Speakers @ Muslim Protagonist Panels & Talks — all day Sat., Feb. 22

IN PERSON on Feb. 22:

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a former National Urban Fellow and policy advisor to Mayor Bloomberg, Ibrahim spends his days pounding political and executive corridors to find integrated solutions to complex business and social challenges. On stage, he lights up audiences showcasing Frontier’s techniques for positively shifting human behavior. A regular WNYC broadcaster, on the airwaves you’re likely to find him expounding perspectives on football, faith and the environment (sometimes all at the same time). In print you’ll find him as the author of The Green Deen, and a contributing author to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. Holding a BA from University of Rhode Island (where he allegedly played a little football) and an MPA from Baruch College, Ibrahim is the man-in-demand for projects at the intersection of corporate innovation, government policy and community communications.


Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class Arab American enclave in Dearborn, Michigan. His first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, praised by George RR Martin as “old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery adventure with an Arabian Knights flavor” and by NPR Books as “Terrific fantasy….Lord of the Rings meets the Arab Spring,” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards, and won the Locus Award for Best First Novel. Saladin lives near Detroit with his wife and twin children.


Wajahat Ali is Co-Host of Al-Jazeera America’s The Stream and the award-winning playwright of “The Domestic Crusaders,” one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience published by Mcsweeney’s. He is the lead author of the investigative report “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” produced by Center for American Progress. He is currently working on a TV pilot with author Dave Eggers about an American Muslim cop. He is writing his first movie screenplay with filmmaker Joshua Seftel (“War Inc.”).


Zareena Grewal is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. She is a historical anthropologist and documentary filmmaker and has directed and produced a film about the scrutiny of American Muslims’ patriotism (By the Dawn’s Early Light: Chris Jackson’s Journey to Islam (2004)) featured on the Documentary Channel. She also writes on the intersections of race and religion in American Muslim communities. Currently, she is completing a book on the global dimensions of Islam’s “crisis of authority,” specifically on transnational pedagogical networks that connect American mosques to the intellectual centers of the Middle East, based on ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo, Egypt, Damascus, Syria, and Amman, Jordan. She teaches courses on Muslim in America, US cultural and political interests in the Middle East, and ethnographic and documentary film.


Michael Muhammad Knight is a novelist, essayist, and journalist. He converted to Islam at 16, after reading Autobiography of Malcom X, and traveled to Islamabad at age 17 to study at a madrassa. He is the author of The Taqwacores, Impossible Man, Osama Van Halen, Journey to the End of Islam, and William S. Burroughs vs. The Qur’an. Knight lives in New York and North Carolina.


Nsenga Knight is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker. Her work expands upon the common aesthetic and conceptual inclinations in Islamic Art, American and European abstraction and the conceptual arts movement; and reflects her interest in ritual, subjectivity, history, archiving and intervention. Her artistic process is as tied to the medium of drawing and performance art as it is to photography and the aesthetics of cinema, particularly experimental films. There is a palimpsestuous circulation of function in her work and the traces of my human presence and movement play an essential role in its development. Her work gives evidence to its process and she embeds multiple histories within abstract forms. The process and products of her art are made meaningful by way of dialogue and diverse relationships with form and ideas. Last Rite, her most recent body of work melds together forms found in pilgrimage rituals, sacred geometry, minimalism, and astronomy; and puts into dialogue text from Malcolm X’s hajj journal and the Iranian revolutionary and sociologist Ali Shariati’s memorable reflections on social justice in relation to the symbolism of the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca as written in his book Hajj published in 1977. Through a restless hybridization of practices she mobilizes a play with language and form and act as disruptive intervener and ardent preservationist. Her approach to materials and ideas is part of a larger theoretical project that poses critical questions about process, power, representation, and the construction of communal narratives.


Haroon Moghul is a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. His research focus is Islamic thought in late colonial India. Haroon is an Associate Editor and columnist at Religion Dispatches; his writing has also been featured on al-Jazeera, Tikkun, The Huffington Post, and various Middle Eastern and South Asian media as well. In his 2006 novel, “The Order of Light” (Penguin Global), a young Muslim lights himself on fire to protest the authoritarian reality of the Middle East, an eerie forecasting of the Arab Spring. The novel was translated into French by Cherche Midi and distributed in South Asia by Penguin India. Haroon has appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, The History Channel, and Russia Today. He has served as Director of Public Relations for the Islamic Center at New York University (NYU) and was selected one of 500 global Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow. He is also a Senior Editor at The Islamic Monthly, and a Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). Haroon has spoken across the United States and internationally on Islamic history and culture, contemporary politics in the Muslim world, and radicalism and religious identity. He serves as an expert guide to the Muslim heritage of Spain, and will be leading historical tours of Spain, Turkey, and Bosnia, in 2012.


