how the contributions of CIRF staff to this ecosystem were genuinely valued, which is not a frequent experience for Muslims in America. For example, one of my coworkers wrote an op-ed on a political topic that was published by a conservative news website. His op-ed shared a non-performative and unapologetically Muslim viewpoint—a viewpoint which I have rarely seen shared in the media. After he published his piece, I saw devout Christians thanking him and valuing his perspective.
I am confident that American Muslim institutions can strengthen their relationships American Christian institutions in Washington and across the country. I will use my time as a Doyle Fellow to learn the tools necessary to facilitate this process. I hope that I will learn to move beyond ecumenical talking points into frank and open discussion upon which genuine common ground is built.