#MYProjectUSA 2016 Conference Speakers
Pause for Peace
Mother and wife Ameena Matthews has dedicated her life and career as a Community Activist for Peace Building and Social Change. Growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago and raised by her single grandmother, Ameena Matthews observed the dereliction caused by the violence epidemic inflicted on the community. From that early exposure she committed herself to ending the mindset that violence is a normal behavior in Chicago.
Since 2006, Ameena used her experience and knowledge, to seek out and build relationships with troubled youths who are susceptible to the social norms of violence that still exist on the streets. As a highly specialized violence intervention expert, she has developed her own anti-violence organization Pause for Peace, which operates under the motto “Don’t Let 30 Seconds of Rage Change Your Life FOREVER!!!!! She trains her resource specialists and program staff to seek out nding models and sources that will aid in the instruction of the youth participants. Mrs. Matthews’s goal to get the youth to understand that killing someone is not the social norm, is done through love, compassion, and forgiveness training. The organization places its focus also on social change and social service programs that work to address and end violence in the lives of impoverished and underprivileged youth in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago. Read More
U.S. Department of State, "All American: 45 Men on Being Muslim", "The Domestic Crusaders"
Award-winning playwright, lawyer, and TV host Wajahat Ali is a new kind of public intellectual: young, exuberant, and optimistic. Witty and emphatic, he speaks on the multifaceted Muslim American experience, and an emergent generation of millennials poised for social change.
Wajahat Ali is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, a TV host, and a consultant for the U.S. State Department. He helped launch the Al Jazeera America network as co-host of Al Jazeera America's The Stream, a daily news show that extended the conversation to social media and beyond. He was also a National Correspondent, Political Reporter, and Social Media Expert for Al Jazeera America. He focused on stories of communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media. Ali is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans, post-9/11—which was published by McSweeney's and performed off-Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. Currently, with Dave Eggers, Ali is writing a television show about a Muslim American cop in the Bay Area. He was also the lead author and researcher of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the seminal report from the Center for American Progress.
In 2012, Ali worked with the U.S. Department of State to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. He initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. He was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Ali has given many presentations, from Google to the United Nations to Princeton to The Abu Dhabi Book Festival. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, the Guardian, and Salon.
Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC
Nationally recognized for his commitment to improving the public understanding of Islam and policies impacting American Muslims, Salam is president and co-founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. He oversees MPAC’s groundbreaking civic engagement, public policy, and advocacy work.
He is an expert on Islam is the West, Muslim reform movements, human rights, democracy, national security, and Middle East politics. He has spoken at the White House, Capitol Hill and represented the U.S. at international human rights and religious freedom conferences.
As the first Muslim mayor in Bergen County, New Jersey, Mohammed Hameeduddin has made great strides in bringing a diverse community together for the common goal of improving quality of life.
During his years on the Teaneck Township Council, this young entrepreneur has become a sought after public speaker and was recently called one of the most influential Muslims in America. Hameeduddin was named CNN’s Most Intriguing person of the week on July 1, 2010 and NAACP Citizen of the Year in 2009. In 2011, he was honored by the Bergen County Freeholders for service to the Indian community, and was presented the Bergen Community College Asian Heritage Award and the Teaneck Board of Education Volunteer Appreciation Award. In 2013, Netivot Shalom honored Hameeduddin at its annual dinner for dispelling stereotypes and encouraging unity among different religious and ethnic groups. He was also recently honored by the Cedar Lane Management Group and Bergen Community College.
Hammeeduddin has been featured in two documentaries, “Test of Freedom” and “Voice of America.”
Abdul-Malik Ahmad was born in Connecticut in 1975 but spent most of his life in the Washington, D.C. area where he currently resides with his wife and daughter. He was privately educated until his senior year, after which he attended Georgetown University. During that time, he was heavily involved in writing and producing the music for a series of albums that were produced under MYNA Raps. At the same time, Abdul-Malik was able to visit the Middle East and become fluent in the Arabic language and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic from Georgetown University.He has let his bilingual tongue flow with his musical pen. Abdul Malik’s writing talent is such that one listens enthralled at the merging of the two worlds in which he lives, East and West, Muslim and non-Muslim, and which he brings together seamlessly in his music. He transports the listener from the past to the future and back to the present without effort, transcending even time and space. His songs and rhymes are evidence of his passion for a better society as he masterfully writes about many issues that affect non-Muslims and Muslims alike. His ability to capture an audience like a master story teller with his songs and to produce ear-catching rhythms and sounds in the studio with limited instrumentality has put him in the top tier of Muslim Artists. This talented songwriter, producer, and musician is also a devoted husband and father, who believes in building strong family and community ties.
