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Obituary: Ghazi Y. Khankan

People who knew Ghazi Y. Khankan will always remember his velvety voice, his silvery white hair, his unmitigated commitment to justice in Palestine and his vision for Muslim contribution to American society. A pioneer in broadcasting, he launched Arabesque radio in 1967 – the longest running radio Arab-issues radio program in America. His work with the late Dr. Mohammad T. Mehdi put Khankan at the forefront of political advancement for Arab and Muslim Americans.

A native of Syria, Khankan studied at the Lycee Francais, at Aleppo College, and at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He completed his education at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in the fields of business administration and international relations (1954-1960). He was the director of the Organization of Arab Students in the U.S. and Canada (1960-1964), and is past president of the National Council on Islamic Affairs (NCIA).

The Islamic Center of Long Island was spiritual home to El Hajj Ghazi Khankan for two decades. He directed and developed the public relations arm of ICLI, positioning the center as a base for information, education, interfaith efforts and influence.

Khankan campaigned for Palestinian rights and recognition alongside closely his friend Dr. Mohammad T. Mehdi, founder of the American Arab Relations Committee and helped promote the cause of Muslim integration in the United States with the NCIA which merged, in 1999 (after Mehdi’s death) with the American Muslim Alliance.

A relentless advocate for inter-religious accord, Ghazi Khankan participated with the Islamic-Roman Catholic Dialogue, American Muslims and Jews in Dialogue, the Jewish-Christian-Islamic Commission of the National Conference of Community and Justice, the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum and the Long Beach Clergy Association. He was a regular guest on Long Island Cablevision Channel 25’s Telecare programs, Father Tom and Religious Leaders and Circle of Faith. Khankan was a member of the N.Y. State Advisory Committee of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, and in November 1996 was designated by Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta to serve as his coordinator with the Muslim community on Long Island.

Many people remain grateful to Ghazi Khankan for officiating at their weddings; he was devoted to performing Islamic marriage services.

Khankan won numerous awards from Arab and Muslim student associations across the country. He was lauded by the Suffolk County Police Department, by CAIR-NY and by the Kiwanis Club of Long Beach.

Khankan was Islamic affairs advisor at the Long Island University, C. W. Post campus, and volunteered as Muslim advisor at North Shore University Hospital, where he passed away surrounded by family and friends on Thursday, April 26 after suffering a massive stroke.

His funeral was at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury on April 27. He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Linden, NJ.

Ghazi Khankan is survived by his wife Tanya, daughter Dahlia, son Yahya, their spouses, six grandchildren, devoted nephews, nieces, and extended family in the United States and around the world.