Voices of Change, Voices of America, is a unique, hands-on storytelling, leadership and media training intensive that seeks to identify, connect, train, and empower 120 diverse, emerging American Muslims to become protagonists of their unique American narrative and dispel the false perceptions surrounding their culture.
ABOUT VOICES OF CHANGE, VOICES OF AMERICA
Thanks to the generous support of the Pillars Fund and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Auburn will equip, train, and connect a network of 120 American Muslim professionals from a variety of fields to become articulate, savvy, and bold ambassadors of their personal narratives.
These emerging American Muslims leaders will be equipped with the strategies and skills to not only survive, but to thrive in the volatile battlefield of anti-Muslim memes, trolling, and bullying. They will learn to anticipate attacks and create and push new narratives that promote the pluralistic vision of America that embraces and accommodates different ethnicities, religions, and political voices.
From victims to change agents, sidekicks to protagonists, suspects to allies, this new community of leaders and spokespeople will shift the culture by creating and controlling their own narrative in a hostile landscape, communicate that narrative throughout their local communities, and amplify it for a national and international audience through social media, radio, print publications, and television.
Hana Ali Hana Ali is a healthcare executive who is a trained physician, focused on research and the business side of healthcare. She has served on the Board of Directors for UNA Nashville chapter. This year she is the unopposed Democratic nominee for House District 45 in TN. Building on her experiences as a businxess owner & an entrepreneur Hana seeks a seat as a State Representative. Ali believes that it is time for someone who has worked for two decades in healthcare to be a part of the legislature bringing a fresh and unique perspective to the Tennessee General Assembly. If elected she will be the first Pakistani American Muslim woman to serve in TGA.
A poet at heart and a mom of two teenagers she still somehow manages to find time to write & recite poetry.
Eman Hassaballa Aly is an expert in all things social media and has consulted for several projects and campaigns at the local and national level in the American Muslim community. She is a serial tweeter and texter, and she is fascinated by the way social media has changed the way people interact with each other.
Eman also holds a master’s degree in social work from UIC. She worked part-time for the Heartspeak Institute, a private practice that serves the Chicago Muslim community. She has conducted trainings on marriage and developed a workshop called “Parenting in the Age of Social Media”.
In 2016, Eman joined the Muslim Leadership Initiative funded by the Shalom-Hartman Institute. She also spoke at the Women’s March in Chicago in January. And is currently working on Jewish-Muslim Relations in Chicago.
Eman loves to explore the way butter and salt transform food and loves to talk about her belief that mangoes are proof of God’s existence.
Yusuf Baig is an undergraduate student attending the University of Virginia, studying Computer Science and Cognitive Science. He has a deep interest in all forms of technology, but is also a fervent advocate for youth development across the United States and around the world.
Yusuf has been on an executive committee member for the Muslim Youth of North America (myna.org) for the past year, working to create a community space for Muslim children to learn and love their religion without the burden of society and culture overhead. During his time with MYNA, he has organized camps that have hosted over 300 children on the east coast and touches the lives of over 1200 Muslim youth across the nation annually. He has also volunteered with MYNA over the past two years in Flint, Michigan, to open the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, an educational center set on providing a variety of educational, training, and job placement services to youth in Flint.
Yusuf has worked with other nonprofits such as The Citizens Foundation and Plus One Initiative as the Co-head for Youth Involvement to provide proper schooling and resources to underprivileged children and orphans in India and Pakistan. He has traveled to orphanages in India multiple times and has worked to develop an app to bring together donors and recipients wirelessly.
At the University of Virginia, Yusuf serves on the Muslim Student Association council, coordinating events and weekly gatherings with other minority organizations across campus to ensure an aware and engaged community in Charlottesville following the riots that occurred August 11-12, 2017. He connected with the ever-growing refugee population in Charlottesville and facilitated a tutoring program for Syrian refugee youth with the Islamic Society of Central Virginia Refugee Outreach Program, teaching a range of subjects from astronomy to mathematics to English grammar. Yusuf also serves as an active member of the Machine Learning Club at UVa and works on different methods to advance his knowledge in artificial intelligence.
