ISPU Educators

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) envisions a vibrant and truly pluralistic America, where Muslims are strong and equal participants, and believes that relevant, rigorous research in the right hands will help us get there. In an effort to increase the reach and influence of our research, we have assembled a team of ISPU Educators. Each ISPU Educator brings their unique expertise and experiences as local community leaders, outreach educators, and interfaith partners. They are trained in the latest ISPU research and equipped with data to strengthen the important work they are already doing. 

ISPU receives many speaking requests each year—more than our staff can take on. Our ISPU Educators are certified and prepared to speak and present to audiences of Muslim and allied communities.

A group photo of all 11 of the ISPU
From left to right: Hind Makki (IL), M. Naeem Nash (NJ), Afraz Khan (NY), Hassan Shibly (FL), Azka Mahmood (GA), Luna Banuri (UT), Suzy Ismail (NJ), Aamina Ahmed (MI), Tara Zaafran (TX), Chris Murray (DC), Marwa Abdalla (CA)
Marwa Abdalla

MARWA ABDALLA

Southern California

Marwa Abdalla is a researcher and community educator in the fields of communication, culture, and religion. She received her bachelor’s in political science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and her master’s in communication from San Diego State University, and studied Islam and Quran with the American Open University. Marwa has received numerous awards for her work, including the President’s Award for Research, the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, and ISPU’s Young Scholar Award for Outstanding Research on American Muslims. Marwa co-authored Covering American Muslims Objectively and Creatively: A Guide for Media Professionals, published by ISPU. She has been invited to speak on the diverse experiences of American Muslims and the challenges of xenophobia and Islamophobia in various contexts throughout the nation.

AAMINA AHMED

Detroit, Michigan

Aamina Ahmed coordinates and manages programs and alumni for New American Leaders. A deep commitment to creating spaces where everyone feels like they truly belong led Aamina to a multitude of community groups and nonprofits. She has straddled life in the Midwest and Pakistan and understands what it feels like to teeter between othering and belonging. Formerly, she led APIA Vote MI. To her, building power means commitment to deep relationships and hard work. Her confidence that we can all create the change we need seeds her commitment to ISPU.

Aamina Ahmed
Luna Banuri

LUNA BANURI

Salt Lake City, Utah, also available for presentations in Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado

Luna Banuri is a seasoned consultant in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors with a background in legal education and 25 years of experience in strategy, community, and organizational development. Some of her former clients include UNDP, UNICEF, ADB, and the World Bank. She is the founder and director of TeleTaleem, a nonprofit that leverages the power of technology, innovative approaches, and partnerships to solve the toughest global development challenges in education in her native country of Pakistan. Since relocating to Salt Lake City from Chicago in 2014, Luna has been deeply involved with her local community. She is currently a founding board member and executive director for the Utah Muslim Civic League, where she has established a network to amplify Muslim voices across the state. She was appointed to the Mayor of Salt Lake City’s Human Rights Commission in 2018 and to the Governor of Utah’s MLK Commission in 2019. Luna is also a board member at the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, Spy Hop, and ISPU, among others.

SUZY ISMAIL

Princeton, New Jersey

Suzy Ismail is the founder and director of Cornerstone, a global, nonprofit, faith-based communication organization that focuses on youth, family, marriage, identity, and relationship rebuilding. She previously taught as a visiting professor in the communication departments of Rutgers and DeVry University for over a decade. Suzy has written several books, including Modern Muslim Marriage, 9 to 5, and When Muslim Marriage Fails. She leads workshops, lectures, and other programs both nationally and internationally that specialize in educating and empowering women, youth, and other vulnerable populations. Suzy has presented on the topic of marriage and family at public and private universities around the world. She has also traveled to Syria to work with refugees and continues her work with the International Rescue Committee providing integration intervention. She received the Ambassador for Peace and Visionary Muslim Award, as well as other recognitions, for her humanitarian work.

