Sara Deen, SCIC President
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr. Deen was nurtured by her fledgling Muslim American immigrant community and the public schools of California. Her father emphasized imbuing actions towards others with honesty, kindness and generosity as an expression of their Muslim faith. As a teenager, Dr. Deen cofounded her high school’s first Muslim student club to share the cultural diversity of her community. She continued this engagement as a college student with UC Berkeley’s Muslim Student Association. Dr. Deen received her bachelor's degree with honors in 1997 and enrolled in dental school at UCSF.
During her first month in dental school, the world trade towers were struck by two hijacked planes. While concurrently mourning the loss of life, Dr. Deen found her religious identity weaponized to harm her community. In 2003, Dr. Deen met and married a friendly medical student named Omer Deen. While she had previously struggled with moderate-severe shyness, between her husband’s loving encouragement and her increasing experience as a patient caregiver, Dr. Deen began to find her voice.
After dental school, Dr. Deen practiced cosmetic family dentistry and taught Advanced Dentistry at several dental schools. In 2008 and in 2009, the Deen family expanded to include a lovely baby girl and a sweet baby boy. Dr. Deen was busily balancing her life as a mother and a part-time dentist as the family settled in Los Angeles in 2013. However, as her children grew, the family began to experience re-inflamed and increasing widespread anti-Muslim bias and Islamophobia.
In 2015, after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the Muslim American community came under increased xenophobic scrutiny and hateful bias. Dr. Deen began to organize programing with the local Muslim community and masajid to address Islamophobia and bias. This led her to interfaith work and into the warm embrace of the South Coast Interfaith Council. At a time when many Muslim Americans began to feel nervous, scared and insecure, Dr Deen found strength, inspiration and hope in building interfaith and inter-community relationships and understanding.
After retiring early from dentistry to refocus her efforts on community development, community organizing and her own family, Dr. Deen found herself engaged in local social justice movements, grassroots political organizing and interfaith engagement. Currently, she serves on the board of trustees of Bayan Islamic Graduate School and on the board of the South Coast Interfaith Council. Dr. Deen represents immigrants and Muslim Americans in local political spaces; she volunteers to increase minority voter turnout. Dr. Deen was honored as the “Woman of the Year” in the California State Assembly District 66 in 2019. She serves as a liaison between SCIC and CLUE-LB (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice). Dr. Deen is a fellow with New Ground Jewish Muslim Partnership for Change to learn how to facilitate difficult conversations.
As antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia continue to fester and swell in our world today, Dr. Deen finds interfaith engagement to be an urgent necessity. Deepening inter-community understanding and relationships will help protect our individual hearts from enmity and hate. Once we know one another, we are drawn to love one another as within each of us rests the same Divine Spirit. The SCIC events are designed to offer comfortable and varied opportunities to “know” one another in the hopes of loving one another. While some of Dr. Deen’s favorite SCIC events include the Women’s Interfaith Freedom Seder at Temple Menorah, the SCIC Interfaith Iftar, the SCIC Summer Movie, monthly Religion 101s and the SCIC Interfaith Cafes, she invites you all to reach out to her with your ideas for community building and engagement! Dr. Deen is most excited about serving the SCIC community to redouble our efforts to cultivate communities of compassion through service, education and celebration.