Tarek El-Messidi is a Muslim American social entrepreneur and activist. In 2012, Georgetown University listed him as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims worldwide. Between 1998 and 2006, he pursued Islamic studies at programs in the United States, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan.
In 2001, soon after the 9/11 tragedy, Tarek co-founded The Fast-a-thon: an interfaith event that raises money to feed the poor by asking non-Muslims to try fasting for a day with their Muslim peers in Ramadan. The Fast-a-thon’s slogan is “Go Hungry for a Day so Someone Else Won’t Have to.” Within a few years, the Fast-a-thon went viral, spreading to 300 college campuses and 14 Google headquarters worldwide. It has raised over $2 million to feed the hungry worldwide.
In 2010, a few years after earning an MBA and beginning work as a manager at Procter & Gamble in Ohio, Tarek founded CelebrateMercy: a 501(c)(3) non-profit that teaches about the Prophet Muhammad’s life and character through webinars, short films, events, and social media (see one of their trailer videos here). CelebrateMercy has reached millions of people and its Facebook page has grown to over 630,000 Likes.
CelebrateMercy hit a tipping point when it began waging innovative social campaigns of compassion. In 2012, after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya by Muslim extremists, Tarek mobilized Muslims to “respond to evil with good”. He asked Muslims to write condolence letters of kindness to Stevens’ family. This MercyMail Campaign went viral, receiving international media attention – even reaching the front page of CNN.com (see CNN interview here). The campaign resulted in 7,700 letters from Muslims in 115 countries.
In 2015, to honor 3 Muslim students killed in a hate crime in North Carolina, Tarek also directed the Feed Their Legacy campaign. In 6 weeks, the campaign went viral nationally with 270 groups in 30 US states collecting 200,000 meals for the hungry.
Last year, Tarek also led a campaign where Muslims raised $215,000 for the San Bernardino shooting victims – a campaign that President Obama highlighted in his Baltimore Mosque Speech (see 1-min video here).
And most recently, in February 2017, Tarek co-organized a crowdfunding campaign asking Muslim-Americans to raise funds for vandalized Jewish cemeteries in St Louis and Philadelphia. They surpassed their $20,000 goal in only 3 hours and over $150,000 in 1 week. The campaign went viral after it was tweeted by J.K. Rowling and Ellen Degeneres in the first two days – leading to international media coverage in outlets such as CNN Headline News and The New York Times (see tweets and articles here).
As a result of his innovative work that shifts the narrative about Muslim-Americans, Tarek was invited to the White House four times in the last 2 years of the Obama administration for various events and discussions. He currently resides in Philadelphia.