Ayah Belal is a recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from the islands of Comoros. She has several years of intercultural and media communications within the government and non-profit organizations sphere. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Intercultural and International Communications in Public Diplomacy from American University. She received her Bachelors degree from Howard University in Political Science and Photography. Her photography has been featured in many networks from around the world, including MTV, National Geographic, and Peace Corps. She is passionate about bridging cultures, diplomacy, and traveling.
Dr. Nina Daoud is a scholar whose research examines the overlapping spheres of race and equity in higher education, focusing on the college experiences of historically underserved students. Her research primarily addresses three areas of scholarly inquiry: (1) diversity among Black collegians; (2) college experiences of Muslim students in today’s sociopolitical climate; and (3) factors influencing college access and choice for students of color. Dr. Daoud’s scholarship has been recognized nationally; she is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including dissertation funding from the Ford Foundation for her study examining the college experiences of Black Muslim women at the intersections of their racial, religious, and gender identities. While completing her dissertation, Dr. Daoud worked as a Research Associate at University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, where she conducted research related to campus climate and managed programming addressing Islamophobia in education. Prior to earning her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Dr. Daoud received an M.S.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Biology and Society from Cornell University.
Razi Hashmi is a congressional advisor in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the U.S. Department of State. He previously served as a foreign affairs officer on INL counternarcotics and rule of law programs in Afghanistan. Prior to that, he was a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where he worked on public affairs, congressional testimony in the Office of the Secretary, and innovation and emergency management policies.
In 2017, Razi was appointed to serve as a member of the Governor’s Virginia Asian Advisory Board (VAAB). He has also previously worked in local government, political campaigns, Capitol Hill, and non-profit management. He is a 2018 International Career Advancement Program (ICAP) fellow with the Aspen Institute and University of Denver. He was also a 2015 Sorensen Political Leadership Program (PLP) participant with the University of Virginia. Razi received a Master of Public Policy (MPP) in 2012 from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, and a Bachelor’s in international studies in 2006 from Dickinson College.
Ali Hassan is an investor and entrepreneur. He is an advocate for passive investing and founded Crescent Crypto to fill the demand for institutional quality passive investment vehicles in the cryptocurrency asset class.
Prior to Crescent Crypto Ali was a Research Associate at a NY family office, and was responsible for deal sourcing, research and due-diligence on VC opportunities. Prior to that, Ali was a venture analyst at Fairview Capital Partners, and a member of the investment team. He focused on due diligence, valuations, and investment monitoring for Fairview’s venture capital portfolios.
Mr. Hassan began his career as an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs where his responsibilities included executing syndicate sales for the investment bank’s IPO and follow on offerings, managing a book of $4.5B in private assets, and trading illiquid small cap equities. Prior to Goldman, Ali founded and sold Swim Academy, an online marketplace that connected former NCAA swimmers with potential students for private swimming instruction.
Ali graduated Summa Cum Laude with an Honors B.S. in International Trade and Economics from Saint Peter’s University, writing his senior thesis on the socio-economic and political impact of oil in Egypt. Ali was also captain of the university’s NCAA Division I swim team.
Sameena Karmally is an advocate for social justice with a focus on domestic violence, the rights of women and children, racial equity, and religious inclusion. She is a mother of two with a solo law practice. She serves on the boards of the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, and she is the president and founder of the DFW Muslim Bar Association. In 2014, she ran for Texas state representative and continues to be active in the Democratic Party. She is the host of a podcast covering news and politics called “Pod Bless Texas.”
