Professional & Leadership Experience
I am a licensed attorney with more than two decades of experience in criminal justice, violence prevention, civil rights, civic entrepreneurship, and lay interfaith outreach. After completing high school I attended the University of Iowa where I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Next I went to American University’s Washington College of Law where I earned my law degree in 1994.
Having worked on issues of violence throughout my career, I consider violence prevention one of my areas of expertise. I worked with victims and perpetrators of violence including children and young adults within the criminal justice and the child protection systems.
I took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution when I was sworn in as an attorney in 1994. Since then I have given my time generously to advocate for civil rights and civil liberties for all Americans, and for human rights abroad.
Civic entrepreneurship is something about which I am extremely passionate. Throughout my life I have helped create and lead organizations. I started early. Around the sixth or seventh grade I created, with the generous help of my parents, the “Islamic Boys Club” to bring together Muslim kids in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. At IOWA I helped found a fraternity – Phi Kappa Theta. After law school I helped establish one of the first Muslim bar associations in the United States. In addition to faith-based efforts, I have also worked with many service and political organizations including various committees of the Chicago Bar Association.
Again thanks to my parents, I have developed a love for public speaking and writing. I have given public presentations across the United States, and my commentary is published in a variety of newspapers and journals including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, and the Dallas Morning News.
I love sports. My favorite sports to follow and watch are any that are played by my children, nieces, and nephews.
On any given Saturday in the fall I can be found at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, at a Hawkeye sports bar, or in my family room watching the Iowa Hawkeyes football team. On any given Sunday during the pro football season I can be found cheering for the Chicago Bears. And all year round I can be found in a wrestling room helping boys and girls with folk style wrestling, watching my daughter play volleyball, or in a gym working out on my own or with my children.
I am a fan of action, adventure, and science fiction movies, and I especially loves superhero movies.
I was born in India and came to America with my family when I was four years old. I have seen the worst of America and the best of America. As a child I experienced first hand the bigotry inspired by the Iran hostage crisis, and while I was too young to understand what was happening in Iran at the time, I experienced the vitriol and bigotry that some of my neighbors heaped on our family.
Other moments of history stand out in my early life including the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first Gulf War, the bombing of the World Trade Center in the 1990s, the Oklahoma City bombing, and 9/11. These events impacted many Americans; for me, and for other Americans of the Muslim faith, these events brought with them surges of anti-Muslim bigotry as well.
The best of America has always been on display even as I saw some very ugly things happening around me. I was blessed with public school teachers from grammar school through high school who gave me support and encouragement while also challenging me to do well. At the University of Iowa I developed diverse friendships which continue to sustain me today.
I hoped and worked for a community for my children that was free of the bigotry I experienced as a child. Fatherhood and the tragedy of 9/11 came just one year apart. Of course, civil rights have existed unevenly in America for a long time. For people like me – immigrant Muslims – there was progress in the 1990s but 9/11 shook us all. The backslide of civil rights, and the resurgence of Islamophobia made it necessary for me to focus more keenly on issues relating to Muslims in America.
In the years since 9/11 I have worked with many others on promoting civil rights of Muslims. After a few years though it became clear to me that I needed to broaden my focus. I did not want to work for a special interest group. Joining the struggle for civil rights for all was the better path to pursue. I believe there is great promise in pursuing the struggle for civil rights for all. One of my greatest blessing is the opportunity to work side by side with people of different beliefs and faiths on for a shared vision of peace, equality, equity, and justice for all.