Major: Non-Profit Management Degree : MPA School: University of Southern California Sponsor: Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC)
During her undergraduate studies at the University of California Irvine, Marya led several campaigns around issues of social justice and civil liberties. She graduated with a double-baccalaureate in English and Sociology in 2009. After graduation, Marya served as the Director for Mentors for Academic and Peer Support (MAPS), a UCLA organization started by the MSA that is dedicated to improving youth education in inner-city high schools. She also led the national advocacy campaign for the Irvine 11, a highly publicized trial of eleven Muslim students who were prosecuted for exercising their freedom of speech in pro-Palestine activism. After UCLA, Marya completed the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, as well as worked as a Community Organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation. She is currently a Dean’s Merit Scholar at the University of Southern California, where she is completing her Master’s in Public Administration. This past year, she worked as a consultant for a strategic planning firm where she deepened her understanding of organizational development. She recently become the Director of Strategy and Operations for MSA West, an umbrella organization for Muslim student groups across the west coast.
Update: Marya Bangee graduated with her Masters in Public Administration, specializing in nonprofit management and public policy, from USC in 2015. She currently works as a consultant with philanthropic entities and nonprofits, working to advise clients on community development efforts.
Major: Near Eastern Studies
Degree: MA School: New York University Sponsor: ISF
Adnan Moussa graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in Near Eastern Studies. Upon graduation, he spent one year as a fellow with CASA studying intensive Arabic at the American University of Cairo. Since returning to the states, Adnan worked in a non-profit organization that facilitates the resettlement of immigrants from the Middle East. His prior research focused extensively on Palestinian rights under international humanitarian law, and the systematic discrimination against those economically disadvantaged. As a Masters student at New York University, he plans to continue studying these political and economic rights with a more direct focus on the Muslim community in the US. While in New York, Adnan plans to push forth with his activism paying particular attention to the unlawful surveillance of the Muslim American community.
Update: Adnan graduated and is living in New York.
Major: International Relations
Degree: MA School: Yale University Sponsor: Dollar-A-Day Scholarship Fund
Saad Ansari studies the rule of law as a means of improving human security and development as an MA candidate at Yale’s Jackson Institute, where he also serves as the executive director of the Yale Journal of International Affairs and teaching fellow. While at Yale, he completed an internship at the Brookings Institute, focusing on US-Middle East relations. Prior to Yale, Saad graduated from the University of Michigan, with a BA in political science and Islamic studies. There, he served as the editor-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of International Affairs and studied in Turkey and Vietnam. Thereafter, he co-established startups, including an Arabic institute, VA, a community organization which caters to refugees, AZ, and a cultural center in downtown NYC, while teaching classes, and continuing studies on Islamic legal and ethical texts.
After graduating from Yale, Saad hopes to promote the rule of law in post-conflict and weak states through research, support higher education in developing countries through university partnerships, and write about topics relevant to building healthy governments and civil societies, especially through biographies. Saad speaks Arabic, Spanish, and Urdu and encourages hiking at US National Parks.
UPDATE: Saad Ansari serves in the Obama Administration in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Policy – Stability and Humanitarian Affairs, where he helps develop proactive policy and inter-organizational relationships to avert and manage conflict in fragile states. He also designs and prototypes solar energy technology with a startup team based out of Boston. Currently, Saad is learning the art and science of turning the complexity of massive organizations and operations into simplicity, for more effective and innovative governance. strongly supports and volunteers his time to open institutions of public learning, debate, and creativity. Saad graduated from Yale’s Jackson Institute in 2014 (MA), and the University of Michigan (BA Arabic & Islamic Studies, PolSci) in 2009, and has a learned a great deal from traveling and experimenting.
Major: Public Interest Law
Degree: JD School: University of Houston Law Center Sponsor: Foundation for Intelligent Giving (FIG)
Mohammed Obaid Shariff is currently enrolled in his final year of law school at the University of Houston Law Center. In the past year Mohammed has worked at the Harris County District Attorney’s office where he assisted in the prosecution of felonious crimes such as murder and domestic violence.
Assisting those who are less fortunate has been firmly instilled in Mohammed from a very young age. At the age of 14, Mohammed began volunteering at a local non-profit healthcare clinic called Shifa Clinic where he helped physicians provide free healthcare services to low-income families in the community, who otherwise would be unable to afford a basic visit to the doctors office. Over time Mohammed was entrusted with more responsibility and he became the lead coordinator at the clinic making sure all patients were provided the best care available. At the age of 19, Mohammed founded a non-profit organization called WALI Foundation which stands for Women’s Assistance & Learning Initiative. This organization helps women who are widowed, divorced, abused and/or abandoned with numerous social services including, but not limited to, rent assistance and access to free health and legal care. Since it’s formation the organization has assisted over 50 families across the United States with over $60,000 in rent and bill assistance, not including the professional services provided (i.e. healthcare, counseling, legal assistance).
Update: Mohammed graduated in 2014 and is currently a practicing attorney.
Major: Public Policy Degree: MPP School: Harvard Kennedy School Sponsor: ISF
Sara Minkara is the President and Founder of Empowerment Through Integration, ETI (www.eti-vision.org). She is a Lebanese-American who became legally blind at the age of seven. She is grateful for a strong social support system and American infrastructure that allowed her to pursue an education. Her counterparts around the world are less fortunate though. The disability rights movement is immature and even nonexistent in many places around the world. She wants to use her experience to inspire and create a support system for all visually-impaired children to reach their full potentials. Her vision of ETI started in 2009 and she ran the first camp thanks to sponsorship through the Clinton Global Initiative Outstanding Commitment Award. She is currently a Dubin Fellow at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The strategic planner of ETI and the inspiration, she keeps external communications active between ETI and its collaborators/potential sponsors. Her favorite time, however, is when she gets to teach cane usage during the summer camps.
Update: Sara graduated and is working as the President of her organization, Empowerment Through Integration, ETI (www.eti-vision.org).
Major: Public Interest Law
Degree: JD School: Harvard Law School Sponsor: CAIR
Fatima Hassan Ali is a third year student at Harvard Law School, where she is a student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Her interest span from law in developing countries and emerging markets to media, gender equality and politics. This past summer, she split her summer working with the government of Rwanda as a Chayes Fellow and in Cambodia with a local law firm. During her 1L summer Fatima worked on asylum petitions with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic as the Cleary Fellow. Prior to law school, Fatima tackled research projects focusing on how health and human rights intersect in conflict areas. As the Haas Center and Freeman Spogli International Public Service Fellow, she worked with the UN-led Global Protection Cluster in Geneva focusing on gender-based violence in humanitarian crises. She subsequently worked at the Center for Health Policy at Stanford University, focusing on child health in fragile states and also with a philanthropic consultancy advising private donors. Fatima was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her work in mobilizing the diaspora during the East Africa famine in 2011. In college, she was a Americans for UNFPA Student Ambassador and travelled to Uganda and Rwanda to blog for Marie Claire on UNFPA programs related to reproductive health, safe motherhood, and human rights.
Fatima graduated in 2009 from Stanford University with degrees in Human Biology and African Studies. She served as President of the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN) and as a staff member at the Women’s Community Center. She received the James W. Lyons Service Award in 2008 from Stanford.
Update: Fatima graduated in 2014 and is a Judicial Law Clerk at U.S. District Court,Southern District of Texas.
Major: Religious Studies Degree: MA School: University of Cambridge Sponsor: Muslim Community Center East Bay (MCC)
John Franklin Rhodus Jr. was born in Kansas City, Missouri. At the age of 19, he embraced Islam in Santa Clara, California. He began his study of Islam with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and visiting Mauritanian scholars such as Shaykh Khatri wuld Baybba and Shaykh Abdullah wuld Ahmadna.
In 1998, Ustadh Yahya traveled to Mauritania to pursue a full-time course of study, where he learned from some of Mauritania’s greatest scholars, including the distinguished, Murabit al-Hajj. He also spent an interim period in Damascus, Syria where he received formal education in the Arabic language, grammar, and Qur’anic recitation.