Iqbal Khaiy grew up in a small but significant town in Morocco where she won a scholarship, the first of its kind, to study architecture in high school. Once in Marrakesh, one of the most significant imperial cities of the Kingdom, she was exposed to the general urban planning and architectural concepts that guided city planning in most Moroccan cities. However, through the day-to day bicycle trips and interactions in the city, she discovered complex realities that spoke loudly about inequities in infrastructure, housing, transportation, and education but also the potential the city offered residents, developers, the tourism industry, and other growing economic sectors.
Iqbal’s fascination with art, design, and urban planning brought her to the United States where she continued her education in architecture, design and Urban and Regional Planning. After working in smart growth policy development and implementation, she learned that the best strategies for growth happen at the local level. Iqbal worked with several immigrant communities both as a volunteer and as an independent consultant and where she discovered a passion for teaching language arts, religious studies, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Her dream is to establish a leadership institute based on Islamic principles.
Iqbal is now in the process of publishing a chapter with Routledge on Middle Eastern Cities.
Naaz Haleema Khan is a writer, curriculum specialist and educator with a background in refugee education and a passion for interfaith community building. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Religion from the University of California at San Diego, a diploma in Refugee Studies from the American University of Cairo, and a Master of Arts in International Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Whether helping asylum seekers share their personal narratives, crafting puppets with refugee children, or teaching courses on intergroup diversity to university students, Naaz uses storytelling to promote understanding and social change. Naaz’s interfaith community work has included serving as a board member for the Interfaith Conference of Washington, D.C., hosting monthly interfaith events in her home, organizing D.C.’s annual Interfaith Leadership Summit, and volunteering as a children’s storyteller for the Potter’s House bookshop. Based in the United States (Washington, D.C. and California), Naaz’s teaching and curriculum projects have led her to work and live in Egypt, India, and Kenya. Naaz is currently working on her first children’s book, Room for Everyone.
Anwar Khan President of Islamic Relief USA. He has more than twenty five years of experience working in the field of humanitarian and development assistance. In 1993 Mr. Khan joined Islamic Relief Worldwide, since then he has aided in expanding IRUSA’s operation from a small office in Los Angeles to nine offices around the United States assisting over 11 million people in over 40 countries around the world and here in the U.S. Currently, Mr. Khan sits and serve as an advisor on the board of Joint Learning Initiative (JLI).
Mr. Khan has also served on several boards such as Interaction, and was an advisor for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA), and the U.S. State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group.
Before becoming President, Anwar held a variety of leadership roles at Islamic Relief USA, directing Islamic Relief USA’s program efforts; managing its fundraising offices and operations; overseeing its fund development work; and leading the organization as Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Khan is the longest serving staff members in the organization.
Elham Khatami is an associate editor at ThinkProgress, a progressive news organization in Washington, D.C., where she covers policy. As a longtime journalist, with a career spanning multiple news organizations, including CQ Roll Call, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and CNN, she knows firsthand the power of stories in changing hearts and minds and, ultimately, in helping to change policy. In 2015, Elham took a brief break from journalism to serve as the Outreach Director for the National Iranian American Council, where she advocated for the rights and interests of the Iranian-American community on a variety of issues, including the JCPOA and the Trump administration’s Muslim ban. At NIAC, Elham helped train Iranian American youth leaders and community members on the basics of civic engagement and grassroots lobbying. She earned her Master of Arts in Global Communication at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and her bachelor’s degree in writing and political science at the University of Pittsburgh. In her spare time, Elham enjoys writing for fun, barre3, reality television, and British period dramas. Her dream is to write a book about growing up Muslim and Iranian in post-9/11 America.
