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Muslims in America: A Learning Launch for the Philanthropic Community

Thursday, February 18, 2021

12:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. CST 

Relationships with philanthropic and sponsoring institutions and American Muslim social, civic, and cultural service organizations are strengthening. In this engagement, Muslim organizations and their allies have recognized the need for improving fact-based knowledge, as well as removing systemic barriers that historically prevent Muslim American nonprofit organizations from acquiring equitable opportunity to build relationships and receive funding and resources.

Welcome to the 2021 Year of Learning. During the Fall of 2020, a committee of leaders convened to start planning the first of a series of yearlong events that will foster a deeper understanding of American Muslims, Muslim NGO communities, nuances of funding, and specific issues these communities face.

February 18th is the Year of Learning’s - Learning Launch. Please join us as we strengthen our collective power to open pathways to impactful giving for Muslim American non-profit organizations serving in the United States. Leaders from across the Philanthropic Community, Government, and Corporations have committed to joining us.



We are excited to have you join us at the Learning Launch. To prepare for that afternoon together, we have four items we’d like you to review as prework.


Program Agenda 

Welcome & Overview | 

12:00 p.m. - 12:20 p.m. Central Time

Vocalist Tammy McCann Simpkins and Vocalist and Pianist Kenny Davis


Land Acknowledgement

Anne-Marie St Germaine, Woods Fund


Unity Prayer

Imam Makram El-Amin

Executive Director, Al Maa'uun


Conveners Welcome:

Dilnaz Waraich, Waraich Family Fund

Hilesh Patel, Leadership Investment Program Officer, Field Foundation

Dr. Dilara Sayeed, President, IL Muslim Civic Coalition


Part I | Who Are We? Where Do Our Stories Intersect? 

12:20 p.m. - 12:55 p.m. Central Time

We will share how Muslim Americans see themselves in the context of the American story. What are the challenges and the struggles Muslims face in the context of the American Experience? What are the assets they bring to this work?

Featured Presenter:

Petra Alsoofy, Outreach & Partnerships Manager, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) - “Who are Muslim Americans?

Breakout Lead Introduction: Roohi Younus, Program Manager & Facilitator, Community Collaboration Initiative, Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy


Part II | What Does Success Look Like? 

12:55 p.m. - 1:40 p.m. Central Time

A panel will lay the foundation of what success looks like when a funder or a government agency partners with the American Muslim Community? What impact is made? What challenges can we overcome together?

Moderator: Arshia Ali-Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA)

Featured Panelists:

Monique Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer, Forefront

Daniel Ash, Associate Vice President of Community Impact, The Chicago Community Trust

Itedal Shalabi, Co-Founder Arab American Family Services (AAFS)

Jawaad Abdul Rahman, Director of Development and Executive Producer, Unity Productions Foundation (UPF)

Mohamed Gula, National Organizing Director and Executive Director of Emgage’s Virginia chapter, Emgage USA



Intermission | 1:40 p.m.  - 1:50 p.m. Central Time


Part III  |  Cultural Experience and Exploration

1:50 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Central Time

This segment of the Learning Launch will provide participants with an opportunity to explore a Muslim American cultural experience with artists, storytellers, and musicians.

Featured Speaker: Hussein Rashid, Educator

Breakout Lead Introduction: Jenan Mohajir, Senior Director of Leadership, Interfaith Youth Core

Featured Breakout Sessions and Presenters:


Breakout 1: Listening While Muslim: Sonic Soul Journey through Music

Asad Ali Jafri, Executive Director, South Asia Institute

Abdul-Rehman Malik, Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Yale

From Brooklyn to Bamako, this listening party takes us on a sonic soul journey that crosses continents, languages and genres. Join Abdul-Rehman Malik and Asad Ali Jafri for an intimate aural exploration of music at the intersection of faith, culture and politics.

Breakout 2: The Power of Narrative through Film 

Assia Boundaoui, Filmmaker (The Feeling of Being Watched) and Founder of the Inverse Surveillance Project

Zeshawn Ali and Aman Ali, Creators Two Gods (documentary film)

Who gets to decide which stories are told and who gets to tell them? This discussion is about how film can capture the everyday lives of Muslims and why it’s important to be present on screen—and behind the scenes.

Breakout 3: Arts as Activism and Healing

Sadia Nawab, Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Rami Nashashibi, Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Drea D’Nur, Producer and Vocal Artist (tentative)

Exploration of how community-based organizations like IMAN have used arts as a way to organize and heal communities.

Breakout 4: American Medina: Stories of Muslim Chicago

Dr. Peter Alter, Chief Historian, Chicago History Museum and Director, the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History

Chicago History Museum’s exhibit featuring stories of 100 Muslim Chicagoans discussing their faith, identities, and personal journeys. Virtual tour by Dr. Peter Alter and the curating team.

Breakout 5: Muslims are Too Funny

Fawzia Mirza, Comedian, Actress and Producer

Sarah Harvard, Comedian

How are artists using comedy to reclaim narrative? Join Fawzia Mirza in an honest conversation about how comedy can bring out inner truths and realities while connecting people through laughter.

Breakout 6: African American Legacy

Margari Hill, Muslim ARC

Every aspect of the Muslim American story is impacted and a result of the African American community.  This segment shares the cultural impact of this pivotal Muslim American community.

Breakout 7: The Untold Story of Muslim Humanitarian Philanthropy

Abbas Barzegar, Ph.D. Director, Horizon Forum, a fiscally sponsored project of the Proteus Fund

Who knew that the oldest university in the world was endowed by a Muslim woman? Or that Muslims around the world contribute billions of dollars annually to aid and relief programs. During this session, Dr. Abbas Barzegar, affiliate faculty of the Lilly School of Philanthropy, discusses the historical legacy of Muslim humanitarian and philanthropic cultures and practices.


Part IV: Relationship Building - Digging Deep with New Colleagues and Friends

2:35 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Central Time 

Breakout Lead Introduction: Kalia Abiade, Vice President of Programs, Pillars Fund

This critical segment brings it all together. Participants will join break out groups formed based on the registration info they provided. Conversations will build and strengthen relationships so that there is impact far beyond the day.


Closing | Beyond the Learning Launch - A Year of Learning 

3:00 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. Central Time 

The Learning Launch Conveners will share what it looks like beyond the learning launch.

Featured Speaker: Reema Kamran, Co-Founder, IL Muslim Civic Coalition

Quaker Style, authentic reflections by participants.