Sofia Quintero graduated from Columbia University with a BA in history-sociology and an MPA from its School of International and Public Affairs. She began her first career as a policy analyst and advocate. She worked for various nonprofit organizations and government agencies including the Vera Institute of Justice, Hispanic AIDS Forum, and the New York City Independent Budget Office. After years of working on diverse policy issues, however, Sofia heeded her muse to pursue an entertainment career. Determined to write edgy yet intelligent novels for women who love hip hop even when hip-hop fails to love them in return, Sofía wrote her debut novel EXPLICIT CONTENT under the pen name Black Artemis. Booklist said of her debut, “Fans of Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever will find this debut novel just as tantalizing.” Since then Sofia has authored four more novels and almost twice as many short stories and novellas including her award-winning young adult debut EFRAIN’S SECRET (Knopf 2010.) She recently earned an MFA in writing and producing TV at the TV Writers Studio of Long Island University and contributed the children’s anthology WHAT YOU WISH FOR, the proceeds of which go to build libraries for Darfuri children in Chad. Her journalistic writings have been published in Urban Latino, New York Post, Ms., Cosmopolitan for Latinas and El Diario/La Prensa. As an educator, she is a writing mentor at Urban Word NYC, a teaching artist at the National Book Foundation’s reading program BookUpNYC and the co-publisher of the hip-hop feminist curriculum Conscious Women Rock the Page. Sofia was nominated for the Women’s Media Center Social Media Award in 2010 and is completing her next young adult novel SHOW AND PROVE.


Alex Rivera is a filmmaker who, for the past fifteen years, has been telling new, urgent, and visually adventurous Latino stories. His first feature film, Sleep Dealer, a science-fiction feature set on the U.S./Mexico border, won multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, was screened as part of ‘New Directors / New Films’ at the Museum of Modern Art and Lincoln Center, and had a commercial release in the U.S, France, Japan, and other countries around the world. Alex is a Sundance Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow, USA Artist Fellow, Creative Capital grantee and was named one of Variety Magazine’s “10 Directors to Watch.”


Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah is a PhD Candidate in Arabic and Comparative Literature from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. Her interests include post-classical Arabic poetics as well as representations of Muslims in early modern European literature and theater. Sahar completed her BA at the University of Miami majoring in English Literature, Religious Studies and Political Science. She completed her MA at the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies and then studied Arabic and Islamic Studies in Cairo for two years as a CASA Fellow. Sahar is also the co-Founder and Creative Director of the Hijabi Monologues theater project and a script consultant for its international sister-productions, including Hijabi Monologues Ireland and Hijabi Monologues Indonesia.  Through local story contests and workshops, selected local stories are weaved into the core set of Hijabi Monologues, giving shows a local touch. The Hijabi Monologues has been staged for thousands at universities, community centers, and theaters including the John F. Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in DC, Ottawa Arts Court and the Peacock Theatre in Dublin.  For more information, visit www.hijabimonologues.com and/or follow @hijabimonologue.


G. Willow Wilson began her writing career at the age of 17, when she freelanced as a music and DJ critic for Boston’s Weekly Dig magazine. Since then, she’s written the Eisner Award-nominated comic book series Air and Mystic: The Tenth Apprentice and the graphic novel Cairo. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, was a New York Times Notable book. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan Award. Willow spent her early and mid twenties living in Egypt and working as a journalist. Her articles about the Middle East and modern Islam have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and the Canada National Post. Her memoir about life in Egypt during the waning years of the Mubarak regime, The Butterfly Mosque, was named a Seattle Times Best Book of 2010. She is currently writing the new Ms. Marvel series for Marvel Comics.


via EXCLUSIVE VIDEO on Feb. 22:

