ISPU Working Group on Black Muslim Research

ISPU works towards an America where all Muslims are thriving and equal. We study the most diverse faith community in America and strive to ensure that all Muslim communities are represented through our research and education projects.

It is therefore vitally important to uplift Black Muslim experiences throughout our work and organization. However, we have yet to successfully create equity with the presence of Black Muslim voices, experiences, and expertise—despite the fact that Black Muslims represent one-third of the American Muslim community,  pioneered in establishing and growing Islam in America, and have borne the brunt of racial injustice and racism throughout our county’s history. 

To continue to address this important priority, ISPU established a staff and board racial equity committee. This committee is charged with addressing racial equity throughout the organization. 

As part of this initiative, and to specifically address racial equity within our research and education work, we successfully secured funding for the Black Muslim Research Working Group in 2020, a project we conceptualized three years before as a part of our organization’s strategic planning. The Working Group provides a proactive way to examine our research and education projects to ensure that we are amplifying and uplifting Black Muslim experiences and creating an anti-racist  organizational culture within our programming. The ISPU Working Group on Black Muslim Research will be a key component of our broader racial equity work. It will also be an integral component of our research and education work overall, informing every aspect of our projects from inception to implementation. 

We are honored to have the following scholars as members of our inaugural Working Group, each a leader in their field.

Quaiser Abdullah

Quaiser Abdullah, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Communication and Social Influence Department in Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University. He primarily teaches courses on conflict resolution and communication. Quaiser is the faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association at Temple. He is a board member of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, Good Shepherd Mediation Program, and the Association of Muslim Chaplains. He also serves as police chaplain for the 18th district in the Philadelphia Police Department and is currently the COO, interim director of the board, and imam at Quba Institute. Quaiser does consulting and training through his own company, Statera Coaching and Leadership Consulting. Quaiser is a certified Conflict Resolution in Education trainer, professional coach, conflict coach, positive discipline educator, and a trained mediator in the area of transformative mediation, with a focus on family, divorce and custody mediation.

Quaiser’s research interests center around identity and conflict, leadership and conflict management and religious identity. Quaiser authored a chapter entitled “Muslim Leader Formation and Education,” published by SAGE in the Religious Leadership: A Reference Handbook (2012). His chapter, “Daanaa Abdullah: Exemplar of Community Leadership” was published in Democratic Ethical Educational Leadership: Reclaiming School Reform in 2015 by Routledge.

Quaiser Abdullah
Zaheer Ali

Zaheer Ali

As an oral historian, Zaheer Ali believes that in order for us to tell powerful stories, we must first commit ourselves to listening to them, openly, actively, and deeply. For nearly two decades, he has worked as a listener, amplifier, and preserver of the stories of often marginalized voices. His oral history interviews have informed a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Malcolm X, spawned a viral video on Muslim bakers, and inspired a critically acclaimed art installation. His current focus is on leveraging the power of American Muslim storytelling for social and cultural change, as Senior Fellow of the Pillars Fund’s Muslim Narrative Change Cohort for 2020, and as an Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow for 2020-2021.

Previously, as Oral Historian at Brooklyn Historical Society, he directed several community-based initiatives that used the creative power of storytelling (and story-listening) to recover and preserve histories, affirm and celebrate communities, and engage and encourage intercultural exchange. Muslims in Brooklyn, the most recent initiative, is a public history and arts project designed to amplify the stories of Brooklyn’s Muslim communities and contextualize those stories in the broader histories of Brooklyn, New York City, and the United States. His work on the project was featured in a now viral video on the Muslim bean pie for Slate.com’s Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail? that has been viewed over 4.5 million times on Facebook, with over 60,000 shares. For three years, he also co-hosted and co-produced Flatbush + Main, Brooklyn Historical Society’s award-winning monthly podcast, which explored Brooklyn’s past and present through scholarly discussions, historical archives, and oral histories.

Formerly, he served as Project Manager of Columbia University’s Malcolm X Project under the direction of the late Manning Marable, and was a lead researcher for Marable’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011). As a scholar of Malcolm X, he has written for both scholarly and general publics, and has been a featured narrator in two documentaries–CNN’s Witnessed: The Assassination of Malcolm X (2015) and Netflix’s Who Killed Malcolm X? (2020).

A committed educator, he has taught for over a decade as an adjunct lecturer at New York University, including courses on United States history, Malcolm X, and Prince Rogers Nelson. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University, and Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees in History from Columbia University.