Suzy Ismail
Afraz Khan

AFRAZ KHAN

New York, New York

Afraz Khan works for the American Civil Liberties Union in the Racial Justice Program as a member of their legal support staff. Previously, Afraz served as a community liaison at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, where he worked alongside elected officials and community boards to develop reforms on local issues, such as affordable housing and access to mental health resources. Afraz currently serves part-time as a Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University, where he works with university staff to build out programming and resources for the Muslim community. He also travels across the tri-state area delivering speeches and facilitating workshops for various organizations and schools on topics such as institutionalized racism, Islamophobia, and the American Muslim experience.

AZKA MAHMOOD

Atlanta, Georgia

Azka Mahmood is a Pakistani-American advocate for human and civil rights. She has a background in research, policy analysis, and social inequalities. Azka believes in creating research-informed social change and policy reform. She holds a master’s degree in Sociology and a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Azka’s focus is on American Muslims and their engagement in social and political spheres. She has been an activist for social justice in a personal capacity as well as through interfaith and inter-minority collaborations. Azka has spearheaded several interfaith outreach activities through her local mosques. As part of CAIR Florida, she designed and conducted a teacher training to create culturally sensitive classrooms. She also worked with ISPU to organize and facilitate educational workshops for journalists and educators in the Midwest.

Azka Mahmood
Hind Makki

HIND MAKKI

Chicago, Illinois

Hind Makki is an interfaith and anti-racism educator who holds a degree in International Relations from Brown University. A former fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, Hind is the founder and curator of Side Entrance, an award-winning website documenting women’s prayer experiences in mosques. Hind served on the Islamic Society of North America’s Mosque Inclusion Taskforce and was an advisor to the ISPU project Reimagining Muslim Spaces, consulting with American mosques on gender, economic, and convert diversity. In 2018, Hind was featured as one of CNN’s 25 Influential American Muslims. Locally, Hind serves on the advisory boards of the Br. Jeffrey Gros, FSC Institute for Dialogue, Justice, and Social Action at Lewis University and the Chicago History Museum’s exhibit “American Medina: Stories of Muslim Chicago.”

CHRIS MURRAY

Washington, DC metropolitan area

Chris Murray is a National Board Certified Teacher of social studies who has taught in public schools and independent schools since 2005. As a professional development facilitator, Chris has consulted and presented for numerous organizations on the importance of religious literacy in schools. In 2016, Chris created the nation’s first district-level religious literacy course, which has trained over 250 educators and been covered in the Washington Post. Chris’s teaching on American Muslims has been featured by Teaching Tolerance Magazine and CBS News, and has been recognized by the 9/11 Tribute Foundation and Tanenbaum Center for Religious Center for Religious Understanding. Chris holds an MA in Holocaust Studies, MEd in Special Education, MS in Curriculum Design, and BA in History.

Chris Murray
M Naeem Nash

M. NAEEM NASH

New York/New Jersey metropolitan area

M. Naeem Nash has spent more than 25 years working in higher education and has more than 20 years of classroom experience teaching history. He started his teaching career as a public school social studies teacher and later took on assignments as an adjunct history professor at Hudson County Community College. Nash presently serves full-time in the Department of History at Essex County College. He earned an MA in history from Fairleigh Dickinson University and two BA degrees—one in African American and African studies and another in history from Rutgers University–Newark. Nash is the author of Islam Among Urban Blacks: Muslims in Newark, New Jersey: A Social History and Islam and the Black Experience: African American History Reconsidered. He is known for his writing and public programs on African American Muslim history in New Jersey and the greater Newark, NJ community.

HASSAN SHIBLY

Tampa, Florida

Hassan Shibly is chief executive director of CAIR-Florida. He holds a law degree from the University at Buffalo School of Law and lectures regularly on issues relating to Islam, American Muslims, and civil rights. Hassan has taught courses on Islamic belief, law, history, spirituality, and culture, and he is a board member of the Coalition for Civil Freedoms. Hassan actively works with various interfaith and social service organizations to assist those in need and promote cooperation and understanding between diverse faiths and cultures. He has appeared numerous times in both local and national media outlets including CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Toronto Star, and the Buffalo News for his work protecting civil liberties and promoting understanding of the Muslim faith.

