Who We Are

THE MUSLIM PROTAGONIST PLANNING COMMITTEE runs the Columbia Muslim Students Association’s annual Muslim Protagonist Symposium, and is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia University, as well as alumni. This year, the Committee would like to especially thank Wajahat Ali, Sahar Ullah, Sami Elmansoury, and Jafreen Uddin for their input and support during the making of the 2014 symposium. We would also like to recognize the hard work of: Ariq Azad for the fabulous website, Mustafa Hameed for Mira Nair’s Exclusive Video, and Insiya Syed for H.M. Naqvi’s Exclusive Video.

Contact us at: muslimprotagonist (at) gmail (dot) com

durraniHARIS DURRANI (Co-Chair) is a half-Dominican, half-Pakistani undergrad at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he is majoring in Applied Physics and minoring in Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies. A Portfolio Gold Alum of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, he has published fiction and essays in Analog Science Fiction & FactThe New York Review of Science FictionThe Best Teen Writing of 2010, and The Best Teen Writing of 2011. Haris worked for the Alliance For Young Artists & Writers as Editor of Scholastic’s Best Teen Writing of 2012 and was interviewed three times on John Hockenberry’s NPR show, The Takeaway. He is an aspiring engineer and writer. Space law would also be fun. Haris is inspired by Isaac Asimov, Junot Diaz, Edward Said, Ted Chiang, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Kismet the robot. When he grows up, he would like to live on Gliese 581 g, if it exists.


mariamMARIAM ELNOZAHY (Co-Chair) grew up in Austin, Texas (otherwise known as the coolest city in the universe) but is originally Egyptian (Cairo: representing). She is a sophomore at Barnard attempting to navigate modernity’s moral predicament(s) and construct the modern Muslim woman’s narrative. Mariam is honored to be co-chairing this year’s symposium and would be more than happy to discuss anything and everything with our wonderful attendees. Enjoy!



MIRZYA SYED (Alumni Co-Chair) is a graduate of Barnard college who majored in Biology. Last year she initiated the Muslim Protagonist symposium and co-chaired the committee. Currently, she is working full-time at a Queens-based non-profit called Forestdale, Inc. which combats childhood poverty and where she is creating and implementing mentoring programs for children in the foster care system. She also regularly volunteers in clinical settings and in Hurricane Sandy relief projects throughout New York City. She has dueling but hopefully complimentary aspirations to provide greater access to healthcare and better nutrition to underserved communities as a pediatrician or an emergency physician but also to be a writer of stories that matter in their own small way. During her downtime at work, she adds a page or two to her novel apparently in progress. It’s going to win all the awards. Obviously, it involves a Muslim protagonist, and he may or may not be played by Zayn Malik in the inevitable Hollywood adaptation.


ZahraProtagPicZAHRA BHAIWALA is a Senior in Columbia College majoring in Biological Sciences and Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. She is the Chair of Columbia Global Health, Editor-in-Chief of Columbia Undergraduate Science Journal, tutors GED at Rikers Island, and works part time as a researcher in the Department of Neurosurgery at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Zahra hopes to combine her interest in the Middle East and South Asia with her passion for healthcare by pursuing a career in international health systems and policy.


Anfal-BoussayoudANFAL BOUSSAYOUD is currently a sophomore in Barnard and considering a major in Neuroscience and Behavior, with likely a dash of English involved to keep me sane. She is a proud alumna of Brooklyn Technical High School and an even prouder native born Algerian who doesn’t hesitate to let you know it. Brooklyn is still a huge part of her, as some people who interpret her accent claim to be able to hear. She enjoys science, but if you really want to see her open up, ask a question about one of the shows or books she is obsessed with.


yilmaYILMA CHOUDHURY is a junior at Columbia College majoring in Physics. Although her family lives in Queens now, she is a Bronx native at heart and a legitimate New Yorker! She transferred to Columbia from NYU (where she studied Economics) in her sophomore year. Her shift from Economics to Physics was spontaneous but driven by her desire to explain the world around her. Other than her academic interests she enjoys philosophical thought and inter-cultural dialogue with a focus on religion. As a member of the board of the Muslim Protagonist, she wants to broaden her own understanding of Muslim identity in the western world and promote discussion about the same.



