September/October Community Bulletin: Leaders & Achievers

Khizr Khan addresses the Democratic National Convention on July 25, 2016 in Philadephia, Pennsylvania.

Chicago freelance journalist Tasmiha Khan is among the awardees selected as the 2022-23 Richard C. Longworth Media Fellows.

A collaboration with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Longworth Media Fellowships promote international reporting by Chicago and Midwestern journalists. Fellowships in the amount of $10,000 are awarded each year, thanks to a grant provided by the Clinton Family Fund to honor Longworth, a former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent and current Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council.

The fellowships aim to reconnect Midwestern readers with international stories that impact their daily lives, after years of financial pressure forced regional outlets to cut foreign correspondents from their staffs.

For her project, Khan will report on religious communities in the Midwest and South Asia and how they think about adhering to their religious values as they come to the Midwest as immigrants. Khan will be focusing on the South Asian community primarily, beginning with Bangladeshis and potentially other immigrant communities. Through her reporting, she will look at immigrants’ relationships with religion across borders: How does family back home influence the adherence and expression of religious faith among immigrants in the U.S.?

Khan’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Vox, among other outlets. Currently, she covers a wide range of topics related to health, race, politics, culture, and religion. This past year, Khan was named a fellow for Knight Science Journalism at MIT, and an Interfaith Youth Core/Religion News Service Religion Journalism fellow. She is also the founder of a nonprofit, Brighter Dawns, which works to address health concerns for women in Bangladesh, an initiative for which she was invited to the White House twice by President Obama.

Founded in 1922, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing knowledge and engagement in global affairs. 

Khizr Muazzam Khan is a Gold Star father, whose son U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War, and was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Khan, a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom, who served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden, is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. 

The medal is awarded to those who “have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.”  

The Nagamia International Institute of Islamic Medicine and Science (NIIMS) based in Illinois, inaugurated the “Rare Quranic collection of Antique Qurans and Quranic Manuscripts” June 13 at NIIMS Museum/Library, in Rolling Meadows, Chicago 

Some pieces are as old as 600 years! Some of them are the oldest historic Qurans in the U.S. This collection includes almost 100 Qurans and Quranic manuscripts, all written by hand and some of them on bamboo, palm trees and leather, and NIIMS becomes the first Library in the nation to acquire this treasure, the press release said.

“We are honored to have these on display at the NIIMS Museum,” NIIMS is quoted as saying in the press release, noting that the Quranic collection and “priceless” Quranic manuscripts are now on display at the NIIMS Museum, and urging the public to donate to the initiative by visiting

Bennington College students Muhammad Ammar and Ahmed Shuwehdi started a Muslim Students Association to help promote the needs of Muslim students.

The platform’s goal is not only to represent Muslim students at Bennington College, but also to become a channel through which the community can freely, safely and comfortably practice their faith on campus.

The building up of the association has sparked interest within the community. They have already achieved obtaining Ramadan food service arrangements and designated prayer space in a college facility. The building is now equipped with multiple prayer mats, a shoe rack, a small ablution space and an occupancy indicator that allows them to pray free from any interruptions.

Looking forward, the association is aiming for more activities, for Muslims and non-Muslims in the college and beyond.

MSA is also collaborating with the resettled Afghan families in the area and is looking to host events specifically meant to host them at the campus.

Ammar told the Bennington (Vt.) Banner July 4, “We have also been planning educational events that allow us to educate our wider college community on how to actively counter and dismantle Islamophobia in our community.”

Castle Rock (Dakota County, Minn.) township hall board of supervisors unanimously approved Al Maghfirah Cemetery’s request to use a building on site as a prayer room and space for ritual washing for burial.

The town board approved the permit on the condition that the cemetery either put up fencing or plant trees as screening anywhere the cemetery abuts houses.

CAIR Minnesota chapter executive director Jaylani Hussein said, “This cemetery is going to serve the metro-area Muslim community for more than 100 years.”

The permit allows a prayer room or mosque and a space for bodies to be washed without chemicals or embalming and a second structure to hold cemetery equipment, including an excavator to dig graves and landscaping equipment.

The 73-acre cemetery in a rural area near Farmington will provide a final resting place for members of the Muslim community, which has just one other cemetery in Burnsville, accepting new burials in the metro area. 

CAIR has advocated for the cemetery since 2015.

Najeeba Syeed started as the inaugural El-Hibri endowed chair and executive director of Interfaith Institute at Augsburg University August 1. 

Najeeba Syeed

In this role, she serves as a national ambassador for the interfaith movement and partner with campus leaders as a change agent for interreligious learning and living. She also serves as the faculty advisor for Augsburg’s Interfaith Scholars.

Last year, Fuad and Nancy El-Hibri gave a significant gift to Augsburg University to create the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and executive directorship for the Interfaith Institute.

“Professor Syeed is an experienced mediator, a publicly-engaged scholar, a passionate educator, and a seasoned organizational leader,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “This appointment represents a crucial and exciting step forward in our commitment to enhancing interfaith leadership on campus and nationally.”

An award-winning educator, she has taught extensively on interreligious education and published articles on faith and community-based conflict resolution, restorative justice, and interfaith just peacemaking. She previously served for 10 years as an associate professor at the Claremont School of Theology. She also held faculty positions at Starr King School for the Ministry and Chicago Theological Seminary, where she was most recently associate professor of Muslim and interreligious studies. She has served as the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion’s Religion and Politics Section and was a member of the Academy’s Religion, Social Conflict, and Peace Section.

Syeed (BS, Guilford College, JD, Indiana University School of Law) also brings significant executive experience in organizations focused on conflict resolution in community, higher education, and government settings, including the Western Justice Center Foundation and the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center. In 2021, she served as chief of staff to Nithya Raman, the first Asian American woman elected to the Los Angeles city council. 

Huda Alkaff, founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims received the Bill Iwen Environmental Justice Award was established by Midwest Environmental Advocate.

Huda Alkaff

The award, presented at the 4th Annual Environmental Justice Awards Celebration on October 11, was established in 2019 to honor local leaders who make a lasting difference in Wisconsin by advocating for the rights of all people to live in a clean and healthy environment. 

Huda Alkaff is an ecologist, environmental educator, and the founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims, a grassroots organization working to address environmental justice issues related to climate change, clean air and water, healthy food, solar energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction and transportation equity. For over two decades, Huda has advocated for environmental justice, initiating Muslim and interfaith programs on energy and water conservation. Huda is a Program Manager at Milwaukee Environmental Consortium and the Coordinator of Wisconsin Faith Communities for Equitable Solar.

Huda received recognitions from the 2015 White House Champions of Change for Faith Climate Justice Leaders by President Obama, the 2016 Sierra Club Great Waters group Environmental Hero of the Year, the 2017 Environment America’s Voices for 100 percent Renewable Energy, the 2018 Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education Eco-Justice Award, and the RE-AMP Network Superstar award, the 2021 Rachel’s Network Catalyst Award, and the 2022 American Climate Leadership Award Finalist.

Laila Ikram was sworn in as a judge pro tempore by Judge Enrique Medina Ochoa (who sponsored her for the position), the justice of the peace for the Downtown Justice Court Precinct in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 27. 

Ikram, who becomes the state’s first Muslim and the first hijabi judge, was the first to swear the oath of office on a Quran.

Pro tempora – or “pro tem” for short – judges fill in on matters when full-time judges cannot. Being a pro-tem judge can be a starting point to making a leap to being appointed as a judge on a permanent basis.

Ikram, a North Carolina native, graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, will be filling in for judges in the county’s Justice Courts, which are some of the most high-volume courts in the state. 

Chaplain Aida Mansoor, founder of the Moslem Coalition, Walk Against Hunger, who serves as director of field education for Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, was inducted in the Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame (IHHF) July 14 at the National Immigrant Heritage Center.

She is among the four iconic contributors to the fabric of life in Connecticut and the nation, representing vast accomplishment and varied backgrounds and religious traditions.  It is the first time that an entire class of inductees are women. 

Aida, born in U.K. to Sri Lankan parents, obtained her joint honors BS degree in biochemistry/physiology at King’s College, University of London. She has MAs in community health and in Christian-Muslim Relations. She received her Islamic Chaplaincy Certificate in 2012 and has been presenting about Islam since 1999. She is a board member of the Connecticut Council for Inter-religious Understanding, Hartford Hospital & St. Francis Hospital Pastoral Service Committee, the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, and has been awarded the Human Relations Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice in 2011. Aida has been a board member since 2009 and served as president of Muslim Coalition of Connecticut from 2011-16.

