Saudi Aramco Magazine Cover

After being an avid Saudi Aramco magazine subscriber for many years, I am fortunate to have a cover story plus another story in the July/August 2011 issue. By fortunate, I mean I am totally psyched and very happy today.

I photographed for two articles, the cover story on the English translation of the Qur'an owned by Thomas Jefferson and another story about Saanya Hasan Ali, a young social entrepreneur who sells handmade gift cards to raise money for disadvantaged children to help them get an education.

Sebastian Prange authored the article about the Qur'an, which tries to understand the significance that the English translation played in the formulation of Thomas Jefferson's views on pluralism.

In 1777, the year after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was tasked with excising colonial legacies from Virginia's legal code. As part of this undertaking, he drafted a bill for the establishment of religious freedom, which was enacted in 1786. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted his strong desire that the bill not only should extend to Christians of all denominations but should also include "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination."  This all-encompassing attitude to religious pluralism was by no means universally shared by Jefferson's contemporaries.
The Quran was also significant more recently when 1st Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison used it in his swearing in ceremony in January 2009. Listen to a NPR story here. Of course not everyone was happy with that. Here is some history of the swearing in ceremony.

Thomas Jefferson would initial his books in a unique way. Here you can see his inked J next to a printed T. Elsewhere in the book, there would be an inked T next to a printed J.

I also covered a story about Ms. Saanya Hasan Ali, a high school student in Maryland who makes gift cards to raise money for children's education around the world. Her amazing work has been featured here and here and in a 2006 letter to Newsweek that made it into the print edition:
I absolutely loved the articles in your July 10 cover story. My mama and I read these stories together, and they really touched me. They taught me that what is really important is that your heart wants to help--whether it is one person or a whole country, whether it is in your hometown or far away from home. I am 10 years old and I am helping, too. I make cards and sell them to family and friends to help children in a small village in India get schooling and health care. So far I have raised almost $1,500 for my organization. I am helping eight children go to school. My goal is to help and support them each year all the way through college. Saanya Hasan Ali Potomac, Md.
Here are some of her cards: