Farhana Khera – President & Executive Director
Farhana Khera is the first executive director of Muslim Advocates. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates in 2005, Ms. Khera was Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. In the Senate, she worked for six years directly for Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee. Ms. Khera focused substantially on the Patriot Act, racial and religious profiling, and other civil liberties issues raised by the government’s anti-terrorism policies after September 11, 2001. She was also the Senator’s lead staff member developing anti-racial profiling legislation and organizing subcommittee hearings on racial profiling, Ms. Khera wrote the first drafts of the End Racial Profiling Act and organized the first ever Congressional hearing on racial profiling.
Prior to her service with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ms. Khera was an associate with Hogan & Hartson, specializing in commercial and administrative litigation. She also worked with Ross, Dixon & Masback, serving as the lead associate on several pro bono employment discrimination cases, which resulted in the firm being honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
Ms. Khera has been honored by the Auburn Theological Seminary with its Lives of Commitment Award, along with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Barbara Friedman. She has also been recognized by Islamica Magazine as one of “10 Young Muslim Visionaries” for leadership, innovative approaches, and “a level of success that bodes well for America.” Because of her leadership in civil rights, the White House asked Ms. Khera to facilitate the first and only meeting between Muslim community advocates with President Obama.
Ms. Khera has written an op-ed in the Washington Post on hate crime law, and has been quoted or profiled in numerous publications including The New York Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Khera has also made numerous appearances to discuss civil rights issues on national televised news, including CNN, MSNBC and the Charlie Rose Show.
Ms. Khera received her B.A. with honors in Political Science and Economics from Wellesley College and her J.D. from Cornell Law School. At Wellesley, she served as president of the student body and co-founded the first Muslim student organization, al-Muslimat (“The Muslim Women”). At Cornell, Ms. Khera was a finalist in the law school’s annual Cuccia Cup Moot Court Competition and was an editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy.
Naheed Qureshi – Deputy Director
Naheed Qureshi serves as deputy director at Muslim Advocates. Ms. Qureshi was a founding board member of Muslim Advocates and served for four years as the chair of the fundraising committee. She brings to Muslim Advocates a deep expertise in public policy with a focus on civil rights issues.
Ms. Qureshi worked for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she was responsible for national issues related to racial profiling, voting rights, the Patriot Act, and other post-September-11th civil rights violations. In her role as a National Field Organizer, Ms. Qureshi advanced policy issues and educated stakeholders about critical infringements on American civil liberties and freedoms.
Prior to working at the ACLU, Ms. Qureshi spent several years working for the federal government. After 9/11 she was recruited to join the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to help shape the Initiative to Combat Post-9/11 Discrimination. Ms. Qureshi worked with a federal inter-agency team to organize community forums throughout the country, obtain discrimination complaints, rally key opinion leaders on civil rights issues, and conduct outreach to the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities. Ms. Qureshi came to the Justice Department through the Attorney General’s Honors Program where she first served as Attorney Advisor to Immigration Judge Ellen K. Thomas.
After her time at the Justice Department, Ms. Qureshi worked at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where she continued her efforts to build bridges between the federal government and ethnic and immigrant communities on a national scale. She has also gained experience in local government during her time at the City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
Ms. Qureshi received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Johnathan Smith – Legal Director
Johnathan Smith serves as legal director at Muslim Advocates. Most recently, Johnathan served as senior counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, where he helped manage the department’s work on religious discrimination, LGBT rights, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and appellate matters.
Prior to his tenure at the Civil Rights Division, Johnathan served as a staff attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Economic Justice Practice, working on matters involving employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and environmental justice. He served as a lead attorney in Waldon v. Cincinnati Public Schools, a Title VII disparate impact challenge to the unjust termination of two longstanding school employees based on minor, decades-old criminal convictions, and a member of many litigation teams, including Davis v. City of New York, a class action challenge to the NYPD’s trespass enforcement and “stop and frisk” practices in public housing; United States v. New York City Board of Education, a Title VII challenge to the hiring processes for NYC school custodians; and Scott v. Schelder, a NVRA challenge to Louisiana’s failure to adequately provide voter registration opportunities.
