Bios of AMV Peace Convention 2011
speakers and panelists
Imam Zaid Shakir
Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work.
Born in Berkeley, California, he accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force. He obtained a BA summa cum laude in International Relations at American University in Washington D.C. and later earned his MA in Political Science at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a successful campaign for divestment from South Africa, and co-founded New Brunswick Islamic Center formerly Masjid al-Huda.
After a year of studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut and continued his community activism, co-founding Masjid Al-Islam, the Tri-State Muslim Education Initiative, and the Connecticut Muslim Coordinating Committee. As Imam of Masjid Al-Islam from 1988 to 1994 he spear-headed a community renewal and grassroots anti-drug effort, and also taught political science and Arabic at Southern Connecticut State University. He served as an interfaith council Chaplain at Yale University and developed the Chaplaincy Sensitivity Training for physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital. He then left for Syria to pursue his studies in the traditional Islamic sciences.
For seven years in Syria, and briefly in Morocco, he immersed himself in an intense study of Arabic, Islamic law, Quranic studies, and spirituality with some of the top Muslim scholars of our age. In 2001, he was the first American to graduate from Syria’s prestigious Abu Noor University and returned to Connecticut, serving again as the Imam of Masjid al-Islam, and writing and speaking frequently on a host of issues. That same year, his translation from Arabic into English of The Heirs of the Prophets was published by Starlatch Press.
In 2003, he moved to Hayward, California to serve as a scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, where he now teaches courses on Arabic, Islamic law, history, and Islamic spirituality. Imam Zaid has also authored numerous articles on a wide range of topics. In 2005, Zaytuna Institute published, Scattered Pictures: Reflections of An American Muslimä an anthology of diverse essays penned by Zaid Shakir. In 2008, he authored an award-winning text, Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, a translation and commentary on Imam Harith al-Muhasibi’s work, Risala al-Mustarshideen. He also co-founded Zaytuna College this same year. In 2010, Where I’m Coming From; The Year In Review, is a compilation of his essays written in response to the ideas and personalities shaping the news.
He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. Recently, Imam Zaid was ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009).
Who is Rais Bhuiyan?
One of the best ambassadors of Islam
Rais Bhuiyan is an ordinary man but an extraordinary human being and one of the finest ambassadors of Islam. He has an inspiring story of forgiveness, compassion, hope and love to share with all of you. It took root in Bangladesh and grew from the seeds planted by his parents and flourished with his strong Islamic beliefs in forgiveness. Just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a masked man stormed into the Dallas convenience store where Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh, worked as a cashier. He asked where Bhuiyan was from -- then shot him in the face at point-blank range before he could reply.
His attacker was Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who was apprehended and confessed to shooting Rais and two other South Asian workers. The other two innocent victims of hate died while Rais survived. He was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face. Responding with hate and anger would be justified, but Rais chose the high road and mounted an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to reduce Stroman's sentence from execution to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After those efforts were met with no response from Texas officials, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that his rights as a crime victim to meet with his attacker had been unjustly denied. That lawsuit was moved from state to federal court. His request was denied.
In an interview with HuffPost, Bhuiyan said his efforts on behalf of Stroman were motivated by his Muslim faith. The Koran teaches that those who forsake retribution and forgive those who have wronged them become closer to God, he said. "My faith teaches me that saving a life is like saving the entire human race.”
Rais was disappointed because his efforts to spare his attacker’s life were not fulfilled but at least one mind was changed by Bhuiyan's outreach -- his attacker's. Rais‘s attempts to spare Stroman’s life showed him that kindness and compassion are more powerful than hate.
"It is due to Rais' message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been," Stroman said in the interview with the documentary filmmaker, prior to his execution. "If I don't make it, I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced. We need to make sure there is not another Mark Stroman," he concluded.
Rais continues his work around the world and within his community through his campaign called “World without Hate” and urges people to “Practice compassion, forgiveness and healing.” Rais has spoken in Washington D.C. at the Search for Common Ground, American University and the CAIR annual banquet. He will be speaking in Rome, Italy this month before joining us on December 11th for our peace convention.
Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian
Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian is the Spiritual Director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment (CSE) with headquarters in San Jose, California, now in its 30th year of service. CSE is a ministry in the spiritual tradition of Kriya Yoga that serves people from all faith backgrounds who are seeking Self- and God-realization. Rev. O’Brian was ordained to teach in 1982 by Roy Eugene Davis, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda who brought the teachings of Kriya Yoga to the West. She is the author of several books on meditation and spiritual practice including Living the Eternal Way:
Spiritual Meaning and Practice in Daily Life, as well as CD lessons on the classic spiritual works: The Gospel of Thomas, The Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and retreats both nationally and internationally on the value of meditation for seekers of spiritual truth and the importance of ethical and spiritual awakening to contribute to world peace.