In 2000, Ustadh Yahya moved to Tarim, Yemen to continue his studies at the prestigious learning institute, Dar al-Mustafa. There, he spent his formative years studying foundational Islamic sciences with the renowned scholars, Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz and Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri, along with other local scholars.
In the latter part of 2005, Ustadh Yahya returned to the U.S. and served as a full-time teacher at Zaytuna Institute. He subsequently returned overseas in 2007 to further his studies while he also participated in religious programs worldwide, lecturing, teaching, and translating. In 2008, he was the official translator for Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri at the Common Word Conference held at Yale University and he has translated for Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz at speaking engagements internationally.
In 2010, Ustadh Yahya completed his Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He finished his Masters Degree in Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in 2012, and during this period, he was a full-time instructor at Zaytuna College.
He travels regularly teaching, lecturing, and conducting weekend seminars and also offers on-line instruction through SeekersGuidance. Ustadh Yahya is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Cambridge and lives in the UK with his wife and three children.
Major: Islamic Law, Arabic, Theology
Degree: B.A. School: Zaytuna College Sponsor: Zaytuna College
My families’ treacherous journey to America still plays a critical role in shaping my identity. My father holds a profound passion for the Islamic Sciences . In fact, it was his passion for Islamic studies, ethics, and morality that compelled him to reject the false dogma and bigotry of heretical political ideologies In Afghanistan during the 1970s. Although his passion for an Islamic conception of justice has been rekindled in a new country, it still brightly shines through his posterity.
In a globalized world where our ethical consciousness is often diluted and corrupted by political and economic interest, our communities desperately find themselves in dire need of committed intellectual and spiritual leaders. Reconstructing our educational institutions and our civic priorities ought to be imperative in rectifying this existential crisis. By serving humanity, utilizing educational resources, and maintaining morally committed to social justice, I believe I can help create a better community, country, and most importantly, a better world.
Major:Islamic Law, Theology
Degree: B.A. School: Zaytuna College Sponsor: Zaytuna College
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I have always had a strong bond with the Glorious Qur’an from a very young age. Due to the primitive stage of my local Muslim community and thereby, the lack of proper facilities, in order to pursue Qur’anic studies, I had to forgo my western education at the age of 11 and enter a full time madrasa. Alhumdulilah, by the grace of the Almighty, I was able to memorize the Qur’an in 2005, at the age of 15.
To further pursue my studies, I went to the prestigious Dar Al-Uloom, in Faisalabad, Pakistan. I took the tutelage of the distinguished and now late, Qari Muhammad Siddiq. I learned the fundamentals of the art of recitation and returned to Houston in 2007.
After my return, I became the primary Imam at a local mosque and began teaching the principles I had learned from my great teachers. In parallel to this, I continued both my secular and my studies in the recitation of the Qur’an. For my Qur’anic studies, I learned from a plethora of Master Qaries such as, Shaykh Abduallah Khan, Shaykh Ahmad Siddiq, and Qari Arshad Hussain who taught me various methodologies of teaching and how to attain precision in the recitation of the Glorious Qur’an. As I taught, the necessity of teaching the Qur’an in a manner that the people of the west could understand became very clear.
I began formulating this methodology in 2007 firstly, by synthesizing all that Allah had taught me through my amazing teachers and then, assimilating on it. I began teaching local Imams in 2011 and this allowed me to begin working with local and national organizations such as, Islamic society of greater Houston, Risala foundation and W.D.Muhammad. By visiting various communities and seeing the stature they bestowed me with, despite the lack of education I had in Islamic sciences, I realized the state the society was in and it reoriented my priorities, and therefore I left my studies of science and enrolled in Zaytuna College.
At Zaytuna, I hope to gain a holistic understanding of both the west and the Islamic tradition, in order that I may properly lead and educate my community. I would also like to formulate other traditional disciplines into a fashion that the average western student can understand and thereby access and engage with the tradition.
Update: Mohammad graduated from Zaytuna and continuing his education.