Johnathan was a litigation associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, and Jacobson LLP, and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Carl E. Stewart of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
He is a member of the bar for the District of Columbia and state courts in New York and New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.
Johnathan is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Harvard College.
Brenda Abdelall – Charities Program Director
Brenda F. Abdelall serves as director, Program to Strengthen Muslim Charities, at Muslim Advocates. She brings 10 years of legal experience in compliance and regulatory law, as well as executive branch advocacy.
Ms. Abdelall joins Muslim Advocates after serving as a senior director at a healthcare legislative and executive branch advocacy firm in Washington D.C. She recently spent three years teaching U.S. constitutional law at New York University in Abu Dhabi. Her course focused on the religion clauses of the First Amendment and the relationship between government policy involving religion. While in Abu Dhabi, she also served as a compliance officer working on social responsibility programs and developed a compliance program for migrant labor rights.
Ms. Abdelall also spent several years practicing law at Sidley LLP, where she was a member of the healthcare regulatory and public policy group. She gained extensive experience in compliance programs, as well as in legislative and executive branch advocacy during the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
She graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She earned her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was an editor of the Michigan Journal of Law Reform and a founding board member of the Middle Eastern and North African Law Student Association (MENALSA). After graduating from law school, Ms. Abdelall served as a D.C. Bar Pro Bono Graduate Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Legislative Office.
Madihha Ahussain – Staff Attorney
Madihha Ahussain serves as a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates and runs our Program to Counter Anti-Muslim Hate. She’s a nationally known expert on hate crimes and provides direct support and counsel to hate crimes victims. In her position, she travels the country to speak on hate crimes and hateful rhetoric coming from public officials. She also provides support for mosques facing opposition to construction or expansion in violation of the Constitution. In addition, Ms. Ahussain is the lead organizer of the End Hate Coalition, a group of over 65 organizations from across the country focused on fighting anti-Muslim bigotry.
During law school, she excelled in numerous regional and national moot court competitions, including the Whittier Juvenile Law competition where she was a member of the Best Overall Team and was named Best Oral Advocate, as well as the Jerome Prince Memorial Evidence competition where she was a national finalist and was given the award for Best Oral Advocate in the Final Round. She was also honored by the State Bar of California with the Wiley W. Manuel Certificate for Pro Bono Legal Services for outstanding community service during her law school career.
Ms. Ahussain was a recipient of summer public interest fellowships from both the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California and the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation, which allowed her to pursue her interests in civil rights work. She interned with U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California, the Asian Law Caucus, and the ACLU of Southern California. Ms. Ahussain also worked part-time in a small law firm during and after college.
Ms. Ahussain received her B.A. with a double major in Sociology, and Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California at Irvine and earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Scott Simpson – Public Advocacy Director
Scott Simpson joins Muslim Advocates as the public advocacy director. Mr. Simpson will build out a new department that leverages communications and campaigns to impact policies, news coverage, and public opinion about American Muslims.
Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Mr. Simpson was the director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where he directed and executed media initiatives and advocacy campaigns for a 200+ member coalition of diverse national civil rights groups, with emphases on education, voting rights, criminal justice and policing reform, immigration, fair housing, fair lending, LGBT equality, and every major federal civil rights issue of the day.
He is the editor of Unbought and Unbossed: Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition written by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and From the Closet to the Courts: Expanded 30th Anniversary Edition written by his great aunt, gay liberation leader Ruth Simpson.
Mr. Simpson has managed political campaigns in the District of Columbia and ran to represent Ward One on the State Board of Education. His campaign is credited with being the first on record to use the Amharic language to engage with Ethiopian-American voters. Mr. Simpson also served as deputy press secretary to Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), an HIV test counselor and youth advocate, as president of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association and as secretary of Q Street, the association of LGBT policy advocates and lobbyists.
