Sacramento Imam Mohamed Abdul-Azeez has won the 2009 FBI Director's Community Leadership Award for his work building bridges among Muslims, law enforcement and the local interfaith community.
As the spiritual leader of SALAM Islamic Center in east Sacramento, Azeez is among the first imams to be honored nationally by the FBI, said Sacramento Special Agent in Charge Drew Parenti.
Azeez will be honored Thursday at Sacramento FBI headquarters. He goes to Washington, D.C., in March to receive the award from FBI National Director Robert Mueller.
"The award is for preventing violence, creating understanding, bringing people together, and that's what Mohamed Azeez brings," Parenti said.
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Parenti befriended Azeez shortly after he became SALAM's imam four years ago. He said Azeez "works every day to foster better communication within Sacramento's interfaith community, to guide and mentor our youth and to advocate for an end to hate crimes based on religion, race or ethnicity."
Azeez said he was honored by the recognition. "The reward is a testament to the diverse nature of our city, the open minds and hearts that govern law-enforcement initiatives in our area, and the bridges the Muslim community was able to build," he said.
Sacramento-area Muslim leaders, representing about 40,000 Muslim Americans, said the FBI's award will help promote better relations among Americans of all faiths.
"Imam Azeez is a truly outstanding man who represents mainstream Islam and has done a tremendous amount of outreach work," said Irfan Haq, president of the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations.
"It is also very healthy for the FBI to recognize there are those in the Muslim leadership making an effort to build bridges and reach out to help build a better and safer society."
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