Our Staff Alumni
Here are our former staff that have contributed to the mission CAIR-Chicago works so hard to push every day.
STAFF ALUMNI 1 | 2
Lesego Tlhwale is an avid communications professional from Cape Town, South Africa who has extensive experience advocating for the rights of LGBTIQ and sex workers in South Africa. Lesego’s aspiration is using communication and social activism as a tool to achieving social change in a world that is morally inclined and marred with hyper-masculinities and a heteronormative society. During her stay at CAIR Lesego hopes to gauge how communication is used to advocate and educate against bigotry, hate and prejudice targeted at Muslims in America.
Aizik Wolf Fellow
Zachery recently graduated from the University of Chicago, having majored in Geographical Studies and Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies, with a minor in Human Rights. During his time at UChicago, he was active in Palestine solidarity advocacy and wrote his undergraduate thesis on the construction of the public in Israel through urban planning, land laws, and citizenship. With support from the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, Zach was awarded the Dr. Aizik Wolf Post-Baccalaureate Fellowship in Human Rights. He chose to work with CAIR-Chicago because he is motivated by the role of the legal profession in advancing the human rights of disenfranchised members of our society. Following his fellowship, Zach hopes to matriculate to law school and pursue a career in immigration law and anti-poverty work.
International Law Fellow
Eléna Pinot is one of CAIR-Chicago’s international fellows, coming from France. She graduated in 2016 from Strasbourg Law School majoring in human rights, with a minor in minority’s rights. She worked with several local and international institutions as a volunteer and an intern, working on legal counsel and advocating for human rights. Eléna has always been very passionate about protecting the rights of those who are most susceptible to suffer human rights violation such as refugees, minorities and women. She sadly witnessed the rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and around the world, and as a result decided to take actions. She has been working for the past year and a half on organizing CVE conferences centered on non-punitive policies and is delighted to be working with CAIR-Chicago on defending and advocating for American Muslims.
Mohammad Waqas Farooqi
As a Muslim student living in the Netherlands Waqas noticed an increase in Islamophobia, intolerance and discrimination. Not only in the Netherlands but in the West in general, especially in the United States. It is why he chose to study Public Management, so he can help his community. In the Netherlands he saw a few bright individuals that came forward, however he noticed that there were very few organizations that came forward with a reply to this bigotry. The organizations that did are often lacking on many levels. Thus, when the Public Management program that he currently is studying under offered the opportunity to do an internship, he chose to do it at CAIR-Chicago. CAIR-Chicago has shown how to effectively defend civil rights, fight bigotry and promote tolerance. His goal is to learn how CAIR-Chicago works and to connect with other organizations in the American Muslim community in order to have a proper understanding of the organizational structures, professionalism and networks that are present. After finishing his internship he will return to the Netherlands with the hope to benefit the Dutch Muslim community, improve and help the existing organization and maybe start his own NGO.
Hoda Katebi graduated with honors in both International Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2016. Hoda is an activist fashion blogger and author and photographer of the book Tehran Streetstyle, the first-ever collection of modern streetstyle photography from Iran. In 2013 she started JooJoo Azad, an online platform focusing on self-representation & narrative reclamation through an intersection of mediums (fashion, photography, writing) and issues (Islamophobia, Orientalism, #BlacklivesMatter, etc). Hoda’s work has been featured across various in-print, online, radio, and television media internationally.
Tsedenya Bizani graduated from University of Kansas with degrees in International Studies and Political Science with a minor in Middle East Studies. She was an Intern and a Fellow with CAIR-Chicago before taking on her current role. Tsedenya also works with the organization Mercy Without Limits, which is focused on tackling the current Syrian Crisis. She served as an Event Coordinator in her universities “Students for Justice in the Middle East” and has since then expanded on that through her involvement with various organizations. CAIR-Chicago fits her personal and professional goals as it emphasizes a community oriented culture that pushes its members to utilize and advance their talents to bring about tangible change. Tsedenya enjoys reading, watching foreign films, and reading funny memes on her free time.
Majoring in Political Science with a minor in Arabic Studies, Fatima Ahmed expects to attain her bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in 2015. While spending most of her time as a teen avidly involved in IHSA speech competitions as a competitor, she now works as an IHSA Speech Judge during the high school season. She also works at IQRA-foundation as a researcher and book editor, striving to help educate the Muslim youth. Previously heavily involved in mentoring and leadership programs, she hopes to use her past experiences to help educate and assist the Muslim youth to strive and live up to their full potential, so that they too can one day give back to their community. While politics and current events are her passion, in her spare time, she likes to read and travel, work on various culinary projects and stay up to date with her favorite sports teams.
