In Illinois, a mother's heartache over her daughter's autism led to a nonprofit that helps Muslims with disabilities. Out of Michigan, an activist network pushes Muslims across the nation to address racial injustices. And in California, a Muslim civic institute has trained more than 100 rising leaders.
Those three projects emerged in recent years as part of a boom in Muslim-led nonprofit work that counters ideas of Islam as foreign and dangerous. And all of them are connected by an invisible thread: Pillars Fund.
The Chicago-based charitable fund, whose name honors the five pillars of Islam, started seven years ago when a handful of wealthy American Muslims pooled their money and quietly began giving solely to nonprofit groups in the United States — no mosques, no overseas charities. Today, Pillars is emerging as a powerful, behind-the-scenes engine of Muslim activism, a secret weapon in the war against the multimillion-dollar "Islamophobia" industry.