ISPU EDUCATORS

ISPU believes rigorous research in the right hands advances us toward our mission of informing every decision and dialogue about American Muslims with data. 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.

To book a speaking engagement with an ISPU Educator or staff member, please email us at research@ispu.org.

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.

TARA ZAAFRAN

Houston, Texas

  • tzaafran@ispu.org

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).

Tara Zaafran

ISPU Educators – Faith Leaders Cohort

JIM EATON

Serving Washington DC area

Pastor Jim Eaton, M.Div., Th.M., is a pastor and intercultural and multifaith consultant. He was raised in Bangladesh with missionary parents, giving him a third-culture perspective. Pastor Eaton holds two master’s degrees in Biblical Studies with a focus on Old Testament, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Jim and his wife, Natalie, have served in intercultural ministries in South Africa, Germany, Chicago and the Washington, DC area. In 2005, Mosaic Church was founded as an intercultural church designed to reach pluralistic and diverse people in the 270 biotech corridor of Washington, DC. Pastor Eaton also consults with organizations seeking to enhance their intercultural and multifaith engagement in these polarized times. Pastor Eaton loves cities, history, culture and great coffee, not necessarily in that order. He has three children, and he and his wife live in Frederick, Maryland.

HURUNNESSA FARIAD

Serving DMV area and national networks

Hurunnessa Fariad is Director of Outreach for Multi-Faith Neighbor’s Network. She is also Head of Outreach at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center). Hurunnessa is the Secretary of the Board of Directors at Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Leadership Circle for One America Movement, Member of the Fairfax County Faith and Equity Committee, and is involved with many other faith-based organizations. She is the founder and Music Director of America’s first Mosque Youth Choir, The ADAMS BEAT Choir. She is also the founder and co-host of the Sister Act Podcast along with co-hosts Dr. Sabrina Dent and Rabbi Susan Shankman, featuring conversations centered around shame, stigma, women’s rights, social justice issues, and how faiths address these topics.

NINA FERNANDO

Serving nationally through Shoulder to Shoulder

Nina M. Fernando serves as Executive Director at the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, a multifaith coalition of religious denominations and faith-based organizations committed to dismantling anti-Muslim discrimination and violence in the United States and building a society where all are treated with dignity and respect. She first joined the Shoulder to Shoulder team in 2017. Previously, she worked as a LankaCorps Fellow in Sri Lanka supporting research on interreligious and intercultural conflict and coexistence at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, and prior to that, as a Faith-Rooted Organizer, educating, organizing, and mobilizing faith leaders to stand in solidarity with workers and immigrants at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Southern California. Nina is a Sri-Lankan Californian-raised Catholic. Her intersectional identities have informed her work as a multifaith community organizer, activist, vocalist, and songwriter. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in “Social Change through Music and Religious Studies” from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands, and holds a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Interreligious and Cultural Studies from Claremont School of Theology.

ELI FREEDMAN

Philadelphia, PA

Eli Freedman was ordained at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2010 after receiving his undergraduate degree from Brandeis University. Prior to joining the clergy team at Rodeph Shalom, Rabbi Freedman served as Rabbinic Intern at the NYU Hillel, spent three years of rabbinical school in London and ran the outreach and engagement program at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Rabbi Freedman’s major areas of work at Rodeph Shalom include Social Justice Initiative, Families with Young Children, and Young Adult Outreach. He also is engaged in all other rabbinic duties, including life cycle events, leading services, preaching, counseling, and adult education. Rabbi Freedman lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two young daughters.

PHILLIP THURMAN

Southeast Region – Alabama

Phillip Thurman is Lead Pastor of Rally Church in Madison, Alabama, a congregation fifteen minutes west of Huntsville, Alabama. Prior to this, he was Founding and Lead Pastor of Vertical Church in Madison, MS. He served there for eighteen years and has now been at Rally Church for a year and a half. He grew up as a third culture kid born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and he went to high school in Mussoorie, India. Phillip’s friends live on every continent, and he feels that that diversity shapes him and makes him who he is today. He has three grown kids and one grandson.