Rev. O’Brian received the 2008 Human Relations Award from the Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations recognizing her contribution to positive human relations and peace in Santa Clara County. She is the founder and President of Carry the Vision, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nonviolence education. She serves as a member of the Advisory Council of the Association for Global New Thought; on the Executive Board of the International New Thought Alliance; and as Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Imam Tahir Anwar
Born in London, Imam Tahir Anwar moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1983 and made San Jose his home. Upon completing his religious studies in India, he has been serving as the Imam of one of the oldest masjids in the country, the Islamic Center of San Jose, since 2001. He is also the head of the Islamic Studies Department, and a teacher at Granada Islamic School in nearby Santa Clara, an institution in its 26th year. After serving on the Human Rights Commission for the City of San Jose for over 5 years, Imam Tahir now serves on the Human Relations Commission for the County of Santa Clara. He also sits on Zaytuna College’s Management Committee as well as other panels and boards.
Ameena is a founding member and Director of Content for Islamic Networks Group (ING), an outreach educational organization. She is an editor of ING training handbooks on outreach for American Muslims and is also the co-designer and developer of ING’s educational presentations and cultural competency seminars, overseeing all ING content. She is also a speaker and trainer for ING. Since 1993, she has delivered hundreds of presentations in schools, colleges, universities, churches, and other venues on Islam and related subjects. She has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, and has presented on a variety of interfaith panels and conferences. She has also been a frequent guest at conventions, seminars, and other forums, speaking on a variety of topics relating to Muslim outreach, family, and the environment. She currently team teaches a class on Islam at San Francisco City College. She received her M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and B.A. in History from the University of Illinois.
Dr. Mohammad Nadeem
Dr. Mohammad Nadeem, a Professor of Business (Marketing) at National University, San Jose, CA., received his doctorate degree in E-Business/Marketing (Interdisciplinary Studies) from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, Ohio. Over the last 15 years, Dr. Nadeem worked in Silicon Valley in the IT industry and academia. He also 'served-to-lead' the residents of Santa Clara.
Here is a list of his Service/Training/Awards: 7 years as a Civil Service Commissioner, City of Santa Clara; 7 years as a Faculty Senator at National University; Co-Chair SC Historic Home Tour Committee; Member, SC City Charter Review Committee; Public Presentations-SC City Economic Development Committee; 8 years as a Community Leader (President/VP/Board of Trustee) at MCA; Citizen's Academy Leadership Program; May 2008; Bureau Division, San Francisco, CA; Leadership Santa Clara Program, June 2005, City of Santa Clara, CA; President's Professoriate Award, May 2009, NU, CA; Provost's Five Year Service Excellence Award, September 2008, NU, CA; Research Council's Faculty Distinguished Scholarship Award, September 2007, NU, CA.
Imam Mohamed Abdul-Azeez
Imam Mohamed Abdul-Azeez is the religious leader of the SALAM Islamic Center in Sacramento CA. Imam Azeez was educated in Medicine, political science, sociology, Islamic history and Islamic theology. He holds an MD from Ain Shams University, a BA from Ohio State University, and an MA from University of Chicago.
Imam Azeez has been involved in Islamic activism and education for the past 10 years. He worked with and taught Islam at numerous institutions from the Midwest to the West coast.
Imam Azeez has made dozens of media appearances, both local and national. He was interviewed on the Sacramento Bee, the Sacramento News and Review, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Los Angeles Times. He was interviewed on most local TV channels, and was featured on CBS News.
Imam Azeez is a passionate advocate of interfaith work, and dedicates much of his time educating the community about the true peaceful essence of the religion of Islam. In his capacity as the Imam of SALAM, he is a member of the Sacramento Interfaith Service Bureau, and participates in most inter-religious dialogue in the area.
Imam Azeez memorized the Quran at a young age, and is known for his "heavenly" voice in its recitation. He teaches Quranic studies to youth and adults at SALAM.
The Imam is married to Kauthar Fattouh, of Ottawa, and has one daughter, Zeyneb, and two sons, Adam and Rodwan.
Rabea is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Muslim Mediators, a community-based conflict resolution center. She is also a non-profit development consultant, associate editor of the online magazine Altmuslimah, and a visual artist. Rabea is a certified mediator, and has a B.A. with Honors in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley and a J.D. with a Critical Race Specialization from the UCLA School of Law. Rabea's editorial and academic writings have appeared in "The National" and the "UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law." Her artwork has been displayed at the New Orleans African American Museum of Art and the Levantine Cultural Center's Inside/Outside Gallery.