Donya Nasser recently pursued her MA in Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London as a recipient of both the John Loiello and Kamran Djam Scholarships. She is passionate about advocating for gender equality and reproductive justice on both a domestic and international level; empowering women, youth, and minorities to become civically engaged and combat stigmas/stereotypes, and working at the center of technology and policy for innovation. She has interned for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, and the Brennan Center for Justice. Donya served as the first Iranian-American and Muslim U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations from 2015-2016, and as a Truman-Albright Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is currently the youngest Board Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Board, as well as a Youth Director on the Western Hemisphere Region Board and Governing Council of the International Planned Parenthood Fund. She is a 2016 Humanity in Action Fellow, 2015 TRIALS Scholar, and 2014 PPIA Fellow. She has previously served as a member of the Advocates for Youth Young Women of Color Leadership Council, the President of the College Democrats of New York, and AAUW Youth Representative to the United Nations. Donya is a 2016 Bustle Upstart Award Honoree, 2015 recipient of the WIN Young Women of Achievement Award in Service/Nonprofit Advocacy, and a 2014 Glamour Magazine Top 10 College Woman and L’Oréal College Woman of Worth. She has been featured on ABC, Al-Hurra, Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post, the L.A. Times, MSNBC, and Voice of America. She was named one of CDS’ 2016 “30 Under 30 Leaders of Tomorrow” and Persian Tech Entrepreneurs “100 Most Influential Persian Entrepreneurs and Innovators of 2015”. She is also a Contributor and Executive Producer of “The Expose”, a podcast for The Tempest, a digital media platform for women of color. Donya graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University in 2015 where she studied Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies as a McNair and Truman Scholar. She is currently working as a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Truman Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C.
Zuleyha Betul Ozturk is a writer, mentor and a pre-medicine student at the University of Maryland majoring in English. After graduation in December 2018, Zuleyha plans to take several gap years to work on social service projects in her area. While at the University of Maryland, Zuleyha helped form a youth committee with the name of Leadup, of young Turkish American university students focusing on providing the youth changes of integration and academic/career improvement. She volunteers weekly in Howard General Hospital and writes on the side for Fountain magazine. For the last few years, Zuleyha has focused on service for Turkish women and the youth in order to stimulate integration and inclusivity within her local Turkish community. She uses social media and other media platforms to raise awareness of the struggles and complexities within her community. Connect with her on Twitter, @betul_me, and Instagram, @itsmebetul.
Afif Rahman is the Co-Founder and a Board Member of the Poligon Education Fund, a national, non-partisan, millennial-led congressional advocacy and civic education organization dedicated to amplifying Muslim American voices in Congress. Afif’s firm belief in the interlocking roles that community engagement, civic participation, and advocacy play in shaping an equitable, just, and inclusive society moved him to establish Poligon. He professional experience as a management consultant to major foundations, non-profit organizations, and impact initiatives, an economic and social policy analyst, and a political strategist. A native of Boston, MA, Afif also co-founded MassMuslims, an organization empowering Muslim Americans in Massachusetts through civic engagement, advocacy, education, and leadership development. He is an American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute Fellow at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture and a Millennial Leaders Project Fellow at Union Theological Seminary.
Muhammad “Zahir” Rasheed is a recent public administration graduate of George Mason University with a passion for government, public service, and storytelling. Zahir currently serves as Surrogate Coordinator for the Kaine for Virginia senate campaign after previously interning as a political fellow and policy fellow. In 2017, he interned on the Northam for Governor as well as Democratic Coordinated Campaigns in Virginia. During that time, he ran an immigrant phonebank focused on increasing civic engagement and voter turnout rate in the immigrant community for the 2017 elections.
Zahir is also an avid entertainment lover. He previously hosted a news/comedy web tv show known as The Rasheed Report, combining news of the day with analyzing policy in unique and comedic ways. In high school, he competed in the Muslim InterScholastic Tournament (MIST), placing top 3 in short film twice and top 3 in Improv comedy 3 consecutive years, winning first place in 2015. In addition to a career in public service and advocacy, he hopes to one day write and produce a movie.
