Carnegie Workshop Biographies


Who Speaks for Islam? Media and
Muslim Networks

Center for Islamic Studies, GTU

March 2-3, 2009

Sponsored by
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Speaker Bios

Safir Ahmed

Safir Ahmed has spent 25 years in the media, as a writer and editor at newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, and online web magazines. He has been an independent book editor and has edited New York Times’ bestsellers. He has edited books by major writers, including George Lakoff at UC-Berkeley, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos, and Glenn Greenwald of Salon magazine. Safir has also served as an editor to our evening’s speaker, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and he set up a Publications department at Zaytuna Institute. Currently he serves as the Executive Director of Zaytuna.

Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, journalist, humorist, writer and Attorney at Law, whose play, “The Domestic Crusaders,” is the first major play about Muslim Americans premiering to universal acclaim and standing ovations at Berkeley Repertory Theater’s Thrust Stage ( and is premiering this Fall in New York at the world famous Nuyorican Theater. He is also an Associate Editor of the always stimulating “” online magazine and a frequent contributor to The Guardian, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Chowk, Counterpunch amongst others.  His first movie, “Ms. Judgments,” was a finalist for the prestigious LinkTV Muslim American Film Contest. His first short story, “Ramadan Blues,” was published January ‘09 in the anthology “Pow Wow” published by Perseus/De Capo Press.

Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Sumbul holds a B.A. from Stanford University and a J.D from the University of California, Davis.  She earned a graduate degree in Islamic law from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She has served as a teaching assistant in Islamic Law at SOAS and a research associate at the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law in London.  She has lectured occasionally on Islam and Islamic law.  Her book, an accessible, yet scholarly, anecdote-filled introduction to Islam and Islamic law written for the lay reader, is called The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing.

Imam Tahir Anwar

Imam Tahir Anwar serves as Imam and Director of Religious Services at the South Bay Islamic Association. He is also the head of the Islamic Studies Department, and an Islamic Studies teacher at Granada Islamic School.  He has also taught Hanafi fiqh at the world-renowned Zaytuna Institute.  His basic religious education was with his father, also a religious scholar and Imam.  Imam Tahir left the U.S. in 1991 to attend a traditional Islamic University (madrasa) in Gujarat, India. He is Hafiz al-Qur'an, has a B.A. in Islamic Theology and has completed many other advanced courses in Islamic studies, earning him the title of 'Alim or Scholar. As one of the most respected young Islamic Scholars in the Bay Area, Imam Tahir is often called to serve on different community panels and commissions.  He is frequently invited to speak at community forums, various universities, and religious institutions.

Hatem Bazian

Hatem Bazian is a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies and an Adjunct Professor of law at Boalt Hall School of Law. He teaches courses on Islamic law and society, Islam in America, religious studies, and Middle Eastern studies. In addition to Berkeley, Dr. Bazian is a visiting professor in Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College of California and adviser to the Religion, Politics and Globalization Center at UC Berkeley and Zaytuna Institute.  He received a M.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Islamic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Bazian's most recent book, Jerusalem in Islamic Consciousness, is a reflection of his desire to contribute to a better understanding of Muslim attachment and informed political attitudes toward Jerusalem and Palestine in general.  As an activist, Dr. Bazian has played a significant role in many human and civil rights movements in the Bay Area, nationally, and internationally.

Yahsmin Mayaan binti BoBo

Yahsmin M. B. BoBo is a panelist, essayist and music journalist whose works can be found in Words Beats Life Global Journal of Hip Hop Culture and Platform Magazine (United Kingdom). She is an editor for The EQ, a scholarly hip hop blog. Yahsmin is co-founder of Illume Magazine and presided as Editor in Chief for its first year, but presently works as Executive Editor. By day, she continues to develop arts-based programming for school aged youth in the inner city.

Patrice Brodeur

Patrice Brodeur is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair on Islam, Pluralism, and Globalization at the Faculty of Theology and the Science of Religions at the University of Montreal, Canada. In 2004-2005, he was Rockefeller Foundation Visiting Fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, focusing on interreligious dialogue and conflict resolution. From 1998 to 2004, he was Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Connecticut College. During the last eighteen months, his responsibilities have also included the position of Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life. His main academic interests include: contemporary Islam; pluralism and globalization; identity construction and power dynamics; perceptions of ‘self’ and the ‘other’; and the relationship between the study of religion and applied religion, especially the role of interreligious dialogue in promoting democracy, pluralism, and peace-building.