Layne Hillesland graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2016 with a BA in Communication Studies while also minoring in international studies and visual communications. She was the Arts & Entertainment Editor for her school newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix for two years and has volunteered for Human Rights Watch the past three years. Layne is committed to social justice work and is excited to apply her combined knowledge of communications, international studies, and visual communications to her job at CAIR-Chicago.
Renner Larson is the Communications Director at CAIR-Chicago. In 2013 he graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in graphic design. Having taught English in Tanta, Egypt, he continued practicing volunteerism through the global leadership program Up With People and more recently as Secretary of the Board of Directors for Families In Vietnam, an NGO working to alleviate poverty through education in northern Vietnam. After working professionally as a graphic designer, Renner is excited to apply his expertise in creative problem solving and design thinking to further the mission of CAIR-Chicago.
Rabya Khan is the Staff Attorney at CAIR-Chicago. Rabya received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the College at the University of Chicago, and her Juris Doctorate from DePaul College of Law. Rabya is a former volunteer attorney with CAIR-Chicago, and previously worked in a variety of areas including family law, domestic violence, and in house corporate counsel. In her current position, Rabya focuses on asylum and immigration matters, employment discrimination, national security and civil liberties issues, hate crimes, and know your rights community education. Rabya also works on policy and advocacy issues related to immigrant rights, constitutional rights, and government surveillance. Rabya’s favorite movie is Ghostbusters. Rabya is excited for the opportunity to work on promoting social justice and protecting civil rights.
Kevin Vodak is the Litigation Director at CAIR-Chicago. In this position, Kevin analyzes all of the complaints received in the Civil Rights Department and determines the best strategy for reaching the most successful resolutions, as well as working to strengthen policies in the public and private sectors to combat Islamophobia. Kevin has a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law and a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from North Central College. Prior to joining CAIR-Chicago in July 2008, Kevin dedicated his legal career to protecting individuals’ civil rights by working in small law firms for 8 years, gaining extensive experience in litigating employment discrimination matters. Outside of his work in private law firms, Kevin has been committed to working with the National Lawyers Guild, the only bar association which has the primary goal of valuing human rights over property interests.
Mohamed Abdelati is CAIR-Chicago's Finance Manager. He is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Biological Sciences and English. Mohamed is a former communications intern with CAIR-Chicago. Mohamed works daily to keep a fully functional office. His primary responsibilities include working along outside vendors to fulfill administrative and operational needs for the office. He works with many IT specific issues and financial records for CAIR-Chicago. Mohamed appreciates the opportunity to work with the fantastic staff at CAIR-Chicago to promote a civil equality and a higher understanding of Islam to the community.
Alaa Abdelati is the Auxiliary Staff at CAIR-Chicago. Alaa is a current student at DePaul University who is majoring in Computer Science. Alaa, who also goes by the name Al, is a contemporary Egyptian-American who is dedicated to lending a hand at CAIR whenever possible. Al makes up for his reservedness with gleams of spontaneity and an awe-inspiring sense of perceptibly which aids his self-driven, yet selfless nature. Outside of work and school, Al is a Chicago sports fanatic, who continuously roots for his Bears and stays up to date on the latest in computer technology.
Hanaa completed her undergrad at Loyola Chicago and majored in accounting. She graduated summa cum laude and just graduated from Northwestern law school with honors, focusing on litigation. Hanaa gathered a lot of experience in law school. She externed with federal judges in the Northern District of Illinois and in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She also worked in the immigration clinic and in the civil rights clinic. Hanaa has participated in women’s leadership coalitions and the Muslim Student Association. She has worked as a summer associate at Kirkland & Ellis, where she will begin work in the litigation department in the fall. Hanaa grew up attending CAIR-Chicago events and wanted to give back to a community she long was a part of and that is why she decided to join CAIR-Chicago as a summer Fellow. Her hobbies include traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Hind Makki is an interfaith educator who develops and delivers trainings on civic integration and community empowerment. An internationally recognized speaker, Hind has been invited to deliver speeches and workshops on interfaith cooperation, civic integration and developing Muslim women's leadership throughout North America and Western Europe. She is involved in building Muslim-Jewish relationships in Chicago and is an alumna of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute and is focused on challenging misogyny, racism and sectarianism in Muslim communities across the country. She is the founder and curator of Side Entrance, a crowd-sourced website that documents women's prayer experiences in mosques around the world. Hind holds a degree in International Relations from Brown University.