Amina M. Shams is Cofounder and CEO of BLOOM Charity, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for institutionalized orphans in Morocco with a focus on early childhood development, mental health and psychosocial needs. Amina holds a Masters in Public Health with honors from Tulane University concentrating in Maternal and Child Health & Health Education and Communications. She has over 15 years of healthcare consulting and management experience in the public and private sector. After fulfilling her lifelong dream of adopting a child, she sought to help the children left behind in the orphanage by developing the HOPE (Helping Orphans Progress Emotionally) initiative and subsequently by cofounding BLOOM (Building Lives of Orphans from Morocco) Charity. She is committed to using her platform and voice for the advocacy of orphans and vulnerable children all over the world.
* This list is subject to change, depending on applicant availability
Sulaiman Ahmad is a senior attending Furman University. He is studying Politics and International Affairs, and aspires to work as a national security analyst. His parents came to Greenville, South Carolina from Karachi, Pakistan in the 1970s, and they have lived there ever since. He has an older sister who currently works in the global health sector, and an older brother who is an attorney. His interests include Muay Thai boxing, ranting about Donald Trump in the deep red South, and devouring his mom’s chicken biryani. His hero in life is Muhammad Ali, who once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Ziad Ahmed is a first-year at Yale. He is an American-Muslim-Bangladeshi social justice activist, and he’s unapologetic about it.
At Yale, Ziad is involved with the Yale International Relations Association, the Yale College Democrats, and the Yale Muslim Students Association. In New Haven, Ziad is a Communications Fellow at LEAP, a non-profit enriching thousands of low-income students.
Ziad founded a non-profit, redefy (www.redefy.org), committed to furthering equality in 2013. As a result of Redefy, Ziad has been recognized as a 2017 Global Teen Leader, as a High School Trailblazer by MTV, by President Barack Obama personally, and by other notable sources as someone willing to push the envelope.
As an entrepreneur, Ziad has co-founded JÜV Consulting Inc. (www.juvconsulting.com), which is a youth consulting firm that seeks to empower Generation Z.
Additionally, he has given four TEDxTalks, has spoken at forums such as the Council on Foreign Relations, has written for publications such as Teen Vogue, has worked in politics such as at the State Department, and advises for initiatives such as DoSomething.org (on its Marketing Advisory Board).
Overwhelmingly though, Ziad is just your average teenager grappling with identity, struggling to balance it all, and spending way too much time on twitter. You can learn more about him via www.ziadtheactivist.com.
Laila Alawa is the CEO and Founder of The Tempest, the fastest-growing media company changing the global narrative of diverse millennial women. She was named to the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 list. In 2017, she gave a TED Talk on her work with The Tempest. Since founding The Tempest, Laila has been quoted in nationwide outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian, and CNN Money as a disruptive force in media. She’s also the host of The Expose, a weekly podcast tackling tough topics with snark and wit. In 2016, she got her own Snopes page(it’s a weird story). Prior to founding The Tempest, Laila was a research specialist at Princeton University, studying socio-cognitive processing under the framework of community identity and belonging. She is currently working on her first book. In her spare time, you can find Laila watching “Catfish,” “Archer,” or “The Office” for the seventh or eighth time, playing with one of her two cats, or drinking iced mochas in the middle of the winter from her favorite coffee shop. She’s inspired by her seven younger siblings, who hold her accountable to her promises.
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist who uses anthropology and performance to explore the intersections of race and popular culture. Su’ad is currently an associate professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Princeton University and is a graduate from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and completed the Islamic Studies diploma program of the Institute at Abu Nour University (Damascus). Her latest work, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion and Hip Hop in the United States (NYU Press 2016), is an ethnography on Islam and hip hop that examines how intersecting ideas of Muslimness and Blackness challenge and reproduce the meanings of race in the US. Su’ad represents “Brooklyn, New York City/where they paint murals of Biggie” and is the proud daughter of Amina Amatul Haqq (Audrey Weeks).
