Muslim cited for interfaith 'networking' on Eastside

Even before Sept. 11, 2001, Jawad Khaki was trying to improve communication between people.

As a Microsoft corporate vice president, he oversees work connecting different computers using the company's Windows operating system.

After the terrorist attacks, Khaki's "networking" became a more personal mission.

As a leader in the Eastside's Muslim community, the Sammamish resident began speaking at forums that sprang up in the wake of the terrorist attacks, met with leaders from other religions and helped to build four homes, all in the name of reaching out to people of different faiths.

"I think Sept. 11 kind of became the defining moment. It was a call to action," the 44-year-old Khaki said. "I, for one, resolved that I didn't want to let people define who I am."

Khaki's work has now earned national recognition with the announcement yesterday that he has won the annual Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award from the Interfaith Alliance Foundation.

The award salutes people for their work encouraging religious freedom and showing the constructive role of faith in the United States, according to the foundation, an arm of the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance.

Khaki will be honored May 22 in New York City along with award winners Larry King, host of the CNN talk show "Larry King Live," and Rep. Amo Houghton, R-New York.

Cantor David Serkin-Poole, of Temple B'nai Torah, a Bellevue synagogue, praised Khaki as a colleague who helped him better understand Islam.

"He became the face and the voice of Islam for most of us that were ignorant," said Serkin-Poole, past president of the Interfaith Alliance of Washington State and the person who nominated Khaki for the award.

Khaki also became one of the driving forces behind a project that was part old-fashioned barn raising, part interfaith dialogue.

Several Eastside religious communities, including the synagogue; the Ithna-asheri Muslim Association, where Khaki is president; Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Bellevue; Bellevue Christian Church; and St. Joseph Catholic Church of Issaquah, joined in building four homes through Habitat for Humanity.

Serkin-Poole credited Khaki for inspiring them and shouldering much of the organizational work. "I remember he said, 'We have to do this. We have to show people another way,' " Serkin-Poole said.

Khaki sought to spread the credit. "A lot of people worked on it. In some ways I get worried about the public attention, because what I did was what my conscience said. What I did was what any ordinary person would do," he said.

Khaki also hopes to win over neighbors leery of a mosque proposed in east Bellevue. "My goal is to earn the confidence and respect of people to the point where they will help us build the mosque," he said.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or