Hassan Shibly
Tara Zaafran

TARA ZAAFRAN

Houston, Texas

Tara Zaafran is an educator, mother, and respected community member. She graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology/immunology and later obtained a master’s degree from the University of Houston in curriculum and instruction-secondary education. She currently teaches middle school social studies at ILM Academy in Houston while pursuing a master’s degree in Islamic education, and she hopes to pursue a doctorate in education. Tara works tirelessly on developing high standards for curriculum that are challenging and enriching for students in their development of self identity. As a passionate advocate for interfaith dialogue, Tara serves on the advisory board of the Risala Foundation, Houston’s only Muslim civic speaker organization. She is also the co-chair of the Founder’s Advisory Committee of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Marwa Abdalla

MARWA ABDALLA

Southern California

Marwa Abdalla is a researcher and community educator in the fields of communication, culture, and religion. She received her bachelor’s in political science from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and her master’s in communication from San Diego State University, and studied Islam and Quran with the American Open University. Marwa has received numerous awards for her work, including the President’s Award for Research, the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, and ISPU’s Young Scholar Award for Outstanding Research on American Muslims. Marwa co-authored Covering American Muslims Objectively and Creatively: A Guide for Media Professionals, published by ISPU. She has been invited to speak on the diverse experiences of American Muslims and the challenges of xenophobia and Islamophobia in various contexts throughout the nation.

Aamina Ahmed

AAMINA AHMED

Detroit, Michigan

Aamina Ahmed coordinates and manages programs and alumni for New American Leaders. A deep commitment to creating spaces where everyone feels like they truly belong led Aamina to a multitude of community groups and nonprofits. She has straddled life in the Midwest and Pakistan and understands what it feels like to teeter between othering and belonging. Formerly, she led APIA Vote MI. To her, building power means commitment to deep relationships and hard work. Her confidence that we can all create the change we need seeds her commitment to ISPU.

Luna Banuri

LUNA BANURI

Salt Lake City, Utah

Luna Banuri is a seasoned consultant in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors with a background in legal education and 25 years of experience in strategy, community, and organizational development. Some of her former clients include UNDP, UNICEF, ADB, and the World Bank. She is the founder and director of TeleTaleem, a nonprofit that leverages the power of technology, innovative approaches, and partnerships to solve the toughest global development challenges in education in her native country of Pakistan. Since relocating to Salt Lake City from Chicago in 2014, Luna has been deeply involved with her local community. She is currently a founding board member and executive director for the Utah Muslim Civic League, where she has established a network to amplify Muslim voices across the state. She was appointed to the Mayor of Salt Lake City’s Human Rights Commission in 2018 and to the Governor of Utah’s MLK Commission in 2019. Luna is also a board member at the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, Spy Hop, and ISPU, among others.

Suzy Ismail

SUZY ISMAIL

Princeton, New Jersey

Suzy Ismail is the founder and director of Cornerstone, a global, nonprofit, faith-based communication organization that focuses on youth, family, marriage, identity, and relationship rebuilding. She previously taught as a visiting professor in the communication departments of Rutgers and DeVry University for over a decade. Suzy has written several books, including Modern Muslim Marriage, 9 to 5, and When Muslim Marriage Fails. She leads workshops, lectures, and other programs both nationally and internationally that specialize in educating and empowering women, youth, and other vulnerable populations. Suzy has presented on the topic of marriage and family at public and private universities around the world. She has also traveled to Syria to work with refugees and continues her work with the International Rescue Committee providing integration intervention. She received the Ambassador for Peace and Visionary Muslim Award, as well as other recognitions, for her humanitarian work.

Afraz Khan

AFRAZ KHAN

New York, New York

Afraz Khan works for the American Civil Liberties Union in the Racial Justice Program as a member of their legal support stuff. Previously, Afraz served as a community liaison at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, where he worked alongside elected officials and community boards to develop reforms on local issues, such as affordable housing and access to mental health resources. Afraz currently serves part-time as a Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University, where he works with university staff to build out programming and resources for the Muslim community. He also travels across the tri-state area delivering speeches and facilitating workshops for various organizations and schools on topics such as institutionalized racism, Islamophobia, and the American Muslim experience.