Dr. Debbie Almontaser is an internationally recognized, award-winning educator, entrepreneur, speaker and authority on cross cultural understanding. She is an influential community leader and the Founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group Inc., a for-profit business that provides professional development and coaching for companies, universities, firms, and K–12 education personnel. Dr. Almontaser was the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY. A twenty-five-year veteran of the NYC Public School System, she taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity advisor. Currently, she is the Board President of the Muslim Community Network (www.mcnny.org) and sits on the boards of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, Therapy and Learning Center Preschool, eMgage National, and ADC National. She frequently lectures, serves on panels, facilitates teacher and public workshops on cultural diversity, conflict resolution, Arab Culture, Islam, Muslims in America, interfaith coalition building and youth leadership at schools, universities, libraries, museums, faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, as well as national and international conferences. Dr. Almontaser is also known for her leadership role in organizing the historic Yemeni Bodega Strike Rally and I Am a Muslim Too Rally with Russel Simmons. She was raised by parents who were very giving and even though they didn’t have much to give; they gave their time to friends, neighbors and causes. Therefore, it has been embedded in her to continue to do the same with the platform that she has. Dr. Almontaser found that non-profit leadership and movement-based work give her life meaning and give others a chance for a better life.
Zaki Barzinji is a public affairs consultant with a passion for bridge-building and storytelling. He served in the Obama White House as Senior Associate Director of Public Engagement and the President’s liaison to Muslim-Americans, Arab-Americans, Sikh-Americans, and other minority faiths. As the first senior official to focus primarily on those constituencies, he worked to amplify voices and narratives seldom represented at the highest levels of government, and collaborated with his colleagues on building relationships between marginalized communities. Before joining the White House, Zaki represented the Commonwealth of Virginia to Congress, the federal government, and other states as Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Previously, he advised Governor McAuliffe on technology policy and helped guide the launch of Virginia’s open data portal, while also serving as the Governor’s liaison to the Virginia Asian Advisory Board. Before joining McAuliffe’s administration, Zaki served as his outreach director for AAPI communities during the 2013 gubernatorial campaign. In addition to his public service, Zaki directed SBC, a chamber of commerce for minority-owned businesses in the healthcare and tech industries. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech, devout Jedi, fiction writer, lucky husband to wife Michelle, and proud new father of baby Zoon.
Suzan El-Rayess is Director of Operations, Strategy & Development at Jetpac Inc, a nonprofit dedicated to teach and train American Muslims and minority allies on political advocacy, grassroots mobilization and technology application. An advocate for diversity and representation of minority and faith communities in public service, Suzan previously served as Director of Civic Engagement for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC), leading its public affairs, interfaith engagement and media relations work. Prior to this, she led as Director of Development, shaping ISBCC’s financial sustainability strategy and long-term vision to meet the needs of its 1,400 diverse congregants. Suzan also worked at Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program, focusing on gender-based public policy and leadership research, and has served as an advisor to political candidates and elected officials at the City and State levels. She holds a Master of Public Administration in Urban Policy and Public Sector Management from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs from Northeastern University.
Amna Farooqi is a community organizer in South Georgia. Originally from Maryland, Farooqi ended up in the South by way of Israel/Palestine. A proud Terp, she studied political science at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a concentration in Israel Studies. She was involved in J Street U, the pro-Israel, anti-occupation student arm of J Street, for four years and served as president of the J Street U National Student Board her senior year. The first Muslim president, she built relationships in the American Jewish community and worked with Jewish students and leaders across the country to get communal institutions to vocally oppose settlement expansion. She also spent time on the ground in Israel and the West Bank studying, traveling, organizing educational trips and direct actions, and building relationships with local activists. After graduating, she interned at The White House, assisting Jewish, labor, and progressive outreach, and West Wing Writers, a speechwriting firm founded by Obama/Clinton speechwriters. She moved to Georgia to work on a congressional campaign to elect Jon Ossoff, and is currently working to develop more progressive infrastructure in Southwest Georgia. She enjoys eating pineapple pizza with jalapenos, reading Modern Love columns, and watching Broad City.
