Awakin Calls » Mohammad Modarres
Mohammad Modarres: Interfaith Food Visionary, Political Cartoonist, Social Entrepreneur
Whether he’s founding a biotech business, drawing political cartoons, or strategizing for nonprofits, Mohammad Modarres is bringing people together in common endeavors and enterprises to create a more inclusive and equitable society. One of his latest ventures is the first-ever “Interfaith Meat.” It’s Halal, Kosher, and as a bonus, sustainably sourced.
The seeds for Interfaith Meat were planted in 2001, when his family moved to Chelsea Street in a suburb of New Jersey. In the house to the left lived a Chinese pastor. To the right, secular Jews. Across the street, an Orthodox rabbi. Next door, Sunni Muslim doctors. “We would exchange holiday cards,” Modarres recalls. “And we would make home-cooked meals for each other during Ramadan.”
Then came 9/11. Mohammad’s family was assaulted in public spaces by anti-Muslim bigotry, from physical attacks to forced removal of his sister’s hijab. Still, at home on Chelsea Street, his neighbors continued to offer support and kindness to each other. In Modarres’s words: “It gave us hope that this type of exchange not only could happen, but would need to happen for people to see the type of world that you want to live in.”
Fast forward to 2016 when, after the US elections, bigotry erupted again. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 91%, and anti-Semitic hate crimes, 57%. Modarres responded by holding his first “Shabbat Salaam” dinner to convene Muslim and Jewish friends, not just to eat side-by-side, but to share the same meal. The two-in-one Interfaith Meat that honored both religious laws has since evolved into Abe’s Eats, a company whose mission is to use well-sourced foods as a medium to foster cultural understanding between communities.
Modarres’s work usually starts with incubating an idea and starting small. He has participated in the TED Residency program; mentored and coached student founders at several universities; founded Interfaith Ventures, a nonprofit organization that promotes religious unity and dialogue through inclusive events; worked with food experts and religious leaders on regenerative agriculture, the importance of buying local and supporting small farms; and most recently, created a Jewish-Muslim comedy show series called “Cut the Beef!”
His varied passions share a common thread of being about “first and foremost creating a society that’s built on truth.” He sees us all as neighbors. So his goal is simply “to build a longer table, not a taller fence.”
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