Co-Chairman of EMERGE USA
AJ Durrani is Co-Chairman of EMERGE USA (Empowering Motivating Educating, Resourceful Grassroots Entities), a national non-profit 501 (c) 3 educational organization established to improve and increase political awareness in under-represented communities, especially the Muslim, Arab, South Asian populations. He is a Houston-area political grassroots community organizerwho is elected as the State Democratic Executive Committeeman for the 17th District of Texas.This is his 5th term on the SDEC. He is the Chairman of the Islamic Education Institute of Texas, a group of six fulltime Islamic schools in the Houston area. At the end of last year, he retired as GeneralSociety of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.In 2012, he was elected to represent Texas as a National Delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He is presently the Vice President of the Asian American Democrats of Texas (AADT).AJDurrani retired from a management position in Shell Oil Company after 34 years of service -- he holds a Masters degree in Petroleum Engineering.
Dr. Wayel Azmeh
Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC
Dr Wayel Azmeh is a cardiologist in private practice in Dayton, Ohio.
He is a trustee of MY Project USA. He has been an MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council) national board member 2004-currently. He has served as a co-founding board member of the Dayton Mercy Society/Islamic Center of Dayton at Miamisburg, OH between 2007-2012.
He has participated in many Inter-religious dialogues in Dayton and in Wichita, Kansas. He has received "The Humanitarian Award" by The National Conference for Community and Justice-NCCJ in Dayton, OH along with his wife Ramzieh Azmeh, M.D. for the year 2005, and the "Peace Maker Award" by The Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Newton, KS along with his wife Ramzieh Azmeh, M.D. for the year 2004.
WORDE Senior Fellow
Mehreen Farooq is a Senior Fellow at the World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE), a non-profit educational organization dedicated to enhancing communication and understanding between communities to mitigate social and political conflict.She received her MA in International Affairs from American University, focusing on the socio- political development of the broader Middle East. She is one of the lead researchers of WORDE’s projects to explore the capacity of local civil society organizations to promote peace and counter violent extremism. She has led fieldwork across 80 cities and villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is currently researching the capacity of religious actors in Egypt to counter extremist narratives in Egypt and beyond.
Farooq has also helped develop programing for World Organization for Resource Development and Education (WORDE) to foster community building. She recently worked with youth in the greater Washington DC area, to develop a cyber civility curriculum that equips young adults with the knowledge and resources to use social media and other digital tools in a responsible, respectful manner; to inform students of potential threats associated with online activity; to promote help-seeking behaviors to mitigate the threat of intimidation, harassment or abuse; and to reduce their vulnerability to online predators, recruiters and other individuals with harmful objectives.
Founder & Director, Being There
Saad Haq is the Founder and Director of Being There, a Charlotte, NC based Interfaith, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on building relationships with people of different faiths through community service and educational programs. These programs have ranged from feeding the homeless to discussion groups to interfaith fast breaking meals and community vigils.Prior to this, he volunteered with Whyislam (an ICNA project) in Philadelphia, PA as the Outreach Coordinator, organizing outreach tables/booths, radio ads, and assisted in getting billboards on highways with the goal to help disseminate information about Islam to those looking for answers.Recently, he created and launched the Muslim StoryTellers (MuST) podcast initiative - with the purpose to take back control of the Muslim Narrative through podcasting real life stories narrated by Muslims who lived these stories.He is presently a member of the Comparative Religion Committee at Temple Beth El, focusing on community speakers series programs, giving perspective on unified themes using religion and ethics. Full time, his 13 year career has been and is spent in the Cable, Consumer, and Custom Electronics industry. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife and 3 children.
Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityOffice for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Abdirizak Farah is a Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Secretary, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), where he serves as a key expert and advisor on homeland security, civil liberties, and countering violent extremism. He represents CRCL at high-level meetings with executives from other government agencies, private sector, and non-governmental agencies providing expert analysis and recommendations that support leadership decisions. Additionally, Abdi provides training and high level briefings for department leadership and conducts CVE training for DHS personnel and other law enforcement agencies.
Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Abdi worked for the City of Columbus as Coordinator where he developed and participated in the execution of a long term strategy that encompassed improved compliance of Title six of the 1964 Civil Rights act, the successful integration of immigrant/refugee communities into the social and commercial fabric of Columbus life, with marked improvement in the coordination of resources between the City and State to enhance the delivery of vital public services. He was also the host of the TV Show, Global Columbus on Government Channel-3.
Before joining Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s team, Abdi demonstrated his leadership skills while working for the United Nations as Political Office where he worked on national reconciliation, grass-root level institution building and other capacity building initiatives, including conflict resolution, economic development and disarmament efforts.
Rubén Castilla Herrera
Central Ohio Worker Center
Rubén Castilla Herrera is a civil rights leader and organizer/activist for ethnic identity, building community power, civic capacity and growing leadership. He was founding member of several Latino related organizations including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Ohio, Ohio Action Circle, Educators in College Concerned with Moving Hispanics Forward and most recently, the Central Ohio Worker Center.
Herrera began working on issues of immigrant rights as State Director of Reform Immigration for America, a national organization fighting for comprehensive immigration reform. He spent time in Arizona in 2010 organizing against SB 1070 and in Georgia fighting HB 87, the anti-immigrant legislation passed there. He has been arrested on separate occasions for civil disobedience fighting for immigrant rights in Georgia, Arizona and Washington D.C.
Herrera is currently an organizer with the Central Ohio Worker Center, an organization which represents low wage workers and the growing immigrant and refugee community of Central Ohio. The Worker Center also works on food justice issues, with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a coalition farmworkers that pick 90% of the winter tomatoes for the United States.
Karen J. Dabdoub
Karen Dabdoub has served as the Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Cincinnati Office since 2004. Prior to joining CAIR she was the Administrator of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati for six years. Prior to that Ms. Dabdoub worked in local government and in business for many years.Mrs. Dabdoub served the community 2006-2012 as a commissioner with the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and was President of CHRC in 2011-2012.Karen is a founding member of Muslim Mothers Against Violence, a local group founded in 2005 by Muslim women to take a stand against violence, abroad and at home.She was a member of the Martin Luther King Coalition of Cincinnati (2006-2013), and was a member of the WCPO TV Community Advisory Board (2006-2009). She is also a former member of the FBI Multi-Cultural Advisory Council and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Community Advisory Committee. Karen was a member of Friends of Open House, an international organization that works to bring about peace and understanding between Palestinians and Israelis.Karen was featured in the 2010 Women’s Book, Premier Cincinnati edition, as a woman leader of a Cincinnati area non-profit.Karen was a docent/tour guide and speaker for the Islamic Center’s Tours and Talks program from 1995 to 2005. She appears in the documentary film "A Visit to a Mosque in America", an educational documentary, filmed locally, that has received national recognition and commendation. Karen has participated in many interfaith forums in the Cincinnati tri-state area, she has spoken at churches, schools, universities and to a variety of professional and civic groups. Ms. Dabdoub is a native Cincinnatian and a graduate of Ohio University.
Council on American Islamic Relations-Ohio
Romin Iqbal is the Staff Attorney for the Council on American Islamic Relations-Ohio. He is a graduate of the Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. He works on cases of discrimination and civil rights.
Executive Director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS)
Angie Plummer is the Executive Director of Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), a non-profit organization serving refugees and immigrants in Central Ohio. She has been with CRIS since 1998, and started as a volunteer lawyer. She became Executive Director of the agency in 2003. She is a 1989 graduate of the University of Dayton, where she majored in International Studies and minored in German, and is a 1992 graduate of the Ohio State University College of Law. She is admitted to practice law in Ohio and admitted by the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio. Prior to working for CRIS, Angie worked for the State of Ohio and in private practice. She lists as her professional accomplishments the participation in resettlement to Columbus, Ohio of more than 7,500 refugees and the successful resolution of many family reunification and asylum cases. She lives with her husband and two children in Columbus, Ohio.