Muhammad Khalifa

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is a Professor of Educational Administration and Executive Director of Urban Education at Ohio State University. He is an internationally renowned educational leadership scholar, and his research examines how school leaders enact culturally responsive leadership practices and authentically engage communities. His most recent book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Harvard University Press, 2018), inspired the development of the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute and academies (www.crsli.org). He has published in a wide array of education journals, such as Review of Educational Research, Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and, Educational Administration Quarterly. He is also the co-editor of three other books: Handbook on Urban Educational LeadershipBecoming Critical: The Emergence of Social Justice Scholars, and The School to Prison Pipeline: The Role of Culture and Discipline in School. He is also noted for helping districts perform equity audits as a way that addresses systemic injustice and dehumanization in school and has helped leaders select appropriate reforms that counter inequitable practices in school (www.ajusted.org). He is a former district administrator and science teacher in Detroit Public Schools, and he is also a leading expert of educational reform in African and Asian contexts.

Muhammad Khalifa
Precious Muhammad

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad—author, award-winning speaker, historian, poet, publisher, and Harvard-trained researcher—is nationally known for her ability to educate, inspire, and empower live audiences and readers of diverse racial, religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds about the growth and development of Islam in America and the full diversity of the American Muslim experience.

The preeminent Publishers Weekly, “widely recognized as the [publishing] industry’s publication of record,” describes Precious Rasheeda Muhammad’s chapter, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, American, Muslim, And Woman,” in the book Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, as one of the “best” and “most absorbing essays” … in an anthology that “opens the door for other writers to explore the important and understudied topic of Muslim American women.” Precious’s research, articles, essays, and spoken word have appeared in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), the African American National Biography (Oxford University Press), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press), the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (Greenwood Press), Journal of Africana Religions, Azizah magazine, Upscale magazine, the Muslim Journal, on Beliefnet.Com, LitHub.Com, TheRumpus.Net, Patheos.Com (which hosted her now-retired blog: Muslim History Detective), Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, CNN.Com, The Virginian Pilot, and the channel formerly know as the WB, to name just a few. Additionally, some of her writings have been used in courses at diverse universities such as Harvard, Emory, the University of Michigan, and Spelman. Exhibits Precious curated and/or advised on have been covered in publications such as the New York Times and debuted at the U.S. Department of State.

Her 80-plus page paper “Muslims and the Making of America,” commissioned and published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), was distributed to hundreds of policymakers and change-makers in Washington,D.C., including members of the United States Congress and White House officials.

From vibrant audiences at the Smithsonian, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Harvard Club of New York to the classrooms of Harvard, Yale and Wellesley to the museums, historical societies, and seminaries of places such as Portland, Maine, Dallas, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan, to locations in between and beyond–including Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and a maximum-security prison in Warren, Maine–Precious skillfully educates her audiences. At times, she has shared the stage with internationally respected religious leaders, nationally acclaimed scholars, and respected heads of leading organizations within the American Muslim community such as Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, the late Imam W.D. Mohammed, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson.

Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad

Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad, PsyD is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healing and emotional well-being in the American Muslim community through dialogue, education and training. She is also the founding co-Director of the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition, an initiative launched in collaboration with Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative to address need for effective planning, preparedness and organizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Muslim Wellness Foundation, Dr. Rashad has established the annual Black Muslim Psychology Conference and the Deeply Rooted Emerging Leaders Fellowship for Black Muslim young adults. She is the advisor to Penn Sapelo, the first Black Muslim student organization at UPenn, and served three years as the Muslim Chaplain at UPenn. Dr. Rashad’s clinical and research areas of interest include: spirituality in psychotherapy, wellness and community resource building, story-telling as a way of facilitating connection, healing and closure in family of origin, mental health stigma in faith and minority communities, first generation college students and emerging adults of color; diversity, religious identity and multicultural issues in counseling, healing justice and faith based activism, racial trauma and healing, psychological impact of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Blackness, Black Muslim psychology and Black Muslim intersectional invisibility. Dr. Rashad graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and MEd in Psychological Services. She obtained further graduate education, earning a second Masters in Restorative Practices & Youth Counseling (MRP) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. She completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA.

Dr Rashad describes herself most importantly and simply as a Mama, Auntie, sister and friend. A baker, psychologist, family historian, genealogist and bean pie evangelist. She writes, reflects, and tweets on topics related to the intersections of race, religion, identity, trauma, healing, and collective well-being. She also shares random anecdotes about her Tiny Human, her two Teens and her pandemic pets m: cat, John Brown, and hounds: Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey.

Quaiser Abdullah

Quaiser Abdullah

Quaiser Abdullah, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Communication and Social Influence Department in Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University. He primarily teaches courses on conflict resolution and communication. Quaiser is the faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association at Temple. He is a board member of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, Good Shepherd Mediation Program, and the Association of Muslim Chaplains. He also serves as police chaplain for the 18th district in the Philadelphia Police Department and is currently the COO, interim director of the board, and imam at Quba Institute. Quaiser does consulting and training through his own company, Statera Coaching and Leadership Consulting. Quaiser is a certified Conflict Resolution in Education trainer, professional coach, conflict coach, positive discipline educator, and a trained mediator in the area of transformative mediation, with a focus on family, divorce and custody mediation.