Amina Waheed’s documentary strand “Fault Lines” won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award for its 2021 episode “Unrelinquished: When Abusers Keep Their Guns.”

The award, given by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, was announced on May 24 in an online ceremony. Other winners for that year’s awards include PBS, USA Today, the New York Times and the Miami Herald.

The documentary, which was produced by Al Jazeera English in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, won in the Domestic Broadcast category.

The team included Fault producer Amina Waheed, editor Adrienne Haspel, director of photography Joel Van Haren, associate producer Darya Marchenkova, and executive producer Laila al-Arian.

“We are so grateful to the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for this honor, as well as to our partners at Reveal and to the families who spoke with us despite their tremendous losses,” said al-Arian.

“I hope this film, and the recognition it’s received, will spur action that prevents countless tragic deaths at the hands of armed domestic abusers,” Waheed said.

Al Jazeera English had previously won Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards for its coverage of the “Arab Spring” protests in 2011 and the Fault Lines’ film on human rights issues in the clothing supply chain in Bangladesh.

Founded by the reporters who covered Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, the Awards honor outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy’s concerns, including human rights, social justice, and the power of individual action in the U.S. and around the world.

Al Jazeera English, in recent years it has won three Royal Television Society awards, a Peabody and several Emmy awards, including two for Fault Lines’ episodes, the statement added.

Yusra Betul Medik (MD, University of Istanbul, ‘17), resident physician, Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health, was named Resident of the Year (first-year class) 2021-22.

She served as a postdoctoral research fellow at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center (2021-18).

Nour Mohamed of Fairfax received a scholarship to continue her high school education at the United World College-USA (UWC; Montezuma, N.M.).

Nour Mohamed, who completed her sophomore year at W.T. Woodson High school, is among 59 U.S. students selected for the merit-based Davis Scholarships.

UWC is an international high school for 16- to 19-year-olds with 18 campuses worldwide whose mission is to unite cultures through education, thus creating a peaceful, sustainable world. UWC students represent up to 90 countries at some campuses; many come from conflict regions.

Fairfax County (Va.) Sheriff Stacey Kincaid awarded scholarships to area students pursuing criminal justice degrees.

“This diverse group of eight students succeeds academically, faces challenges head on and is passionate about public service,” said Kincaid. “I commend them on their strong work ethics and wish them the very best as they pursue careers in the criminal justice field.”

The Muslim American awardees include Duaa Chaudhry, a second-year student in George Mason University’s Honors Program, majoring in Criminology with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a minor in Forensic Psychology and has a 3.9 GPA. A first-generation college student, her goal is to become a law enforcement officer and make a difference in her community. After obtaining her degree in criminology, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice. In addition to her academic achievements, Chaudhry is employed with the George Mason Police Cadet Program. In 2019, she participated in the Virginia State Police Youth Cadet Law Enforcement Program. She is very proud of attaining her black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Anisha Raiyan Iqbal (editor-in-chief of The Oracle [2020-22], the student newspaper of the West Springfield High School, Springfield Va.), Eshaan Mani (executive digital editor, The Kinkaid Falcon, The Kinkaid School, Sugar Land, Tex.), and Farrah-Adhan Muhammad (Poston Butte High School, San Tan Valley, Ariz.) were among the 25 high schoolers who were selected and attended the Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) annual weeklong multicultural journalism training program (JCamp), held July 23 to 29 at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. 

The program has seen more than 800 students graduate from the JCamp since the inaugural program in 2001. Professional journalists serve as faculty mentors throughout the week and provide students with hands-on training in writing, reporting, photography, broadcast and online media. JCamp instruction prioritizes the program’s core values: The importance of diversity in the newsroom and in media coverage; the value of cross-cultural communication skills, networking and media ethics; and the fundamentals of leadership, inclusion and collaboration.

Waliya Lari, AAJA director of programs and partnerships. “Our JCamp students are the future of journalism, and we are so thrilled to welcome them to the AAJA family.” 

Students attended the camp at no cost to their families, in large part due to the support of donors such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and other generous sponsors.

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