Ahmad Deeb grew up in Orlando, FL. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology at the age of 19, and began his study of the Islamic sciences. After working in the field of Da’wah and Youth Development for several years, and in a full time capacity as a youth director, he left to continue his Islamic Studies in South Africa, graduating with a certificate in Usul Al Deen. While there, he founded a youth organization called Living Faith Project, with its mission to articulate an experience-based approach to Islam relevant to young Muslims globally.He currently resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania, continuing his study of classical Islam with various scholars from around the world, and helping to build the Village of Razjan, a holistic intentional community in America.
Ohio Environmental Council
Committed to empowering people to action through information, Hannah specializes in communicating complicated environmental policy issues simply, and in a way the average person can understand. As Director of Marketing & Communications, she works to make sure the OEC's top-notch policy work is well-known and well-represented. She oversees all of the OEC's online engagement work, including social media, the website, enewsletters, and digital advocacy and fundraising, assists in media relations work, and designs OEC publications. Hannah has executed campaigns on a variety of environmental issues, including everything from toxic algae to fracking.
Founder & President MyProjectUSA
Zerqa Abid is a mother, a social/political activist, a community organizer, a campaign consultant and a small-business owner. In 2009, she helped founding Project Sakinah, a national initiative to address family violence within American Muslim community.
Through her tireless work across the country and online, she created several local teams and collaborated with a large number of national and grassroots organizations. She became the first prominent Muslim voice addressing the issue of sex-trafficking of minor Muslim girls within American Muslim community.She is also a founding member and the President of Muslims for Ohio PAC, a political organization of Muslims in Ohio. She is a member of Hilliard Education Advisory Council. She is a member of Hilliard Citizens Police Academy AlumniAssociation as well.
In the past, she has worked at NBC News. She was the first General Manager of The City Channel of the ARY Digital Network of Pakistan.Through her overseas business ZAPSnet Consultancies Pvt. Ltd, she organized international trade and consumer shows. Her consumer show, "Expo Juniors," in 2006 was recognized as the first expo and a historic event for Pakistani children. It drew 800,000 people to the Karachi Expo Center in three days.Abid is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of North Carolina State University. She received “Norma & Wally Ausley Merit Scholarship” for being “The Outstanding Student of Mass Communications.” She is also a member of Golden Key International Society.
Morgen Morrissette, Esq.
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Morgen Morrissette is an attorney in Columbus, Ohio, focusing on issues related to asylum and refugee cases. She has worked with the Special Court for Sierra Leone on the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, with AGHS Legal Aid Cell in Lahore, Pakistan, and is a former Law and Policy Fellow with Polaris Project, a non-profit dedicated to combating Human Trafficking.Morgen holds a B.A. in Arabic and philosophy from Ohio State University, and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where she attended as an Emmerich de Vattel International Human Rights Scholar.She currently serves as the Chair of Muslims Against Human Trafficking and practices immigration law at Community Refugee and Immigration Services.
Merit Badge Counselor
Heather O'Bannon graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations. She is certified as a Master Urban Farmer from the OSU Extension office.She has been the director of Westside Academy for the last 10 years. During that time she has been awarded gardening grants, and actively promotes urban farming and gardening with children and adults.She is a Merit Badge Counselor for gardening with the Boy Scouts of America and has been directly involved in four Boy Scout Eagle projects related to urban gardening.
MY Project USA
Khaula Zafar is a young environmental activist. She has an extensive background with nonprofit organizations as well as a history of volunteerism. Throughout her college career she pursued involvement and leadership positions in a plethora of organizations which aimed to address a variety of social and environmental issues. This heavy involvement has given her the knowledge, and fueled the passion, which is fundamental when organizing community to address any issue.
Zafar is a recent graduate of OSU. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Evolution and Ecology, as well as minors in Political Science and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. She is a member of MY Project USA's Environment Protection Committee.