Quaiser’s research interests center around identity and conflict, leadership and conflict management and religious identity. Quaiser authored a chapter entitled “Muslim Leader Formation and Education,” published by SAGE in the Religious Leadership: A Reference Handbook (2012). His chapter, “Daanaa Abdullah: Exemplar of Community Leadership” was published in Democratic Ethical Educational Leadership: Reclaiming School Reform in 2015 by Routledge.

Zaheer Ali

Zaheer Ali

As an oral historian, Zaheer Ali believes that in order for us to tell powerful stories, we must first commit ourselves to listening to them, openly, actively, and deeply. For nearly two decades, he has worked as a listener, amplifier, and preserver of the stories of often marginalized voices. His oral history interviews have informed a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Malcolm X, spawned a viral video on Muslim bakers, and inspired a critically acclaimed art installation. His current focus is on leveraging the power of American Muslim storytelling for social and cultural change, as Senior Fellow of the Pillars Fund’s Muslim Narrative Change Cohort for 2020, and as an Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow for 2020-2021.

Previously, as Oral Historian at Brooklyn Historical Society, he directed several community-based initiatives that used the creative power of storytelling (and story-listening) to recover and preserve histories, affirm and celebrate communities, and engage and encourage intercultural exchange. Muslims in Brooklyn, the most recent initiative, is a public history and arts project designed to amplify the stories of Brooklyn’s Muslim communities and contextualize those stories in the broader histories of Brooklyn, New York City, and the United States. His work on the project was featured in a now viral video on the Muslim bean pie for Slate.com’s Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail? that has been viewed over 4.5 million times on Facebook, with over 60,000 shares. For three years, he also co-hosted and co-produced Flatbush + Main, Brooklyn Historical Society’s award-winning monthly podcast, which explored Brooklyn’s past and present through scholarly discussions, historical archives, and oral histories.

Formerly, he served as Project Manager of Columbia University’s Malcolm X Project under the direction of the late Manning Marable, and was a lead researcher for Marable’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011). As a scholar of Malcolm X, he has written for both scholarly and general publics, and has been a featured narrator in two documentaries–CNN’s Witnessed: The Assassination of Malcolm X (2015) and Netflix’s Who Killed Malcolm X? (2020).

A committed educator, he has taught for over a decade as an adjunct lecturer at New York University, including courses on United States history, Malcolm X, and Prince Rogers Nelson. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University, and Master of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees in History from Columbia University.

Muhammad Khalifa

Muhammad Khalifa

Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is a Professor of Educational Administration and Executive Director of Urban Education at Ohio State University. He is an internationally renowned educational leadership scholar, and his research examines how school leaders enact culturally responsive leadership practices and authentically engage communities. His most recent book, Culturally Responsive School Leadership (Harvard University Press, 2018), inspired the development of the Culturally Responsive School Leadership Institute and academies (www.crsli.org). He has published in a wide array of education journals, such as Review of Educational Research, Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and, Educational Administration Quarterly. He is also the co-editor of three other books: Handbook on Urban Educational LeadershipBecoming Critical: The Emergence of Social Justice Scholars, and The School to Prison Pipeline: The Role of Culture and Discipline in School. He is also noted for helping districts perform equity audits as a way that addresses systemic injustice and dehumanization in school and has helped leaders select appropriate reforms that counter inequitable practices in school (www.ajusted.org). He is a former district administrator and science teacher in Detroit Public Schools, and he is also a leading expert of educational reform in African and Asian contexts.

Precious Muhammad

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad

Precious Rasheeda Muhammad—author, award-winning speaker, historian, poet, publisher, and Harvard-trained researcher—is nationally known for her ability to educate, inspire, and empower live audiences and readers of diverse racial, religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds about the growth and development of Islam in America and the full diversity of the American Muslim experience.

The preeminent Publishers Weekly, “widely recognized as the [publishing] industry’s publication of record,” describes Precious Rasheeda Muhammad’s chapter, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, American, Muslim, And Woman,” in the book Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak, as one of the “best” and “most absorbing essays” … in an anthology that “opens the door for other writers to explore the important and understudied topic of Muslim American women.” Precious’s research, articles, essays, and spoken word have appeared in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), the African American National Biography (Oxford University Press), Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak (Beacon Press), the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States (Greenwood Press), Journal of Africana Religions, Azizah magazine, Upscale magazine, the Muslim Journal, on Beliefnet.Com, LitHub.Com, TheRumpus.Net, Patheos.Com (which hosted her now-retired blog: Muslim History Detective), Minnesota Public Radio, National Public Radio, CNN.Com, The Virginian Pilot, and the channel formerly know as the WB, to name just a few. Additionally, some of her writings have been used in courses at diverse universities such as Harvard, Emory, the University of Michigan, and Spelman. Exhibits Precious curated and/or advised on have been covered in publications such as the New York Times and debuted at the U.S. Department of State.