Azka Mahmood

AZKA MAHMOOD

Atlanta, Georgia

Azka Mahmood is a Pakistani-American advocate for human and civil rights. She has a background in research, policy analysis, and social inequalities. Azka believes in creating research-informed social change and policy reform. She holds a master’s degree in Sociology and a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Azka’s focus is on American Muslims and their engagement in social and political spheres. She has been an activist for social justice in a personal capacity as well as through interfaith and inter-minority collaborations. Azka has spearheaded several interfaith outreach activities through her local mosques. As part of CAIR Florida, she designed and conducted a teacher training to create culturally sensitive classrooms. She also worked with ISPU to organize and facilitate educational workshops for journalists and educators in the Midwest.

Hind Makki

HIND MAKKI

Chicago, Illinois

Hind Makki is an interfaith and anti-racism educator who holds a degree in International Relations from Brown University. A former fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, Hind is the founder and curator of Side Entrance, an award-winning website documenting women’s prayer experiences in mosques. Hind served on the Islamic Society of North America’s Mosque Inclusion Taskforce and was an advisor to the ISPU project Reimagining Muslim Spaces, consulting with American mosques on gender, economic, and convert diversity. In 2018, Hind was featured as one of CNN’s 25 Influential American Muslims. Locally, Hind serves on the advisory boards of the Br. Jeffrey Gros, FSC Institute for Dialogue, Justice, and Social Action at Lewis University and the Chicago History Museum’s exhibit “American Medina: Stories of Muslim Chicago.”

Chris Murray

CHRIS MURRAY

Washington, DC metropolitan area

Chris Murray is a National Board Certified Teacher of social studies who has taught in public schools and independent schools since 2005. As a professional development facilitator, Chris has consulted and presented for numerous organizations on the importance of religious literacy in schools. In 2016, Chris created the nation’s first district-level religious literacy course, which has trained over 250 educators and been covered in the Washington Post. Chris’s teaching on American Muslims has been featured by Teaching Tolerance Magazine and CBS News, and has been recognized by the 9/11 Tribute Foundation and Tanenbaum Center for Religious Center for Religious Understanding. Chris holds an MA in Holocaust Studies, MEd in Special Education, MS in Curriculum Design, and BA in History.

M Naeem Nash

M. NAEEM NASH

New York/New Jersey metropolitan area

M. Naeem Nash has spent more than 25 years working in higher education and has more than 20 years of classroom experience teaching history. He started his teaching career as a public school social studies teacher and later took on assignments as an adjunct history professor at Hudson County Community College. Nash presently serves full-time in the Department of History at Essex County College. He earned an MA in history from Fairleigh Dickinson University and two BA degrees—one in African American and African studies and another in history from Rutgers University–Newark. Nash is the author of Islam Among Urban Blacks: Muslims in Newark, New Jersey: A Social History and Islam and the Black Experience: African American History Reconsidered. He is known for his writing and public programs on African American Muslim history in New Jersey and the greater Newark, NJ community.

Hassan Shibly

HASSAN SHIBLY

Tampa, Florida

Hassan Shibly is chief executive director of CAIR-Florida. He holds a law degree from the University at Buffalo School of Law and lectures regularly on issues relating to Islam, American Muslims, and civil rights. Hassan has taught courses on Islamic belief, law, history, spirituality, and culture, and he is a board member of the Coalition for Civil Freedoms. Hassan actively works with various interfaith and social service organizations to assist those in need and promote cooperation and understanding between diverse faiths and cultures. He has appeared numerous times in both local and national media outlets including CNN, NPR, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Toronto Star, and the Buffalo News for his work protecting civil liberties and promoting understanding of the Muslim faith.

Tara Zaafran

TARA ZAAFRAN

Houston, Texas

Tara Zaafran is an educator, mother, and respected community member. She graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology/immunology and later obtained a master’s degree from the University of Houston in curriculum and instruction-secondary education. She currently teaches middle school social studies at ILM Academy in Houston while pursuing a master’s degree in Islamic education, and she hopes to pursue a doctorate in education. Tara works tirelessly on developing high standards for curriculum that are challenging and enriching for students in their development of self identity. As a passionate advocate for interfaith dialogue, Tara serves on the advisory board of the Risala Foundation, Houston’s only Muslim civic speaker organization. She is also the co-chair of the Founder’s Advisory Committee of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Share via