Joanne Brown

Joanne Brown is communications director at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), where she oversees media relations, marketing, publications, publicity, and executive communications. Prior to her work at the GTU, she was owner and principal at Joanne F. Brown Communications, where she worked as a writer and strategic communications consultant for clients in a variety of industries—including Genentech, Hewlett Packard, Kaiser Permanente, Charles Schwab, University of Arizona, and the Institute for One World Health. Her specialty areas included publications, employee and executive communications, media relations, and speechwriting. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature, a Master in Social Work from Boston College, and a Master in Business Administration from Santa Clara University. In her spare time, she enjoys writing creative nonfiction and hiking with her dog Dexter.

Jonathan Curiel

Jonathan Curiel is a journalist in San Francisco. A staff writer with the San Francisco Chronicle, he is the author of Al’ America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots.  The book received a 2008 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and was named one of the 2008’s Top 10 books by London journalist Joel Schalit. From 2005-2006, Curiel was a Reuters Foundation fellow at Oxford University in England.   During the 1993-1994 academic year, Curiel lived in Lahore, Pakistan, where he taught journalism as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Punjab. In 2005, Curiel's Chronicle work was honored by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.  Curiel has been a moderator, panelist or speaker at the Commonwealth Club, the World Affairs Council, Columbia University, and the Foundation Royaumont outside of Paris.  Curiel’s work has been featured in several distinguished publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review.

James Donahue

James Donahue is the first alumnus to serve as Graduate Theological Union (GTU) president.  Donahue is also professor of ethics.  Before returning to the GTU, he served at Georgetown University for fifteen years as professor of theology and dean of students.  In 1992, he was selected as the outstanding teacher of the year at Georgetown.  Donahue has also held teaching positions in theology and ethics at the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University.  His research interests and publications are in the area of religion and ethics, and he has provided ethics consultations to business and nonprofit organizations.  He received his Ph.D. from the GTU in 1984, his M. Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross.

Maha ElGenaidi

Maha ElGenaidi is the CEO of Islamic Networks Group (ING). Maha has spoken to hundreds of schools, churches, synagogues, police departments, corporations and other public agencies. She has appeared on numerous television and radio programs and is the author of seven training handbooks on outreach for American Muslims as well as eight training modules for public institutions on "developing cultural competency with the American Muslim community". Maha is active with many state and federal government agencies and was a former commissioner on Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante's Commission for One California. She currently serves on the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission and is an Advisor to California's Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) for cultural diversity and hate crime prevention. Maha has been recognized with numerous civil rights awards, including the "Civil Rights Leadership Award" from the California Association of Human Relations Organizations, and the "Citizen of the Year Award" from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. She received her B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the American University in Cairo.

Sr. Marianne Farina

Sr. Marianne is a Catholic religious sister of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame Indiana. She is an assistant professor at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. She received a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology from Santa Clara University and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Boston College. With more than 20 years of experience in education and pastoral ministry, Sister Marianne has worked in education and social development projects that promote social justice and interfaith dialogue. She has traveled to Africa and Indonesia as a delegate and teacher covering topics such as "Religion and Democracy," "Methods for Cross-Cultural Understanding," "Interfaith Dialogue," and "Human Rights." Her areas of expertise include Catholic Moral Theology, Philosophical Ethics, Islamic Philosophy, and Christian-Muslim Dialogue.

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is Associate Professor of Religion and Humanities at Reed College.  During 2006-2007, he served as the Interim Director of Academic Affairs at Dar Al Hadith Al Hassania, Rabat, Morocco.  He was selected as a Carnegie Scholar in 2006 for his forthcoming book on the history of Islam in the United States.  Dr. GhaneaBassiri received his bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Claremont McKenna College and completed his master’s (1998) and doctoral degrees (2003) in the Study of Religion at Harvard University.  He specializes in classical and modern Islamic intellectual and social history in the Middle East and in the history of Islam in the United States.  He is the author of Competing Visions of Islam in the United States: A Study of Los Angeles.

