Junaid “J” M. Afeef

The suitcases my parents brought when we came to America.

Attorney, Public Servant

Junaid M. Afeef began his American adventure in 1973 when he moved to the United States with his parents at age four. Being an immigrant, a person of color, and a religious minority have given him a very unique perspective. Growing up he was the short, fat kid with the funny name. In his early years in America he experienced a lot of bigotry.

Thankfully the bigots didn’t win. Some amazing teachers came along and helped him find his place in the community. Still, it wasn’t until he got to the University of Iowa that he finally had a chance to be the person he wanted to be without the baggage that his childhood brought with it.

At the University of Iowa he joined a fraternity and nurtured friendships that remain strong several decades later. He also developed a love for college football and further nurtured his love of wrestling. It was a glorious time to be an undergrad at IOWA. It was the era of Dan Gable and the nationally dominant Hawkeye wrestling program. It was also the Hayden Fry era that culminated in a trip to the Rose Bowl during Junaid’s senior year.

A trip to Mexico just before the Rose Bowl 1991

Junaid graduated from IOWA in the spring of 1991 and went on to law school at The American University’s Washington College of Law.

He graduated law school in 1994, passed the Illinois bar exam that same summer, and was sworn into the Illinois Bar in November 1994.

Over the course of a 25 year (and going) career Junaid has served the poor, the marginalized, and the needy time and time again in private practice, as a public defender, working with grassroots organizations, and civil liberties groups.

Over that time he has cultivated strong relationships with law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels. For example, shortly after 9/11 he worked with the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago (an organization he co-founded in 1998), the Arab American Bar Association, and the ACLU of Illinois to develop a pro bono legal panel to help innocent nonimmigrant residents who were being asked to register with federal law enforcement because of their countries of origin (Middle East primarily). These attorneys provided advice and support and accompanied these individuals for their interviews with the FBI. The program was developed with the help of the Chicago office of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Illinois.

Later in his career Junaid built and ran the nation’s first state program dedicated to finding non-criminal justice focused solutions for people who were exhibiting red flags related to violence. This program – the Illinois Targeted Violence Prevention Program – sought to educate Illinois residents of all backgrounds about the importance of early engagement with loved ones and friends who exhibited a variety of very concerning behaviors so that they could get the help they needed – whatever that might entail.

Junaid with Dr. Pete Simi – an expert on Far-Right extremist violence – and the training session co-sponsor Decalogue Society president Patrick John.

My commitment to defending civil liberties of Muslims, the LGBTQ community, Jews, African Americans, immigrants, other religious minorities, and the poor is rock-solid. Protecting innocent lives from hate-inspired violence and mass casualty attacks is the other bookend of my life’s mission. I will continue pursuing these passions as long as I am breathing.

Junaid “J” M. Afeef

Junaid strives to give back to his community in many different ways. He volunteers with civic and interfaith efforts, he provides his expertise on violence prevention and anti-hate efforts with local schools and community colleges, and he coaches youth wrestling.

Junaid bounces back and forth between being a runner and a weight lifter. After turning 40 he took up running and subsequently ran 5 half marathons, a bunch of 10-milers, and a ton of 5Ks for charities including Team Red White and Blue.

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