North London's Mehri Niknam, the executive director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation and an expert on Muslim-Jewish relations, has been awarded a scholarship to continue her interfaith work in the United States. She received the Fulbright Scholarship and is thought to be the only British person to do so this year. Considered America's flagship international academic exchange program, the Fulbright grant is awarded by the US government to people on the basis of their academic or professional achievements and demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Ms Niknam, who has been a Jewish-Muslim Interfaith consultant for more than 15 years, will work with experts in Holocaust and interfaith education at Temple University, Philadelphia. She will also conduct theology research at academic institutions in Washington DC and Denver, Colorado and visit Muslim and Jewish communities.
Ms Niknam - reluctant to give her age but says she is more than 50 - tells People: "I am delighted to have won the scholarship. But more importantly, I am looking forward to engaging with Jewish and Muslim scholars and interfaith activists in the US.
"Hopefully, I can contribute to the greater development of the Jewish-Muslim relationship in the US and bring back new ideas with me for furthering that relationship in England."
Born and brought up in Iran, she describes herself as an "Islamophile Jew."
She adds: "My goal has always been twofold: to combat misrepresentations of religions by bigots and prejudiced people and to create genuine interfaith interaction and social co-operation between Jews and Muslims through realistic dialogue and education."
Ms Niknam was awarded an MBE in 2005 for her contributions to Muslim-Jewish relations in Britain and was made an Honorary Fellow at Leo Baeck-Centre for Jewish Education the same year.
She is a member of the Imams and Rabbis Committee, and Academics & Theologians Roundtable at the department of communities and local government.