2009 Banquet Speakers


Keynote Speaker

Hamza Yusuf has been described by The Guardian as “arguably the west's most influential Islamic scholar.” After studying Islam with some of the most notable scholars in the Arab world for over a decade, Mr. Yusuf returned to the United States and earned degrees in health care and religious studies.

He is one of the most recognized Muslims in both the Arab and Western English-speaking countries and The Guardian poll on influential Muslims in England ranked him as one of the highest and most influential Muslims in the British Muslim community.

Hamza Yusuf is a co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Ca., (which is the first Muslim Seminary in America). He was a member of the C-100, a high level division of the World Economic Forum. He was a special advisor to the United Nations High Level committee, the Alliance of Civilizations.

Yusuf is the first American to teach at Morocco’s oldest and most prestigious university al-Qawariyyin. His books include Purification of the Heart, The Content of Character, The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi and Agenda to Change our Condition.

After several years of study with Dr. Abdallah bin Bayyah, the former Vice-President of Mauritania and professor of Islamic Studies at King Abdal ‘Aziz University, who is considered one of the greatest living authorities on Islamic jurisprudence in the Muslim world, he licensed Hamza Yusuf to teach and transmit the Islamic sciences.

Hamza Yusuf is a graduate of San Jose State University in Religious Studies and currently serves as an advisor to both Stanford University’s Islamic Studies department and the Center for Islamic Studies at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union.

Shaykh Hamza currently resides in Northern California with his wife and five children.



Media Awardee, Special Guest

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning and multifaceted journalist. He is a popular CNN Analyst, appearing on a variety of shows, including Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, The Situation Room, Anderson Cooper 360, Lou Dobbs Tonight, and many others. He was particulary notable during the 2008 elections casting thoughtful insights and contributing to the lively debates.

A nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate, Mr. Martin is the author of Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, and Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America.

Mr. Martin is a commentator for TV One Cable Network. In August 2007, he joined Essence Magazine as a special correspondent, writing a bi-monthly column and a daily blog on Essence.com. And in October 2008, joined the Tom Joyner Morning Show as senior analyst.

Named by Ebony Magazine in 2008 as one of the 150 Most Influential African Americans in the United States, he is the 2008 winner of the NAACP Image Award for Best Interview for "In Conversation: The Sen. Barack Obama Interview." Martin, named one of the top 50 political pundits by the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom, was also awarded the 2008 President's Award by the National Association of Black Journalists for his work in multiple media platforms.

An insightful and provocative analyst, Mr. Martin has appeared numerous times on MSNBC, FOX News, Court TV, BET Nightly News, BBC News, National Public Radio, The Word Network, America's Black Forum, American Urban Radio Networks, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and NPR's News and Notes.

He is the former executive editor/general manager of the Chicago Defender, the nation's largest Black daily newspaper. He is the former founding news editor for Savoy Magazine under the team of New York-based Vanguarde Media, and the former founding editor of BlackAmericaWeb.com, owned by nationally syndicated radio show host Tom Joyner and Radio One.

He previously served as owner/publisher of Dallas-Fort Worth Heritage, a Christian monthly newspaper. He also has worked as managing editor of the Houston Defender and the Dallas Weekly, which he led to a number of local, state and national journalism awards. Mr. Martin has worked as morning drive reporter for KRLD/1080 AM; news director and morning anchor at KKDA-AM in Dallas; city hall reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; and county government and neighbors reporter for the Austin American-Statesman.

He has won more than 20 professional awards for journalistic excellence, including a regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors; several first place awards from the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators; two citations from the National Associated Press-Managing Editors Conference; the top sports reporting award in 1997 from the National Association of Black Journalists; and honors from the Houston Press Club.

Mr. Martin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.. He is a 1987 graduate of Jack Yates High School-Magnet School of Communications, and a 1991 graduate of Texas A&M University, where he earned a bachelor's of science degree in journalism. In May 2008, Martin received a master's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University.

He is married to the Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin, author of Fulfilled! The Art and Joy of Balanced Living, and a college dean in Chicago. They reside in Chicago and Dallas.



