Staff

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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 op-eds in the Washington Post and New York Times, and has been quoted or profiled in numerous publications including The New York Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico, and the Los Angeles Times. Ms. Khera has also made numerous appearances to discuss civil rights issues on national televised news, including CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN, 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.

Scott Simpson – Public Advocacy Director

Scott Simpson serves as Muslim Advocates’ public advocacy director. Mr. Simpson leads a department that leverages communications and campaigns to impact policies, news coverage, and public opinion about American Muslims. Mr. Simpson also serves on faculty of the Howard University School of Communications.

Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, he was the director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where he directed and executed advocacy campaigns and media initiatives 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, federal nominations, and more. There, he also authored reports on the state of voting rights in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, including “The Great Poll Closure” and “Warning Signs.”

He is the editor of two books, “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 is credited with being the first American campaign 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. 

Sirine Shebaya – Senior Staff Attorney

Sirine Shebaya is a senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Ms. Shebaya spent several years advocating for the civil rights of immigrants and other communities of color. Her work focuses on the Muslim Ban, border searches, immigrants’ rights, and various civil rights matters affecting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.

In her previous role as Program Director of the Virginia Justice Program at the Capital Area Immigrant’s Rights Coalition, she supervised and litigated criminal-immigration cases before the immigration court and federal courts and advised criminal defense attorneys on various immigration-related matters. Before that, Ms. Shebaya initiated and directed the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland’s Immigrants’ Rights Program, where she developed a full portfolio of immigrants’ rights litigation, advocacy, and public education on immigration detention, enforcement, and criminal-immigration matters, and played a leading role in a campaign that resulted in a wave of county policies prohibiting the detention of immigrants for ICE at local jails.

She currently sits on the board, and previously served as the chair, of the Dulles Justice Coalition, an organization of lawyers, organizers, translators and community volunteers created to assist travelers to Dulles Airport affected by the Muslim Ban. She is also a board member of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild.

Ms. Shebaya has published several reports on immigrants’ rights, and has written op-eds, blogs, and scholarly articles on a range of civil rights, immigrants’ rights, and human rights subjects. She has argued cases in federal and state courts, and has conducted trainings for lawyers on civil rights issues as well as community Know Your Rights presentations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

She is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, the states of Maryland and New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

During law school, she participated in several clinics including the Civil Rights & National Security Clinic, the Worker & Immigrants’ Rights Advocacy Clinic, the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.

Madihha Ahussain – Special Counsel for Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Madihha Ahussain serves as special counsel for anti-muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates and heads the Program to Counter Anti-Muslim Hate. Ms. Ahussain works with a coalition of organizations to combat anti-Muslim efforts by public officials. In addition, she monitors hate crimes targeting American Muslims, works with communities to respond to threats or incidents of violence, and mosque opposition.

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.

Juvaria Khan – Staff Attorney

Juvaria Khan serves as a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. Her work includes impact litigation and legal advocacy on a variety of matters, including border searches, surveillance, immigration policies, and the discriminatory enactment and implementation of state and federal laws.

Prior to joining Muslim Advocates Ms. Khan was in private practice, where she maintained an active pro bono docket focusing on constitutional and immigration issues. Her work included a RLUIPA case on behalf of an Islamic Society denied a permit to build a mosque, FOIA litigation against the NYPD for its refusal to release records related to its surveillance of Muslims, asylum work on behalf of clients facing persecution based on their sexual orientation, and a class action challenging the mental health services Mississippi provided to children with disabilities. In recognition of her work, she received the Empire State Counsel Award from the New York State Bar.

Ms. Khan most recently worked as a litigation associate at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and as a law clerk to the Honorable Michael P. Shea of the District of Connecticut. She graduated as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar from Columbia Law School, where she interned at the ACLU and served as a Teaching Fellow for a course focused on civil liberties in the school setting. For her continued commitment to public interest work, Ms. Khan received a fellowship from the National South Asian Bar Association. She also graduated cum laude from New York University, where she studied Political Science and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and was involved in a variety of civil rights-focused organizations.

Nimra Azmi – Staff Attorney

Nimra Azmi is a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. In this capacity, she uses litigation and other tools of legal advocacy to protect American Muslim individuals and communities from discrimination and bigotry.

Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Ms. Azmi was a litigation associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York where her practice ranged from corporate and commercial disputes to intellectual property and antitrust litigation. She was also involved with a number of pro bono matters, including successfully representing clients seeking political asylum and working on a criminal appeal in New York state court. In recognition of her pro bono efforts, she was awarded a Cadwalader Pro Bono Achievement Award.

During law school, Ms. Azmi served as a research assistant to Professor Catharine MacKinnon and Professor Alex Whiting, writing memoranda on issues related to the rights and treatment of Muslim women under Islamic law and the adjudication of Serbian war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugoslavia. She participated in Harvard’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic and was a contributing student editor to Harvard Law’s SHARIAsource blog. Ms. Azmi also served as an executive editor of the Harvard International Law Journal. Her writing on the cultural and legal implications of anti-Muslim bigotry has been published in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Colorlines, and JURIST.

Ms. Azmi received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. in History cum laude from Barnard College of Columbia University. She is admitted to practice before the New York State Bar.

Matthew Callahan – Staff Attorney

Matt Callahan is a staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. In this capacity, he uses impact litigation, public education, and other advocacy strategies to combat anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination at the federal state and local levels.

Before joining Muslim Advocates, Matt was a litigation associate in the San Francisco office of Schiff Hardin LLP, where he specialized in free speech, product liability, and employment cases. His case work included successfully briefing a motion to dismiss a First Amendment case brought by the ACLU of San Diego, briefing and arguing a successful anti-SLAPP motion in a million-dollar defamation case, and successfully suing for the return of a client’s cat.

Before starting at the firm, Matt served as a technology & civil liberties fellow at the ACLU of Northern California. His work focused on online free speech, digital privacy, and government surveillance, as well as litigation under the U.S. and California Constitutions.

Matt earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law. During law school, he won several awards for oral advocacy, including tying for U.S. National Champion Team of the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. Matt completed undergraduate studies at Harvard College, where he earned an A.B. cum laude in English & American Literature & Language. Matt is admitted to the bar in the state of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern Districts of California.

Alan Iijima – Development Officer

Alan Kando Iijima serves as a 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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Phil Bracey – Legal Assistant

Phil Bracey is the legal assistant at Muslim Advocates. Prior to joining Muslim Advocates, Phil was an Advocacy Intern with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights (ADHRB) in Bahrain, where he conducted research into human rights conditions in the Arab Gulf. His work in this regard included a focus on state torture and violations of the rights to free expression, assembly, and association. In his role at ADHRB, Phil also provided legal research and assisted in drafting and submitting individual complaints to various United Nations treaty bodies. Phil recently graduated with an MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science, where he served as an editor for his department’s Human Rights Blog and contributed to a series on international migration. His research at LSE focused on refugee movements, and he has previously served as an on-site assistant at Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos, where he worked with a team primarily providing assistance to families and unaccompanied children. Phil received his B.A. in Political Science and History from Rutgers University.

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.