Fahim Gulamali is the Assistant Director of Social Justice Education and Programming at the Pro Humanitate Insitute (PHI), where he manages and coordinates social justice initiatives at Wake Forest University. He received his B.A. from Wake Forest University, where he studied Religion, Anthropology, and Spanish. After graduating, Fahim was the Program Coordinator for the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), a national organization that prepares college women for leadership in the public policy arena through seminars in Washington, DC. Most importantly, Fahim has an undying love for Beyoncé.
Maysan Haydar is the Muslim Chaplain in the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Oberlin College. She is also a PhD student in the Department of History at the Ohio State University, with a specialization in Modern U.S. History, and with minor fields in Islamic History and Military History. Her dissertation chronicles the development of the American Muslim community in the mid-to-late 20th century. In a previous life, she was a writer and editor at, among others, Martha Stewart Living, SPIN, and The Nation. The only famous person she loved just as much after she met as before is Edward Said.
Blair Imani is an author and activist living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently serves as the Civic Action & Campaigning Lead at DoSomething.org, the largest tech company exclusively for young people and social change. In the summer 2017, Blair came out on national television as a queer Muslim woman and began working with GLAAD to elevate the stories of queer people of faith. Blair Imani was first described as an activist following her July 2016 arrest at a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge in response to the killing of Alton Sterling.
Naaima Khan is a budding writer and social innovation whisperer at the Bush Foundation, started by Archibald G. Bush in St. Paul, Minnesota. She works as a program manager with the Foundation’s Community Innovation team. As a volunteer, Naaima speaks for and serves on the board of the Islamic Resource Group, an organization committed to dispelling misconceptions about Islam and the Muslim community. Naaima has presented at and emceed a Twin Cities-based TED-style forum called Ignite Minneapolis. She provides insights about Muslim Americans through radio interviews and in-person speaking engagements. She is an avid reader, an aspiring transformational change agent, and a data-meaning-making enthusiast. Naaima is inspired by content that challenges audiences to broaden their perspectives, simple yet elegant design choices and stories of resilience.
Shreen Khan is a San Francisco based journalist passionate about storytelling and the human impact behind headlines. She has a background in news production, anthropology, and international relations with a focus on the Middle East. She currently works as a producer at AJ+, the award winning digital channel of the Al Jazeera media network. At AJ+ she plans future content, produces news and current event videos and occasionally presents those stories on camera. Prior to that she produced for Al Jazeera English’s social media TV show, The Stream. She has interviewed hundreds of people, from Twitter activists to former heads of state. Shreen works to connect the dots (policy, theory, person on the street) with a lens that gravitates toward social, cultural, and geographic difference. In her spare time she enjoys iPhone 6 photography, rekindling her love of Urdu and Arabic language, and cooking her grandmother’s Hyderabadi recipes.
Mahdia Lynn is the founder and Executive Director of Masjid al-Rabia–a women centered, LGBTQ affirming, pluralist mosque in Chicago–where she has spearheaded unprecedented programming in support of marginalized Muslims. Mahdia’s prolific career as a community organizer has centered transgender liberation, disability justice, prison abolition, and youth suicide prevention. Her Black and Pink Crescent program provides services for hundreds of incarcerated LGBTQ Muslims across the globe. Mahdia lives in Chicago where she is a senior caregiver and works as a freelance writer, speaker and educator. A Shi’i Muslim woman of trans experience, Mahdia is the only openly transgender woman to lead a mosque in the western hemisphere.
Mahdia’s role model is Sufi poet Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, who wrote “Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.”