Juliane Hammer

Juliane Hammer is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research and teaching interests include Muslims in America, women and gender issues, Muslims and media, as well as Sufism and contemporary interpretations of the Qur’an. She is currently working on a project examining the implications and significance of the 2005 woman-led prayer in NYC as a nexus for questions of American Muslim women’s leadership, activism, media representations and engagement with scripture and tradition.

Charles Hirschkind

Charles Hirschkind is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests concern religious practice, media technologies, and emergent forms of political community in the urban Middle East and Europe. In his recent book, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics, he explores how a popular Islamic media form—the cassette sermon—has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle East over the last three decades. He is also the co-editor of Powers of the Secular Modern: Talal Asad and his Interlocutors. His current project is based in southern Spain and explores some of the different ways in which Europe’s Islamic past inhabits its present, unsettling contemporary efforts to secure Europe’s Christian civilizational identity.  He earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from John Hopkins University.

Arthur Holder
Arthur Holder is Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the John Dillenberger Professor of Christian Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). He was dean of academic affairs and professor of Christian spirituality at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (the Episcopal seminary in the GTU) from 1995 to 2002, having previously served as the school’s director of field education. He earned his Ph.D. in historical theology from Duke University, where he was a fellow in medieval and Renaissance studies. Holder is editor of The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality (2005) and Christian Spirituality: The Classics (2009), and has also published two books and numerous articles on the Venerable Bede and other subjects in medieval Christian theology and spirituality. For 2009 he is President of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.
Matthai Kuruvila

Matthai Kuruvila is a prominent journalist on the topic of religion. He currently works for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is an associate producer for "City Visions" on KALW, a National Public Radio affiliate. He also has been a reporter for The ASNE Reporter, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and worked as a freelance researcher/writer for Wired magazine. Kuruvila has a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Haverford University in Haverford, PA and a Master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Saba Mahmood

Saba Mahmood is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley.  She is the author of Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject that received the 2005 Victoria Schuck award for the best book on women and politics from the American Association of Political Science.  She works on issues of secularism, religious politics, gender, and postcoloniality in Muslim societies.  Her work has appeared in journals such as Cultural Anthropology, Social Research, American Ethnologist, Public Culture, and Cultural Studies.  This year she received the Carnegie Corporation Islamic Scholar’s award as well as the Frederick Burkhardt fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.  She earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University.

Mahan Mirza

Mahan Mirza has graduate degrees from Hartford Seminary and Yale University in the study of Islam and Christian Muslim Relations.  He has also studied Islam and Islamic revivalist thought in Lahore, and spent one year at the University of Tübingen in Germany.  Mahan has participated in the organization of several academic conferences, two of which have resulted in the publication of a Special Issue of the renowned journal The Muslim World.  He is currently on the editorial board of a forthcoming Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought by Princeton Press.  Mahan joined the Religious Studies faculty at California State University, Chico in 2007, where he coordinates the program in Middle Eastern Studies and regularly lectures at the Chico Islamic Center.  Mahan is in the final stages of completing his Ph.D. dissertation on the medieval Muslim polymath al-Biruni, with special attention to the interplay between reason and revelation. Mahan is a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) for the academic year 2008-2009.  

Farid Senzai

Farid Senzai is a Fellow and the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). He is also an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at Santa Clara University. Senzai has been a research associate at the Brookings Institution, where he studied U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, and a research analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, working on the Muslim Politics project. He served as a consultant for Oxford Analytica and the World Bank and is on the advisory board of The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Senzai received his M.A. in international affairs from Columbia University and his Ph.D. in politics and international relations from Oxford University.

Shaheen Sidi Mohamed

Shaheen Sidi Mohamed is an economic development specialist with a focus on the Middle East. Her interests lie in promoting innovation and robust business environments for economic development and social transformation. Shaheen has worked on economic policy with governments in several Muslim countries and has worked extensively with international organizations including the United Nations, the International Finance Corporation/World Bank Group and Women's World Banking. Shaheen's upcoming policy work includes economic competitiveness in the United Arab Emirates. Her publications include Gender Smart Lessons: Management Training for Women Entrepreneurs in Yemen (International Finance Corporation) and Women Entrepreneurs and Access to Finance in Pakistan  (Women’s Policy Journal of Harvard). Shaheen holds a Masters of International Affairs degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.

