Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt
Chris Abdur-Rahman Blauvelt is the CEO of LaunchGood, a Muslim crowdfunding site. LaunchGood has helped raise more than $10 million for more than 1,000 campaigns across 71 countries.
As a person of faith, I believe that our hearts are our connection to and guidance from God. Listening to our hearts, despite external pressures or other misgivings, can help guide us.
Working in a corporation rather than in education was better financially, but I knew that sitting in a cubicle was not fulfilling. During my internship, I helped save Intel $10 million a year. But the next day nothing had changed. I just helped a company with billions of dollars of revenue a year save a tiny fraction.
My mentor there—Jim Kelso—gave an inspiring speech telling us not to be afraid, and to go after and get what we wanted in life. Then he asked us what we wanted to do. When it was my turn, I said, “I want to open a school.”
I was 16 years old when I became Muslim. Therefore, the idea that you could do anything you want was totally reasonable to me. The idea that you could be in your 20s and do something new felt both revolutionary and right.
After that talk, I went back to school for a master's in education. But now I’m in entrepreneurship. How did I get here?
A friend asked me to move to Detroit to work with him. I was waiting on a six-figure salary job with the Islamic Development Bank to be finalized. I would effectively have been building schools across the world.
But when I looked into my heart, I felt I should come to Detroit. If I hadn’t done that, then I never would have begun a Kickstarter a year later, gone into crowdfunding, or founded LaunchGood.
So, I try to trust my heart. If it's indicating that a certain direction is a good way to go, I do it.
I was 16 when I converted. One night, as my dad was getting ready for bed, I said, “By the way, I became Muslim.” He responded, “You can't be Muslim. You're white.”
Three months after I became Muslim, 9/11 happened. My dad was a big Republican and supporter of Bush. I don't think he much believes in God, but it's culture. Dr. Sherman Jackson said when a white person converts to Islam, it's cultural apostasy, and that's exactly how it felt.
To be honest, this political cycle has been strange. Because I feel like my father and I have moved backward five years. He's totally ashamed about me being Muslim. Like, what do I do? I don't drink, I don't party, I have a wife, I have a kid, I'm very responsible, and I pray five times a day. What harm am I doing to the world that you hate my way of life so much?
My dad visited once since we moved to Dearborn. I wouldn't let him bring beer into the house. He's vowed never to come back. That hurts. He has a granddaughter here. Is that bottle of beer more important than his granddaughter? That can be frustrating.
It's like we're speaking two different languages a lot of the time. My dad doesn't understand. I'm trying to follow God. Which sounds crazy. It's the 21st century, why are you trying to follow God? It doesn't make sense. There's no one of faith in my family, so no one understands why I would want to do that.