Mr. Simpson received a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing from Southeastern University and Master’s Degree in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
Jabir Faqir – Senior Development Officer
Jabir Faqir joins Muslim Advocates as the senior development officer. Mr. Faqir brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit development, especially annual fund campaign management. He will manage the development team and play an integral role in the growth of Muslim Advocates.
Through development roles for educational, social justice, and religious institutions, Mr. Faqir has raised over $28 million in annual gifts since 2002. Most recently, he served as the Development Manager at Masjidul Waritheen in Oakland, California. He created the mosque’s first annual fund campaign and managed all elements of its direct response marketing.
Prior to that, Mr. Faqir managed annual fund campaigns at the University of California, Berkeley, raising money to benefit student aid, faculty excellence, and research across the campus for the College of Engineering, School of Law (Boalt Hall), Haas School of Business, Cal Athletics and many other departments.
He also worked for Peace Action West, the region’s largest peace and social justice lobby. In the role of Development Associate, he successfully managed a portfolio of donors throughout the state of California.
In addition to over 12 years of nonprofit development, he is also a passionate community activist, dedicating his time to social justice organizing, youth mentoring, and interfaith work.
Mr. Faqir received his B.A. in Mass Communication from Grambling State University.
Alan Iijima – Development Officer
Alan Kando Iijima is the development officer at Muslim Advocates. Previously, Alan graduated from Public Allies, the Americorps leadership and community development program. Through this program, he was placed at the Palo Alto Family YMCA and functioned as their Community Outreach Associate and Marketing Assistant. Alan has also worked as a criminal researcher and verifications specialist at an employment screening facility, as an administrative assistant at the William S. Richardson School of Law, and has volunteered with organizations that focus on issues of community empowerment, societal engagement, and the advancement of civic equity and social justice. Mr. Iijima graduated from Occidental College in 2011 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Asian American Studies.
Melody Sabooki – Development Associate
Melody Sabooki is the development associate at Muslim Advocates. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, she served as an Account Executive at Yelp where she worked closely with local businesses across the United States to develop business portfolios and received numerous awards for being a top seller. Ms. Sabooki previously interned for Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) where she focused on foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa. After college, she spent a year in Indonesia teaching English and working with students to enhance their skills to apply to universities in the United Kingdom and United States. Ms. Sabooki has a passion for serving others and has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and other non-profit organizations focused on children’s education, housing, and women’s rights. Ms. Sabooki graduated from University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in History and a concentration on the Middle East.
Fatima Ali Azam – Administrative Assistant
Fatima Ali Azam is the administrative assistant at Muslim Advocates. Ms. Azam served as the Manager of External Affairs for Al-Bayan, a student-run magazine at the University of California, Berkeley while simultaneously working as a Legal Assistant for a law firm, where she was later promoted to Office Manager. She also participated in the Summer Intensive Internship for the Pretrial Services Division of the Alameda County Superior Court, interviewing criminal defendants and submitting reports to the court to determine eligibility for own recognizance release. A recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, Ms. Azam received her B.A. in English Literature and Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Fatima Khan – Communications Consultant
Fatima Khan is a communications consultant for Muslim Advocates. She has a wide public relations/public affairs background, which includes political campaigns, as well as corporate, technology, and crisis communications through public relations agencies Hill & Knowlton, Porter Novelli, and as an independent consultant.
Her clients through her firms and own practice have included Wal-Mart, PG&E, AT&T, and HP, where she focused on media relations, including on-camera interviews, crisis communications, public affairs campaigns, and business strategy. She was also sent to the Middle East by Hill & Knowlton to manage Samsung’s brand marketing for the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. The campaign she managed earned a finalist spot for the prestigious Sabre PR Awards. Ms. Khan was also part of the corporate social responsibility practices at both Porter Novelli and Hill & Knowlton.
Ms. Khan started her career in the press office of the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), where she worked on an education bill and the Patients’ Bill of Rights. She also directed ethnic outreach for General Wes Clark’s presidential campaign, and conducted political outreach in Michigan for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Ms. Khan earned a B.S. in Communication from Boston University.