Imam Faheem Shuaibe

Imam Faheem Shuaibe is the resident Imam of Masjidul Waritheen and the director of the Clara Mohammed School in Oakland, California. Imam Shuaibe is an author and an award-winning, nationally recognized, seasoned, platform speaker who has addressed hundreds of audiences for 20 plus years on topics of religion, world politics, human relationships, and societal evolution. He is listed in the International Who's Who Among Intellectuals, and the National Who's Who Among Public Speaking Professionals.  As a top aide and supporter of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, Imam Shuaibe has been a part of several distinguished delegations that have taken him around the globe on various educational, religious, interfaith, and peace missions.  Imam Shuaibe is also the recipient of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity's Notable Citizen award.

Jennifer Taylor

Jennifer Taylor is the Producer/Director of New Muslim Cool.  Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s credits include the documentaries Ramadan Primetime, Special Circumstances, Paulina, Home Front and Immigration Calculations, and many short films. Her work has won numerous festival awards and two Emmys. Based in San Francisco, she has held several arts and journalism fellowships—most recently with editor Kenji Yamamoto and New Muslim Cool at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Edit and Story Lab.

Nargis Virani

Nargis Virani is Assistant Professor of Arabic at The New School, University Liberal Studies. She received her PhD in 1999 in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University, and also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from London University and a Bachelor of Commerce from Bombay University. During the course of her Arabic Studies she studied at many prestigious institutions in the Muslim world such as the University of Jordan in Amman, the Bourguiba Institute in Tunis, and al-Azhar mosque in Cairo. Her doctoral dissertation entitled 'I am the Nightingale of the Merciful Macaronic or Upside Down?' analyzed the Mulamma'at, the mixed-language poems, in Rumi's Diwan. In this work she proposes that 'speaking in many tongues' be looked at as a brilliant linguistic strategy employed by the mystic to fashion an imaginative form of apophatic discourse. She is currently converting her dissertation into a book which will also include a translation into English of all of Rumi's multilingual verses in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Greek, and Armenian. Dr. Virani's second book project is tentatively entitled, 'Qur'an in Muslim Literary Memory'. She hopes to analyze the use of the Qur'an by a variety of 'litterateurs' from secular, religious, and mystical backgrounds.

Michael Wolfe

Michael Wolfe Michael Wolfe is the author of several books of poetry, fiction, history and travel, including two works from Grove Press about the pilgrimage to Mecca and an edited collection of 40 post-9/11 articles by many writers entitled, Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim their Faith. His poems, stories and opinion pieces have appeared in journals, magazines and other print media. The first American correspondent to report live from Mecca, he wrote and produced a half-hour TV Special for ABC Nightline, which was nominated for Emmy, George Polk, and Peabody Awards. Michael is Co-Founder and President of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF), a nonprofit media organization working to increase peace through the media. Over ten years, he and UPF have co-produced numerous nationally broadcast documentaries including Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Cities of Light, Prince Among Slaves, On a Wing and a Prayer, Allah Made Me Funny, and Talking through Walls.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

In 1977, Shaykh Hamza became Muslim and subsequently traveled to the Muslim world and studied for ten years in the U. A. E., Saudi Arabia, as well as North and West Africa. He received teaching licenses in various Islamic subjects from several well-known scholars in various countries. After ten years of studies abroad, he returned to the USA and earned degrees in Religious Studies from San Jose State University and Health Care from Imperial Valley College. He has traveled all over the world giving talks on Islam. He also founded Zaytuna Institute which has established an international reputation for presenting a classical picture of Islam in the West and which is dedicated to the revival of traditional study methods and the sciences of Islam. Shaykh Hamza is the first American lecturer to teach in Morocco's prestigious and oldest University, the Karaouine in Fes. In addition, he has translated several classical Arabic traditional texts and poems into modern English.