shylaSHYLA DOGAN grew up in Melbourne, Florida. Her mother was a native Alabamian of the Mormon faith and her father is Muslim and a native of Turkey. She converted to Islam at 18 years old. She has spent much of her academic career focusing on the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular. She has a Bachelors of Arts degree in International Relations with a focus on the Middle East from Birmingham-Southern College. Following completion of her B.A., she joined Teach for America and served as a teacher in Miami. She then received her MA in Turkish Studies from the School of Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. Her thesis focused on Turkey’s North Caucasian diaspora and methods of cultural and linguistic maintenance. She then went on to become the principal of Al-Huda Islamic School in Tucson, Arizona. She is currently a graduate student at Teacher’s College Columbia University completing an M.Ed in the Anthropology and Education program. She is interested in refugee education and the impact of schooling and curriculum on identity. Through her involvement with Muslim Protagonist 2014: A Synthesis of Journeys, Shyla is proud to support the diversity of narratives from Muslim and minority writers, artists and thinkers.


fatima picFATIMA DIALLO is a junior in Columbia College. She is majoring in Chemistry with a concentration in Hispanic Studies and is also pre-med.  She joined the Muslim Protagonist board because as a member of the MSA board this previous year she was able to help with the first Muslim Protagonist and definitely wanted to participate more actively in the future. She always had a passion for reading but before the event last year, she had never taken a specific interest in the Muslim narrative here in the U.S. After the event, she found herself yearning for more, and joining the board of this year’s Muslim Protagonist has allowed be to satiate my curiosity. She hopes that the event inspires others to take an interest in the Muslim narrative like it did for me. Overall, she hopes to help create an event where all those who attend leave having learned something that has challenged them in some way.  She looks forward to meeting everyone who attends and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions/concerns/suggestions!


SaulehacroppedSAULEHA KAMAL is a junior at Barnard College double majoring in English and Economic & Social History. An avid writer and reader, Sauleha enjoys taking fiction writing and working on both short stories and longer works. She is also involved in Columbia International Relations Council and Association, writes for the Columbia Daily Spectator, is president of the Organization of Pakistani Students and has taught a fiction writing class as part of Columbia Splash.  Sauleha believes that art is the greatest way that people communicate ideas to and share experiences with people they might never meet in person. Art allows us to truly begin to understand each other beyond our superficial differences. She admires the philosophy of the Muslim Protagonist and hopes this symposium will be even better than last year’s.


Burhan-SandhuBURHAN SANDHU is the MSA Media Coordinator. He is a member of the Class of 2016 at Columbia College, studying a pre-med track with a strong inclination towards majoring in Comparative Literature. On campus, he has been involved with The Columbia Daily Spectator as a graphics deputy, with the Columbia Science Review as a layout editor, and the Men of Color Alliance as a coordinator. Originally hailing from Brooklyn, he is still very involved with community outreach at my mosque back home, which he visits visit on a regular basis. If you’re ever in the area, let him know! He finds the MSA to be one of the most vibrant communities on campus, and is thrilled to be able to bring his skillset to the board to improve outreach this year and get Muslim brothers and sisters as well as the larger Columbia/Morningside Heights community connected with each other.


malihaMALIHA TARIQ graduated from Barnard College. She majored in Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures. She served as the treasurer of the Student Governing Board at Columbia, senior advisor to the Student Wellness Project, co-founder of the Muslim Mentoring Initiative, and was an MSA veteran.  She is passionate about public health and wellness, social justice and public policy, mentorship and education, and how these fields intersect and overlap with Islam. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring New York City, going to museums and plays, listening to music and chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool. She hopes that The Muslim Protagonist will help enforce a stronger sense of identity and unity amongst Muslims, clarify misconceptions and inspire the telling of more stories through literature and art.


fatimawFATIMA WARSAME was born in Nairobi, Kenya but grew up in Tempe, Arizona. She’s a third year undergraduate studying Neuroscience and Behavior with a special concentration in Political Science. Her academic interests include health policy, access to healthcare within minority populations, and mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys meandering around NYC, spending too much time in bookstores, and having abstract conversations with anyone who cares to engage in them. Fatima believes that writing is the only medium by which people can spread awareness of anything happening in the world, large or small. Joining the board has allowed her to see how much the Muslim community in the US has to offer. She’s looking forward to the best event of the year!




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Tariq Farid FoundationEdible Arrangements


The Ibrahim Family Foundation

Saffron Road


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kraft family fund


Club Zamana

Columbia Child Rights


Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Organization of Pakistani Students


South Asia Institute

Taiwanese Students Association