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About the Author

Mary Lahaj an award-winning proponent of interfaith dialogue, whose family has been practicing Islam in America for more than 120 years. Her grandparents emigrated from Lebanon at the turn of the 20th Century and helped found the oldest mosque in New England, the Islamic Center of New England in Quincy, MA (1964). Her maternal grandfather served the community for decades, as the first Imam (religious leader).

Mary’s parents were born in America and her ambitious father shaped the first thirty years of her life. She grew up in the biggest house in Weymouth, a blue-color town south of Boston, but without a mosque or a religious education. After graduating from college, her natural musical talents led her to New York City, where she was discovered by Paul Simon’s publisher while performing in a popular club in Greenwich Village. Mary’s writing career began with a publishing contract for twenty-five original songs.

After living in New York City for seven years, Mary circled back to the mosque that her grandfather helped build and worked as the office secretary. To learn more about her ethnic history and family’s religion, she studied the History of the Middle East in a postgraduate course at the Harvard Extension School and earned a master’s degree in Islam and Christian/Muslim Relations from the Hartford Seminary (a.k.a. Hartford International University). Mary’s master’s thesis is the official history of the Islamic Center of New England (Quincy Mosque). A synopsis was published in an academic anthology by the two top scholars in the field of Islam in America at the time (Haddad & Smith 1994).

When Mary was forty years old, she embraced Islam and followed in her grandfather’s footsteps serving the community. Her degree afforded her a platform as an author, speaker, educator, and event producer to build bridges between people of different faiths. She sees her book as another opportunity to increase understanding and unite people.

After her spiritual life was mired in disillusion by the horrific event of 9-11-01, Mary joined a highly selective Chaplaincy Residency program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital (Boston) and became the first woman Muslim chaplain on the hospital staff.  She on to pioneer Muslim chaplaincy at Simmons College (Boston), Groton School, and the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, where she provided pastoral care and taught religion. Once Mary combined her chaplaincy training and Islamic education, she was invited by esteemed medical and academic institutions, including Harvard Medical School, to speak about “Cultural Competency and the Muslim Patient.”

To see Mary’s substantial network of connections, including prestigious speaking engagements and a list of her publications in Op-Eds, books, magazines, peer-reviewed journals, and newspapers, please visit her website: (Tab: “The Author’s Platform History”).

Mary Lahaj currently lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, and works as a professional freelance writer for a prominent law firm in Boston. Over the years, she has reimagined religion, not as an organized institution, but as an open question. In Bird on a Wire, she makes a compelling case to her readers to do the same.

“The Islamic Center of New England,” Chapter 13, in Muslim Communities in North America, Eds. Yvonne Y. Haddad & Jane Smith (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.)
  • For the complete list of publications, please go to “The Author’s Platform History.”