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Category: 2011 Recipients

Duaa Alwan-2011 Recipient

DuaaAlwan 150x150Duaa Alwan

Major:Film Studies
Degree: MA
School: Chapman University Dodge College of Film & Media Arts
Sponsor: Sharif Family

Duaa H. Alwan’s perspectives on Film are rooted in her unique experiences, because in addition to both her study and work in the industry, Duaa’s interaction with the core issues of multiple cultures and communities has been a distinctively organic, ground-level undertaking. From her birthplace of Edinburgh UK, through her school years in Saudi Arabia, to her twenty-plus years in the United States, Duaa’s background has given her access to diverse communities, each with their own experiences with film and media. Harnessing the power of her many hats … student of film, wife and mother, scout leader, teacher, youth counselor, public speaker, activist, director, editor, lecturer… Duaa seeks to create new prominence in film for the overwhelmingly positive middle ground that people of all faiths, ages, walks of life, and viewpoints already share. She holds an undergraduate degree in Film and Media Arts Production, and is currently a second year graduate student at Chapman University Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. With plans to complete a PhD in the same field, her study of film is driven by a strong conviction that film is one of the most powerful tools to promote understanding among cultures. Film is an art with a universal language that touches people and leaves its mark on them for generations to come. Her goals are to offer new filmmakers perspectives on Muslim values and expressions in film beyond whining about stereotypes, to create a support system that will give permanent and mainstream roots to the young Muslim American film industry, and also provide a scholarly insider’s reference point for the industry, within the US and abroad.

Duaa’s Message to Supporters:
I am grateful that we have in our community outstanding individuals and organizations who understand how critical it is for Muslim Americans to not only be present in the film arena but also to be supported and backed by community leaders. It is very encouraging to see the shift in our priorities through actions like that of the ISF and the financial support of their donors, far beyond the traditional support through trendy slogans. Essentially, ISF and its donors really put their money where their mouth is, and I sincerely appreciate it. I pray that such genuine effort grows and blossoms year after year. My utmost gratitude is extended to those pioneering individuals who make scholarships possible in unrepresented fields, an investment with depth and vision that shall only yield positive results for our global communities.

Duaa graduated in 2010 and is a Film consultant , researcher and presenter at Hollywood Muslim Exchange.

Dawood Yasin-2011 Recipient

Imam Dawood Yasim 150x150Dawood Yasin

Major: Globalization Studies
Degree: MA
School: Dartmouth College
Sponsor: South Bay Islamic Association (SBIA)

Dawood Yasin is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Globalization Studies at Dartmouth College, where he also works as the Muslim Life and Service Trips Coordinator at the William Jewett Tucker Foundation. In his role Dawood provides spiritual and religious support for Muslim students at Dartmouth and residents of the greater Hanover area. In addition, Dawood advises students in the Service and Education Program (SEP) and the Cross Cultural Education and Service Program in Siuna, Nicaragua (CCESP-Nicaragua).
Dawood converted to Islam while in South Africa and then spent five years in Damascus studying Arabic, Islam, and spirituality. Upon completion of his studies he relocated to New Haven, CT, where he served as an Imam. While in New Haven he also worked as a teaching assistant and engaged in research at Yale University. Most recently, Dawood served as Director of Outreach at the Zayed Center for Islamic Culture in the United Arab Emirates.
Dawood spends his summers teaching Arabic language at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. He was born and raised in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and lives with his wife and children in New Hampshire.

Imam Dawood’s Message to Supporters:
To thank people is to thank Allah. I thank the donors at the Islamic Scholarship Fund for their forward thinking in advancing, training and widening the participation of Muslim students in the humanities. Historically Muslims have always had a voice in the humanities, from the early studies of sociology to medieval language and literature. However, while living in the modern world, Muslim voices have been noticeably absent in the critical conversations of our times. Thus, the ISF is crucial in returning these voices to the modern discourse.

Imam Dawood is currently the Director of Division of Student Life at Zaytuna College.


Anam Siddiq-2011 Recipient

Anam 150x150Anam Siddiq

Major: Journalism
Degree: MA

School: Columbia University
Sponsor: ILLUME 


Anam Siddiq is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Journalism at Columbia University. Her concentration is broadcast, but she gained experience in print, magazine and radio journalism as well throughout her undergraduate career. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Literary Journalism and History, and followed that up by working with various California news outlets such as KPCC, the OC Register, and KQED, where she acquired an exclusive interview with then-governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anam has written about issues ranging from animal euthanizations to jinn folklore, but she most enjoys reporting on social justice and religion. She also harbors a peculiar interest in 20th century American history, which she hopes to incorporate faithfully into her writing some day.

The Islamic Scholarship Fund has helped me to take my dream of working as a reporter in the hub of journalism, New York City, and made it a reality. With their aid, I have been able to purchase crucial school equipment required as a broadcast student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Only a year ago I was fresh out of my undergraduate university, struggling to transition from being a print reporter to one in radio. Now, not only do I have the skills necessary to confidently walk into any radio newsroom in the nation, I have also become well-versed in video, photo and digital media – abilities that are crucial to have in this changing news environment. I am incredibly grateful to ISF for their help and support, it would have been difficult to have done this without them.

As a Film and Television Production major at USC, I have been challenged many ways besides academically. One of the greater challenges I have faced outside of the class room is time management. Film students at USC are given access to countless events on top being students who must complete short films, read books, and write essays. Simply put, time is very limited for students such as myself. And all of this is hard enough to manage without the added pressure of financing your education – from a private university no less. However, because of the support of the ISF,  I have been able focus more on my education rather than on my bills. The more time I’m able to dedicate to school related projects, the more I’m taking away from my college experience. So I must thank you for giving me more time and allowing me to focus on being a student.

2016 Update:
Anam works as a journalist at CBS News.

Hasan Abdullah-2011 Recipient

Abdullah Hasan 150x150Hasan Abdullah 

Major:Public Policy
Degree: MA
Duke University
Sponsor: ISF


Born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Hasan Abdullah has always had an interest in environmental sustainability and public service. While attending the University of North Carolina, Hasan started a non-profit venture called WeCycles, which focused on providing cities with advanced bike-sharing. He entered WeCycles in many business competitions and start-up incubators, including UNC’s renowned ‘Launch the Venture’ and ‘Carolina Challenge’. Hasan is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Duke University concentrating in domestic policy and international trade. He is also a fellow with the Islamic Society of North America where he is working on improving his non-profit management skills. His long term goal is to help Muslim-Americans run for local and state office.

Hassan’s Message to Supporters:
Growing up, I never thought of pursuing a degree in public service. In fact, I did not even know what a public policy education was until I attended college. I grew up with a desire to pursue a degree in the science field, just like my parents. However, upon witnessing the role that the local government plays in shaping communities, I decided to enter public service and strive to be a positive representation of Muslim-Americans. I greatly appreciate your support in my path to becoming a leader in public service. Public service is not an easy road to take, and it comes with many sacrifices and obstacles. I am truly thankful to the donors for helping me achieve my goals and minimizing some of the obstacles that I will face. Thank you.


Yaser Ali-2011 Recipient

Yaser Ali 150x150Yaser Ali

Major: Law
Degree: J.D.

School: University of California Berkeley
Sponsor: Zehra Attari Memorial Scholarship

Yaser Ali is a 3rd year law student at UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. Prior to attending law school, he earned his master’s degree in education from Harvard University and a bachelors degree from the University of Florida, where he was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame upon graduation. Yaser’s training in both the secular and classical Islamic traditions has provided him with numerous opportunities for leadership in the Muslim community. Alhamdulilah, he has led taraweeh prayers at various Masajid around the country for the past ten years and speaks regularly at various campuses and MSA programs. At Berkeley Law, he co-founded the Civil Rights Outreach Project, a student run clinic that assists members of the local AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian) communities with their legal needs, educates them about their rights, and empowers them to advocate on their on behalf. He intends to use his career to serve as a bridge between the religious establishment within the Muslim community and the legal academy as an Islamic Law Professor, inshAllah.

Yaser’s Message to Supporters:
I want to thank the Islamic Scholarship Fund and its generous donors for this award. I believe institutions such as ISF are critical to the development and maturation of the American Muslim Community. By supporting Muslim students as they aspire to gain knowledge and serve this community, you are indeed providing a tremendous service. JazakAllahukhair.

Yaser graduated in 2012 and is the Managing Attorney at  law firm.

Mustafa Eck-2011 Recipient

Mustafa Eck 150x50 (1)Mustafa Eck

Major:Film Studies
Degree: B.A.
School: University of Southern California
Sponsor: MPAC


Mustafa grew up traveling between the US, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He still marks the Polaroid camera his mom bought him for his 10th birthday as a major milestone in his life as a visual artist. In his teenage years, he shot and edited skateboarding videos of he and his friends on the streets of Cairo, Egypt, Dahran, Saudi Arabia, and Northern Arizona. Shooting these gritty digital videos continues to inspire his shooting style.

Prior to attending the School of Cinematic Arts, Mustafa attended the Zaki Gordon Institute where he created a short documentary exploring his dual American-Egyptian heritage, titled Ana Mish Fahim ( I don’t Understand) dealing with misconceptions of the Middle East and the Muslim world. This film featured a rare interview with Gihan Sadat, the widow of the late Egyptian President Anwar Al Sadat and became selected as a finalist for the Student Academy Award.

In 2010, Mustafa produced an award-winning short film out of the UCLA MFA film program, The Perfect Gentleman (Panavision New Filmmakers grant, Hollywood Foreign Press award). This project was selected by industry powerhouse Deluxe Industries for free film processing and professional color correction (DI), as part of the Deluxe Film Award grant. At the beginning of 2011, just days before the Egyptian revolution (Jan. 25th), Mustafa directed an Arabic hip hop music video in the heart of Tahrir Square in Cairo. Mustafa is currently directing his first feature length film, The I Don’t Understand Movie, based on his award winning short, Ana Mish Fahim (, which also deals with reconciling the dual identity of an Egyptian American and adolescent angst.

Mustafa’s Message to Supporters:
I’m so humbled to have been selected for a scholarship by the ISF and MPAC. It is of great importance that our community, with the partnership of organizations such as the ISF and MPAC, continue to organize ourselves and engage the larger American community. I’m delighted to witness American Muslims refusing to have their religion and cultures be defined by misconceptions shaped by the media. Insh’Allah, in the near future, we will see a more accurate portrayal of Islam on TV and in major motion pictures. Together we can make this happen.

Mustafa is working hard making movies.

Nafees Syed-2011 Recipient

Nafees Syed 150x150Nafess Syed

Major: Law
Degree: J.D.

School: Yale University
Sponsor: MateenMobeen Foundation 


Nafees Asiya Syed will be pursuing her J.D. at Yale Law School and plans to enter a career in law and politics. In 2010, she graduated from Harvard University with honors, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. For her leadership and service, she received the Distinguished Senior Award from the Dean of Harvard College and the Director of The Harvard Foundation. Her honors thesis was on United Nations accountability in the post-Cold War era.

This past year, Nafees worked as the foreign policy and veterans affairs aide for a ranking member of Congress, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson. Previously, she worked for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. In addition, she has interned for the British Parliament and the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Nafees has written for popular outlets, including and The Huffington Post. In addition, her research has been published in an academic publication, the International Journal of the History of Sport. As an editorial editor at The Harvard Crimson, she contributed to its popular admissions publication, “50 Successful Harvard Application Essays,” and she is an author for the book “I Speak for Myself.” Currently, Nafees is writing a novel featuring a Muslim-American woman and starting a website to help Muslims practice their faith at school,

Nafees’s Message to Supporters:
As Muslims entering fields in law, politics, and the humanities, we have the challenge of being the first. ISF and its donors are helping the Muslim American community at a critical stage of its development, in areas in which we have yet to firmly establish ourselves. ISF has astutely identified this need and created this scholarship to help recipients like me strive to fulfill it. I thank ISF and its donors for their generosity and for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this organization, Jazak Allahu khair. I pray that the recipients this year and in the many years to come will live up to the intentions with which these scholarships were given.

Nafees graduated in 2014 an is an Associate at Boies Schiller & Flexner.

Muhi Khwaja-2011 Recipient

MuhiHeadshot 150x150Muhi Khwaja

Major:Public Affairs
Degree: MPA

School: University of Michigan-Dearborn Graduate
Sponsor:  Sharif Family


Muhi is currently a Major Gift Officer at the Red Cross.

Muhi’s Message to Supporters:
I’m really honored to be selected amongst all of the amazing talent across the US. I highly encourage everyone to take a look at how they can help ISF by promoting the scholarship in their communities. Make connections for ISF between your local charitable organizations and help ISF expand its depth all while helping your community out too. Be sure to apply, you won’t regret it. Be sure to support it, you won’t regret that either.

Bio: Muhi Khwaja, MPA, CFRE, founded US Consulting Group in 2011. He earned a Bachelor’s in History and Psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2009. After an internship that sparked an interested in Development, he pursued working with nonprofit organizations and earned his Master’s in Public Administration in 2013, from the University of Michigan, specializing in nonprofit management. Some of his favorite courses focused on fundraising, strategic planning, needs assessment, and organizational behavior. He actively participates in Association for Fundraising Professionals’ meetings and events, speaking on best practices and diversity in development.

Since 2009 he has helped raise millions of dollars as a fundraising/development professional with several nonprofits including: University of Michigan, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Council for American-Islamic Relations – Michigan, Islamic Relief USA, Institute for Social Policy & Understanding, Ta’leef Collective, Islamic Scholarship Fund, Indian Muslim Relief & Charities, Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership, Our Three Winners Endowment, Notable Music & Arts Organization, and the American Muslim Fund.

He currently works as a Senior Philanthropy Officer at the American Red Cross and is a co-founder of the American Muslim Fund, the first grassroots, national Muslim community foundation in the United States. Most recently in 2016 he became a Certified Fund Raising Executive from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and in 2017 earned a Certificate of Fund Raising Management from Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. You can find him on LinkedIn:

Areas of Interest:
Nonprofit, Film, Photography, Politics, Travel, Culture

Sahar Jahani-2011 Recipient

Sahar Jahani 150x150Sahar Jahani

Major: Literary Journalism and Film & Media Studies
Degree: B.A.
University of California, Irvine-Undergraduate
Sponsor: Sultana Zakir Naqvi Scholarship for Journalism and Writing

Sahar Jahani is a junior at the University of California, Irvine, pursuing a B.A. in Literary Journalism and Film & Media Studies. She first became interested in media and public relations as an intern for the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Hollywood Bureau, consulting on projects such as Disney’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Inspired by the need for more alternative, socially conscious media, Sahar began participating in various media outlets on her campus and in Southern California. She is currently a staff writer for the UC Irvine campus newspaper, the New University, and a reporter for their online broadcasting program, the Zot News Network. She also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Muslim student publication, Alkalima Magazine. Sahar is also interested in film and television production. She has interned at several production companies including ROYCE Entertainment Group, Boomgen Studios, and most recently, Paramount Pictures. She now writes for OC Weekly Magazine. Sahar hopes that her experience as a journalist and passion for film will manifest in a career as a producer in news broadcasting.

Sahar’s Message to Supporters:
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the ISF selection committee and donors for this grant. I am now one step closer to achieving my goals and it means everything to have the support of the Muslim community. I know that through your work, more students will be encouraged to pursue degrees in the liberal arts and humanities. I only hope that I can uphold the values of this esteemed organization and be worthy of receiving such an honor.

Sahar graduated in 2013 and is currently working for YouTube.

Christopher Cusano-2011 Recipient

cusano 150x150 (1)Christopher Cusano

Major: Islamic Law and Theology
Degree: B.A.

School: Zaytuna College
Sponsor: Zaytuna College


Christopher  Cusano is a second year student at Zaytuna College. He currently holds a B.A in Political Science and Economics and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Florida where he served as the MSA President.

Chris was the founding director of CAIR Orlando and was an active member of the Muslim community of Central Florida until he left to pursue Arabic studies in the Middle East. He has since returned to continue Islamic studies under the scholars at Zaytuna College which he hopes will equip him will the knowledge to better serve American Muslims. Chris intends to further his studies of Islam upon completion of his degree at Zaytuna College and bring his different educational backgrounds together in pursuit of a PhD program.

He remains active holding positions and assisting in different organizations and projects such as the National Muslim Athletic Association, Salik Academy, and Light of Mercy.

Christopher’s Message to Supporters:
May Allah reward you all for you generous contributions and effort to help support individuals within the Muslim community continue their education and advance their skills in order to help give back to their communities and society at large. I feel blessed to have been selected for such a scholarship and pray that I am given Divine providence to be of benefit to Muslims and Americans alike.

Christopher graduated in 2014 and is working for Leapfrog.