Jenan Mohajir is an educator, a storyteller, a mother and a believer in building relationships across the lines that separate us. She currently serves as the Leadership Curriculum Consultant at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), where she oversees the development and implementation of the Student Leadership curriculum. For the last 10 years, Jenan has served as a senior staff member at IFYC and has trained hundreds of young people from religious and non-religious backgrounds to be interfaith leaders who create a different story of engagement in our polarized world. Jenan is also a Founding Board Member at HEART Women & Girls, a nationally recognized nonprofit that promotes sexual health and awareness of sexual violence in faith communities. Jenan is deeply inspired by the stories from her family and her faith to create change at the intersections of gender, sexuality, race and religion. Jenan loves collecting old children’s books and lives on the south side of Chicago with her husband and three children.
Roya Naderi is the Director of Communications at Karam Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building a better future for Syria. She has worked with Karam for three years, starting as a volunteer, then intern, and now staff. In her spare time, Roya likes to read novels and help friends plan parties. She loves reality television and staying up-to-date with what celebrities are up to. Roya graduated from DePaul University where she studied Political Science and Islamic World Studies. She originally planned on enrolling in a graduate or professional program, however is very dedicated to her current work at Karam. She has always been inspired by the work of Karam and recently had the opportunity to travel to the Syrian-Turkish border where she volunteered as a visiting mentor at Karam House and worked with Syrian refugee youth. She looks up to her parents, both immigrants that left Iran to pursue higher education before the revolution. She is inspired by the stories of many immigrants, who like her own parents sacrificed living in the comfort of their homeland surrounded by family to achieve greater opportunities abroad. She has visited Iran with her family many times and loves to visit her extended family abroad. Roya loves to make jokes and laugh – her dream job is to be a stand up comedian that travels the world to make others laugh.
Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, a.k.a. “The History Detective,” is an independent scholar, author, lecturer, and researcher widely recognized for her original research contributions to the study of Islam in America, including her discovery of a forgotten 224-page autobiography of an African of Muslim heritage who served in the American Civil War; her “Presidential Engagement with Muslim Communities” exhibit for the U.S. Department of State; and her “Muslims and the Making of America” special report published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and widely-distributed to hundreds of policymakers and change-makers in Washington, D.C., including members of Congress and White House officials. Precious’s contributions can be found in academic journals, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias, exhibits, award-winning books; on CNN.Com and NPR; at the Smithsonian; and more. Precious also brings decades of commitment to interfaith work, including chaplaincy work at a 770-bed hospital and significant roles in planning and implementing the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions. For her community-building work, in the academic community and beyond, Coe College awarded Precious an honorary doctorate in 2010. These words of one of her heroes, Imam W.D. Mohammed, is an inspiration for her life’s work: “The highest purpose for human life and existence is community life.” www.preciousspeaks.com
Qasim Rashid is a best-selling and critically acclaimed author, practicing attorney, National Spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, and Executive Director of AMI APS, a human rights NGO dedicated to advancing international peace and security. He is a former visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Prince AlWaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies program. Qasim is the author of three books, #TalkToMe: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education (2016), EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere (2014), and The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance (2013). In addition, Qasim has contributed to By the Dawn’s Early Light: Short Stories by American Converts to Islam (2009), and Towards a Greater Jihad: Using the Pen in Islam’s Defense (2008). Qasim regularly publishes in multiple platforms including on TIME, The Independent, and Washington Post. He regularly speaks at a variety of universities and houses of worship, and interviews in a variety of media including the New York Times, FOX, CNN, and Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International. Qasim, his wife Ayesha, and their three children reside in Virginia. He dreams of one day walking on another planet.
Ikhlas Saleem is an experienced digital content manager and strategist with an interest in simplifying complex topics to increase dialogue and understanding, while extending the boundaries of inclusion in public discourse. Her areas of passion and expertise include religion, culture and education. Through various communication platforms, Ikhlas engages scholars and practitioners in collaborative processes that interrogate the role of religion and community in advancing social issues. In her spare time she likes to maintain at least 2-3 side hustles (currently building a travel agency) and enjoys running and traveling.