Asaad Traina grew up in a Libyan American family in southern California. During his undergraduate years, he served as the Muslim Student Union's president and graduated from UC Irvine in June 2011 with a bachelors in Public Health Science. He is now doing an MS in Biotechnology at UCI.
Daniel Mayfield is a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer in San Jose. He has been an activist with the National Lawyers Guild since 1974 and has served on the National Executive Board of the NLG in the late 1970’s and from 2004 until 2008. He was honored this year for his work in the Muslim community by CAIR and was one of the lawyers on the Irvine 11 case.
Jacqueline Goodman is Criminal Defense Lawyer based in California who defended the "Irvine 11" case. She is one of the few attorneys admitted to argue cases before the United States Supreme Court; and one of only 108 lawyers nationwide to be permanently named on the Wall of Recognition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
As the Executive Director for the CAIR San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA) chapter, Zahra Billoo strives to promote justice and understanding at local and national levels. In 2009, Zahra joined CAIR-SFBA and immediately embraced her roles as community organizer and civil rights advocate.
She frequently provides trainings at local mosques and universities as part of CAIR’s efforts to empower the community, while building bridges with allies on key civil rights issues. Zahra also represents victims of discrimination and advocates for positive policy changes that uphold civil rights for all.
In March 2011, at her direction, CAIR-SFBA filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice challenging their warrantless use of GPS tracking devices to target American Muslims. Her work with CAIR-SFBA has been highlighted in local and national media outlets including KTVU, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. Most notably, she made waves when she appeared on FOX News’ O'Reilly Factor in Fall 2010 to discuss invasive TSA practices.
A 2010 recipient of the San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition's Unity Award, Zahra has been a devoted labor rights advocate for several years. While in college, she worked with the California Faculty Association on issues including faculty salaries and the defunding of public higher education.
While in law school, Zahra was awarded the Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship to work with the National Employment Law Project. Zahra graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Long Beach with degrees in Human Resources Management and Political Science. She earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, and was admitted to the California Bar in 2009.
Zainab B. Jeewanjee
Zainab B. Jeewanjee is a masters candidate in International Relations with a concentration in U.S. Foreign & Security Policy at Denver University’s Korbel School. She is also a writer for the Foreign Policy Association where her articles focus on U.S.-Pakistan relations. Her senior thesis entitled U.S. Foreign Policy to Pakistan: A History of Realist Cooperation from Partition Through the Cold War was completed as an undergraduate at Santa Clara University. Zainab also works part time in sales at the insurance aggregator Go One Global Corp.
Anser has worked both on-air and behind the scenes at several news stations across the country, including ABC, CBS, and CNN. His career began at CTV30, an award-winning cable station in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a reporter and news anchor, plus hosted two of his own shows. He also reported for the New York Times broadcast division at WQAD-TV. He has also reported at KRON4-TV/Channel 4 in San Francisco. Currently, he is a freelance reporter at CBS5 and assignment editor at CBS5/Channel 5 in San Francisco. He is also the Managing Editor for ILLUME Media Inc, which this year has received national for excellence in journalism. He was recognized as an up and coming reporter from the national branch of the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA), being featured on the “Men of AAJA" DVD. He was also the recipient of the national New York Times Reporter Trainee award and selected into the prestigious New York Times L.E.A.P. program, a company wide leadership program. Anser is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of San Francisco State University, with degrees in TV/Radio News and International Relations, with a Middle East regional concentration and an emphasis on Islamic political movements and Islamic feminism. He was recently accepted into the London School of Economics for Master degree program for the Fall semester of 2012.
Rev. Michael Yoshii
Rev. Michael Yoshii has served as pastor of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, California since 1988. Buena Vista UMC is 111 years old and has historically served the Japanese American population in Alameda and the East Bay. BVUMC currently serves a broad pan Asian and multi-cultural constituency. It is currently engaged in a partnership with the West Bank Palestinian village of Wadi Foquin and is involved in advocacy for a just end to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Buena Vista is also engaged in local partnership with the Growing Youth Project, an urban farm project at the Alameda Point Collaborative, serving families in transitional housing. BVUMC has been engaged in a range of ministries over the years including affordable housing advocacy, racial justice and equity in the local schools & community institutions; and advocacy for lgbtq community.
Rev. Yoshii has received recognition with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Pacific School of Religion (2002), Koshland Civic Unity Award from the San Francisco Foundation (2002) , the National Education Association Human & Civil Rights Award (2004), and the Bishop Melvin Talbert Racial Justice Award from the California Nevada United Methodist Church (2005), Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly Peace and Justice Award from the Cal-Nevada MFSA (2010). Rev. Yoshii also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church; leadership group for the FAITHS Program of the San Francisco Foundation; Co-Chair of the Philippine Solidarity Task Force for the California – Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; member of the Israel-Palestine Task Force for the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.