Master of Ceremonies

Kareem Irfan is Vice-President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, and has served as Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, a broad-based federation serving over 400,000 Muslim Americans, for four years since January 2001. He has contributed in a leadership capacity for over 20 years with American and International Muslim community projects focusing on Media Affairs, Inter-faith & Civic Collaborations, Leadership Development, Strategic Planning, and Advocacy & Partnership with Public & Law Enforcement Officials. He serves on the Boards of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Inter-Faith Youth Core (IFYC), the Bernardin Center for Theology & Ministry at Catholic Theological Union (CTU), and the Illinois Research Advisory Council for Criminal Justice.

Mr. Irfan offers Friday sermons, leads congregational prayers, and speaks at fund-raising events for Muslim communities across the United States. As a frequent speaker on Islam and evolving perspectives of Muslim Americans, he has featured on international print, radio and TV media including NPR, CNN, ABC’s Nightline, BBC, TIME, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is recognized for engaging presentations at inter-faith, civic and corporate events on Islamic precepts, post 9-11 challenges of religious radicalism and extremism, the attendant role of Muslims, and relations with the Islamic world. Amongst his personally cherished talks are the first-ever Islamic prayer for the Chicago City Council, Annual Conference speeches for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the AFLCIO, presentations on Islam and inter-religious collaboration at Fortune 500 Companies, Churches and Synagogues, and Commencement speeches at High Schools, Universities and Honor Societies. Passionately devoted to (1) inter-faith understanding and collaboration which transcend religious, ethnic, cultural and national bounds to effectively address global societal challenges, and (2) trusting, collaborative relationships between Governmental agencies and the increasingly diverse communities they serve, he frequently speaks and consults in these arenas on national and international engagements.

A lawyer by profession, Mr. Irfan is General Counsel: IP/IT for a global leading company in energy management products and services. He has a M.S. in Computer Engineering from University of Illinois and a J.D. from DePaul University. Following private practice with two international IP law firms, he currently manages the Intellectual Property & Information Technology initiatives for his employer. Having served as Secretary and Board Director of the IP Law Association of Chicago, Mr. Irfan regularly lectures on his areas of legal expertise and is committed to pro bono and community service initiatives.

Mr. Irfan has received the Distinguished Community Leadership Award from the U.S. Dept. of Justice; the Distinguished Interfaith Collaboration Award from Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago; the Outstanding Religious Services Award from Imam W.D. Mohammed’s African-American Muslim Community; and the Community Service Award from the Muslim Bar Association.



Community Service Awardee

Ahlam Jbara is the Outreach and Interpretation Program Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The Outreach and Interpretation Program (O&I) is a partnership between immigrant serving organizations, ICIRR and the Illinois Department of human services (IDHS) to assist Immigrant and Refugee families in Illinois to access much needed services in order to become economically self sufficient, independent and to ease the integration process.

O&I has evolved into an Immigrant and Refugee Empowerment Program, services provided include Outreach/Education on public benefits, comprehensive case management services, completion of benefits application and very much needed Interpretation and translation services to reduce the language barriers families face in accessing state programs.

As a grassroots Chicago activist, Ahlam has worked hard to help organize and mobilize the Chicago Muslim community during key elections including the Presidential election. Ahlam inspired and mentored dozens of youth in phone banking and Get out the Vote (GOTV) Campaign living out the message, “voting is power.” During the Israeli offensive against the people of Gaza, Ahlam once again sprung into action working actively to raise awareness about the dire humanitarian crisis facing the Gazans as a consequence of the war and the preceding blockade.

Ahlam was born in Palestine and immigrated with her family to Chicago in 1974. Before joining ICIRR, Ahlam was the Family Empowerment Program Director at the Arab American Action Network, a 12-year-old Arab grassroots, community-based organization on the southwest side of Chicago.



Courage Awardee

Dr. Imran Qureshi is an Interventional Radiologist practicing in Aurora, IL. He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Rochester near his hometown of Dansville, NY. After spending an internship year in Chicago, he completed his Radiology residency at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Qureshi returned to Chicago for a fellowship in Interventional Radiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He has been in Aurora for 4 years.

Dr. Qureshi joined a group of 9 physicians who traveled to Gaza to on a humanitarian medical mission sponsored by the Islamic Medical Association. While there he performed procedures on multiple patients, including a five year old with cancer and a 9 day old with renal failure. He is currently working with the team to push for a congressional hearing regarding the aftermath of war in Gaza to allow continued medical aid in the region. He has also been a regular contributor to a website put up by the team--the American Medical Mission to Gaza (www.ammgaza.com).