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.

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).

ISPU Educators – Faith Leaders Cohort

JIM EATON

Serving Washington DC area

Pastor Jim Eaton, M.Div., Th.M., is a pastor and intercultural and multifaith consultant. He was raised in Bangladesh with missionary parents, giving him a third-culture perspective. Pastor Eaton holds two master’s degrees in Biblical Studies with a focus on Old Testament, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Jim and his wife, Natalie, have served in intercultural ministries in South Africa, Germany, Chicago and the Washington, DC area. In 2005, Mosaic Church was founded as an intercultural church designed to reach pluralistic and diverse people in the 270 biotech corridor of Washington, DC. Pastor Eaton also consults with organizations seeking to enhance their intercultural and multifaith engagement in these polarized times. Pastor Eaton loves cities, history, culture and great coffee, not necessarily in that order. He has three children, and he and his wife live in Frederick, Maryland.

HURUNNESSA FARIAD

Serving DMV area and national networks

Hurunnessa Fariad is Director of Outreach for Multi-Faith Neighbor’s Network. She is also Head of Outreach at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center). Hurunnessa is the Secretary of the Board of Directors at Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Leadership Circle for One America Movement, Member of the Fairfax County Faith and Equity Committee, and is involved with many other faith-based organizations. She is the founder and Music Director of America’s first Mosque Youth Choir, The ADAMS BEAT Choir. She is also the founder and co-host of the Sister Act Podcast along with co-hosts Dr. Sabrina Dent and Rabbi Susan Shankman, featuring conversations centered around shame, stigma, women’s rights, social justice issues, and how faiths address these topics.

NINA FERNANDO

Serving nationally through Shoulder to Shoulder

Nina M. Fernando serves as Executive Director at the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, a multifaith coalition of religious denominations and faith-based organizations committed to dismantling anti-Muslim discrimination and violence in the United States and building a society where all are treated with dignity and respect. She first joined the Shoulder to Shoulder team in 2017. Previously, she worked as a LankaCorps Fellow in Sri Lanka supporting research on interreligious and intercultural conflict and coexistence at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, and prior to that, as a Faith-Rooted Organizer, educating, organizing, and mobilizing faith leaders to stand in solidarity with workers and immigrants at Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice in Southern California. Nina is a Sri-Lankan Californian-raised Catholic. Her intersectional identities have informed her work as a multifaith community organizer, activist, vocalist, and songwriter. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in “Social Change through Music and Religious Studies” from the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands, and holds a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Interreligious and Cultural Studies from Claremont School of Theology.

ELI FREEDMAN

Philadelphia, PA

Eli Freedman was ordained at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in May 2010 after receiving his undergraduate degree from Brandeis University. Prior to joining the clergy team at Rodeph Shalom, Rabbi Freedman served as Rabbinic Intern at the NYU Hillel, spent three years of rabbinical school in London and ran the outreach and engagement program at Columbia/Barnard Hillel. Rabbi Freedman’s major areas of work at Rodeph Shalom include Social Justice Initiative, Families with Young Children, and Young Adult Outreach. He also is engaged in all other rabbinic duties, including life cycle events, leading services, preaching, counseling, and adult education. Rabbi Freedman lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two young daughters.

PHILLIP THURMAN

Southeast Region – Alabama

Phillip Thurman is Lead Pastor of Rally Church in Madison, Alabama, a congregation fifteen minutes west of Huntsville, Alabama. Prior to this, he was Founding and Lead Pastor of Vertical Church in Madison, MS. He served there for eighteen years and has now been at Rally Church for a year and a half. He  grew up as a third culture kid born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and he went to high school in Mussoorie, India. Phillip’s friends live on every continent, and he feels that that diversity shapes him and makes him who he is today. He has three grown kids and one grandson.

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