By Edward Mitchell
Georgia Muslims are praying for former President Jimmy Carter, who has been diagnosed with cancer. Carter, a Nobel Prize winner and longtime advocate for Middle East peace, plans to undergo treatment through Atlanta’s Emory Healthcare System.
“I had the pleasure and honor of meeting President Carter on several occasions,” said Soumaya Khalifa, president of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. “He is a humble man with a great dedication and commitment to improving the world. [I am] wishing President Carter a full and speedy recovery.”
American Muslim leaders have lauded Carter’s charitable activities with Habitat for Humanity and The Carter Center as well as his vocal calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Islamic Society of North America invited Carter to deliver the keynote address at its 2014 convention.
“President Jimmy Carter has touched many lives around the world through his peace-building and humanitarian work,” ISNA President Azhar Azeez said in a statement. “He…left a remarkable impression on us all during his visit as keynote speaker at our annual convention last year in Detroit. His speech left the audience mesmerized and inspired.”
Local fans of President Carter also remember pleasant encounters with the former Georgia governor.
“I recall a few years ago I was boarding a flight from Frankfurt to Atlanta and I noticed that there appeared to be some security personnel in cabin with earpieces indicating some VIP was traveling with us,” said Zaheer Faruqi, a Georgia businessman who supported Jason Carter’s bid for governor in 2014. “To the surprise of the passengers it was President Jimmy Carter, who was returning after observing an election in Palestine.”
Faruqi said Carter walked from his seat in business class to the back of the plan, meeting every passenger along the way.
“[He was] very humble in his attitude and he made the flight for all the passengers a worthwhile experience with his kind gesture,” Faruqi said.
Other Georgia Muslims recall similar run-ins.
“I had the honor to meet President Carter two years ago,” said Alan Howard. “Despite what must have been a very full schedule, he took time to have a short and succinct conversation with me about women’s issues in Africa. I will never forget his warmth and his ability to put you at ease and allow for a free flow of conversation. I am sure that this [is] how he did his peace-making missions as well. I wish him a speedy recovery.”
President Carter has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, including humanitarian visits to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Carter is perhaps most famous to American Muslims for his book Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, which called for Israel to end its occupation of Palestine.
“Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land,” Carter wrote in the book, which was criticized by some pro-Israel advocacy groups.
“President Carter has done what few American politicians have dared to do: speak frankly about the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Palestinian-American columnist Ali Abunimah wrote in the Wall Street Journal after the book’s publication. “He has done this nation, and the cause of peace, an enormous service…”
The former president said he plans to reveal further details about cancer diagnosis and treatment plans in the coming weeks.