Her 80-plus page paper “Muslims and the Making of America,” commissioned and published by the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), was distributed to hundreds of policymakers and change-makers in Washington,D.C., including members of the United States Congress and White House officials.

From vibrant audiences at the Smithsonian, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Harvard Club of New York to the classrooms of Harvard, Yale and Wellesley to the museums, historical societies, and seminaries of places such as Portland, Maine, Dallas, Texas, and Detroit, Michigan, to locations in between and beyond–including Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and a maximum-security prison in Warren, Maine–Precious skillfully educates her audiences. At times, she has shared the stage with internationally respected religious leaders, nationally acclaimed scholars, and respected heads of leading organizations within the American Muslim community such as Imam Zaid Shakir, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, the late Imam W.D. Mohammed, and Dr. Ingrid Mattson.

Kameelah Rashad

Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad

Kameelah is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healing and emotional well-being in the American Muslim community through dialogue, education, and training. Muslim Wellness Foundation envisions a future in which faith communities are at the forefront of mental health advocacy and committed to developing an inclusive culture of compassion, understanding, and holistic health.

Kameelah also serves as the Fellow for Spirituality, Wellness and Social Justice at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and advisor for Penn Sapelo, the first Black Muslim Student organization on campus. In this capacity, Kameelah supports students in their exploration of faith-based activism, spirituality, emotional well-being, and healing. Working in conjunction with the Chaplain’s Office, she collaborates with other cultural centers on campus to facilitate intersectional conversations on race, religion, identity, belonging, and advocacy. Kameelah served three years as the Muslim Chaplain at UPenn and continues to facilitate discussions on religious identity development and challenges faced by American Muslim youth. She is also a resource to the wider Penn community and administration on Islam and Muslims.

In addition to Kameelah’s involvement in mental health advocacy and religious life, she is a proud social justice activist and founding member of Muslims Make It Plain, a coalition of concerned Muslims working to inspire, empower, and support grassroots mobilization and direct action to address police brutality, racial and religious profiling, unlawful surveillance, and the overpolicing of America’s Black and Brown communities. In December 2014, Muslims Make It Plain organized the first Muslim-led rally and march in the country in support of BlackLivesMatter. Kameelah serves as a board member of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths. Further, Kameelah is an advisory board member of Stony Point Center, Social Health & Medical Services (SHAMS) Clinic and the Husayn Center for Social Justice, a Muslim-run social services and advocacy center that promotes health and wellness for the residents of Trenton, NJ.

Kameelah is a 2014 Ariane deRothschild Fellow and a recipient of the 2014 Student Multiculturalism and Salter Family Memorial Education Awards and the 2017 Matthew Smith Education Award from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA). Since 2015, Kameelah has served as the Diversity Focus Chair for PPA’s Graduate Student Board. National Council for Behavioral Health selected Kameelah for the prestigious 2015 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Community Impact Award and honored her as a “passionate, committed, and outstanding behavioral health leader.” President and CEO Linda Rosenberg offered the following praise: “Kameelah facilitates…with sensitivity to the religious, spiritual and sociocultural context in which Muslims experience and understand the underlying factors that contribute to…lack of emotional well being.” Kameelah was also selected by El-Hibri Foundation for the 2017 Community Builder Award for her innovative work to build capacity of American Muslim communities to improve mental health and wellness and promote more inclusive norms.

Kameelah’s clinical and research areas of interest include: spirituality in psychotherapy; wellness and community resource building; storytelling as a way of facilitating connection; healing and closure in family of origin; mental health stigma in faith and minority communities; first-generation college students and emerging adults of color; diversity, religious identity, and multicultural issues in counseling; healing justice and faith-based activism; racial trauma and healing; psychological impact of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Blackness; Black Muslim psychology and Black Muslim intersectional invisibility. Kameelah’s insights and perspectives have been featured in The Huffington PostThe Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Patheos-MuslimMuslimMattersThe Pennsylvania Gazette, and NPR’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane.

Kameelah graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology and MEd in Psychological Services. She has pursued further graduate education, completing a second Master’s in Restorative Practices & Youth Counseling (MRP) from the International Institute for Restorative Practices and obtaining a post-master’s certificate in Family Therapy from the Philadelphia Child & Family Therapy Training Center. Kameelah is a certified instructor in Adult, Higher Education & Youth Mental Health First Aid. She is pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA.

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