Mira Nair was born in India and studied at the University of New Delhi before earning a degree in Sociology from Harvard in 1976. Based in New York City, she worked on her own independent short films, eventually winning the Best Documentary prize at the American Film Festival for India Cabaret, an investigation of Bombay’s stripper subculture. In 1988, she made her feature-length narrative film debut with Salaam Bombay!, co-written by Sooni Taraporevala. An exploration of actual kids struggling to survive on the streets of Bombay, the film was nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Academy and won several festival awards, including the Camera d’Or at Cannes. In 1991, she teamed up with writing partner Taraporevala again for the romantic drama Mississippi Masala, about an Indian family moving from Uganda to the Southern U.S. to run a motel. Following the theme of immigration with her next film, The Perez Family featured a Cuban family moving to the States. In 1997, she took a brief turn toward historical epics with Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, set in 16th century India. Following the Showtime special My Own Country and the documentary short The Laughing Club of India, she made the international hit Monsoon Wedding. Focusing on an arranged marriage in New Delhi, the comedy drama won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and established Nair as an accomplished filmmaker. In 2002, she made a surprising turn to a New Jersey setting for the gritty HBO drama Hysterical Blindness, starring Uma Thurman, Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands. The same year she directed a segment of the French-produced anthology film 11’09″01, featuring short films from 11 international filmmakers in response to September 11. Along with teaching at Columbia University, Nair directed the films The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on the novel by Mohsin Hamid, and Vanity Fair, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray and starring Reese Witherspoon.


H.M. Naqvi is the award-winning author of Home Boy. He has worked in the financial services industry, run a slam venue, and taught creative writing at Boston University. He has received the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the Phelam Prize for poetry, and has participated in the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Jaipur Literature Festival, Art Dubai, Lollapalooza, and the IWP residency at the University of Iowa. Ensconced in Karachi, H.M. Naqvi is working on his second novel. He smokes Davidoffs.



Speakers @ “Native Tongue” Story Slam — the night of Fri., Feb. 21

Hosted by Aman Alian award winning storyteller in New York City and one of the most popular social media personalities in the Muslim community today. His passionate and animated tales he regularly posts to Facebook continue to go viral by the thousands daily. He is also one of the only young American Muslims in the public spotlight today. He’s made appearances on dozens of media outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, HBO, ABC News, and NPR to talk about his upbringing as a 20-something Muslim born and raised in America. His storytelling comes from his background as a former newspaper reporter – having covered everything from Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans to Capitol Hill politics in Washington DC to high-profile criminal murder trials in New York to hula festivals in Hawaii. He is recognized for being the co-creator of the social media phenomenon 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a 25,000 mile road trip he took to all 50 states in the U.S. with the mission of telling groundbreaking and profound stories about Muslims in America.

FEATURED STORYTELLERS: Aizzah Fatima, Hebah Akram Khan, Cyrus McGoldrick, Sameer Naseem, Linda Sarsour, AND MORE



Speakers @ Seminars and Workshops — morning & midday Sun., Feb. 23

Saladin Ahmed (bio above)

Michael Muhammad Knight (bio above)

Dina Nayeri was born in the middle of a revolution in Iran and moved to Oklahoma at ten-years-old. Her debut novel, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, was released in 2013 by Riverhead Books (Penguin) and translated to 14 foreign languages. Her work is published in over 20 countries and has been recognized by Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers, Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, Granta New Voices, and The Center for Fiction (Flaherty Dunnan prize long list). Her stories and essays have also appeared in The Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salon, Glamour, and elsewhere. She holds an MBA and a Master of Education, both from Harvard, and a BA from Princeton. She has worked in high fashion, management consulting, university admissions, investment banking, and once as a grumpy lifeguard. Now, having completed her MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop where she was a Truman Capote Fellow and Teaching Writing Fellow, Dina is at work on her second novel (also about an Iranian family). She lives in New York.

G. Willow Wilson (bio above)

Jennifer Zobair grew up in Iowa and attended Smith College and Georgetown Law School. She has practiced corporate and immigration law and as a convert to Islam, has been a strong advocate for Muslim women’s rights. Jennifer lives with her husband and three children outside of Boston. Roopa Farooki, author of The Flying Man, said of the novel: “A debut with an original and refreshing premise–Jennifer Zobair’s Painted Hands is about high-flying Bostonian women who struggle with their demanding careers, relationships, friendships and families, and who also happen to be Muslim. A positive portrait of modern Muslim women, prominent in their professions and at large within their communities, written with affection and detail.”