Obama Faith Adviser Eboo Patel a Best Leader

Eboo Patel, an Obama faith advisory council member, lands on U.S. News's Best Leaders list.

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

U.S. News today unveiled its list of America's Best Leaders for 2009, which includes one of President Obama's faith-based advisers: Eboo Patel. One of two Muslims on the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Patel wants Obama to adopt his model for enlisting youth in interfaith service projects as part of the administration's effort to improve global interfaith dialogue.

A bit of Patel's bio from the U.S. News Best Leaders profile:

His passion for interfaith cooperation was shaped by childhood experiences that were anything but cooperative. A Muslim born in India, Patel grew up in Chicago. When he ran for seventh-grade student council, a white classmate told him, "Nobody would vote for people like you." Locker-room humiliation and peer taunts of "curry maker"—and worse—marked his adolescence. In his searching memoir Acts of Faith, he recalls the elements in his own background that might have led him to religious violence: "a gut-wrenching feeling of being excluded from mainstream society . . . a vague sense of being Muslim . . . a growing consciousness that people with whom I shared an identity were being horribly treated elsewhere, often by people who looked just like the ones who were bullying me here." He still feels the shame of not defending a Jewish friend by confronting a group of thugs who scrawled anti-Semitic slurs on classroom desks.

While studying at the University of Illinois, he recognized that his heroes—leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Aga Khan—led through common principles of faith, although they practiced different faiths.

Read the full profile here.