Maher Hathout, a renowned doctor and interfaith leader known as the “father of American Muslim identity,” died from liver cancer just after New Years. He was 79.

Hathout was born in Egypt in 1978 and moved to New York and then Los Angeles in the 1970s, where he helped found the first-ever co-ed Muslim Youth Group and the Islamic Information Service. Here’s more from the Huffington Post:

Hathout was a devoted interfaith activist who worked with organizations and individuals throughout southern California to promote causes for peace and justice. In 1988 he co-founded the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which works to promote civil rights for American Muslims and helps foster relationships between Muslims and other faith communities in the United States.

“Thirty years ago, no Muslim leader other than he was talking about he American Muslim identity, that home is where our grandchildren are raised not where our grandparents are buried,” MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati said in an email to HuffPost.

Hathout also helped found the Religious Coalition Against War in the Middle East in 1991 and served on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance and Claremont Lincoln University. He was a charter member of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations and served as Chairman of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.

Read more about Hathout’s life and work.