Austin is the Communications Coordinator at CAIR-Chicago. He is a graduate from Robert Morris University in Chicago with a degree in Graphic Design. A self-proclaimed "Renaissance Man" in regards to design, Austin has no plans on stopping the train that is his creative mind. He was previously a Communications Intern at CAIR-Chicago before accepting the Coordinator position. In addition to being a member of AIGA, the professional association for design, he is also the Art Director for The Eagle - Robert Morris' school newspaper. In his free time, Austin enjoys playing golf, collecting records, making candles, and has watched every season of The Office at least eight times.
Josh Tikka is the Communications Coordinator at CAIR-Chicago. Josh graduated from DePaul University in 2012, receiving a bachelor's in Communications and two minors in Arabic and Mandarin. He has previously authored two children's books, consulted on behalf of various non profits and NGOs, administrated a homeless outreach initiative, as well as taught abroad in Palestine for a semester in 2013. Josh has spoken extensively on issues of housing in Chicago and Palestine and has stayed active in activist communities domestically and abroad since 2008. In his free time, Josh enjoys writing, designing clothes, riding bicycles, and eating everything in sight.
Youth Development Fellow
Nour Zein is a Youth Development Fellow at CAIR-Chicago. She is an alumna of the Illinois Center For Broadcasting with a focus in radio and tv production. She plans on pursuing a baccalaureate degree in Islamic Studies and a minor in Communications. Passionate about helping others, Nour strives to make a difference whether it's through inspirational videos or through articles. A freelance producer and lyricist, Nour actively volunteers at relief organizations, such as the Zakat Foundation and in community engagement such as MAS Outreach Chicago. Some of her broadcast experience includes internships at WGN-TV as an Entertainment Producer for Dean Richards, WBBM-FM B96 as a Promotions Intern and WVLI as a Producer. She plans on using her interests in television and radio to educate people of all ages and nationalities about Islam.
Agnieszka is the Communications Coordinator at CAIR Chicago. Agnieszka Karoluk graduated from DePaul University with a B.A. in Geography and spent one year studying at the New School University in New York. She previously has worked in the Islamic World Studies department at DePaul as an administrative assistant and interned at CAIR Chicago’s Communications department. Agnieszka has been a regular contributor and editor for the New School Free Press, DePaulia and more recently The Chicago Monitor. In 2011 Agnieszka traveled to India to conduct research on people’s movements in Mumbai and has taken this research to various conference presentations in Chicago and abroad. In her free time she enjoys attending lectures, concerts and movies.
Milos is the Office Coordinator at CAIR-Chicago. He recently completed his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Journalism at DePaul University. A dual citizen (Serbian-Australian), Milos moved to Chicago in 2009 as an international student. He previously lived in the Middle East for over a decade with his family. Outside of CAIR he is a contributing writer and photographer for the music blog Brooklyn Vegan Chicago. A shameless geek, in his free time he collects vinyl records, reads comic books, and tries to put a dent in his large Steam backlog of video games.
Feras is the IT Consultant at CAIR-Chicago. He recently graduated from the Faculty of Information Technology of Damascus University in Syria with a Bachelor's degree
Maryam graduated from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies with a Master’s in Post/Colonial Studies. She is also a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she studied History modified with African and African American Studies with a minor in Gender Studies. She is passionate about race, gender and identity politics and is interested in issues of neo-imperialism and human rights. In her free time, she enjoys reading literary fiction and poetry; some of her favorite authors and poets include Haruki Murakami, Nazim Hikmet, bell hooks, Kurt Vonnegut, and Kishwar Naheed. She also has a penchant for art and design and is an avid music appreciator.
Noor Salahuddin is the Office Coordinator at CAIR-Chicago. Noor has a Bachelors degree in English literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has volunteered and trained under various non-profit organizations. Noor's responsibilities include enabling staff and interns to perform at their highest professional level by maintaining an organized work environment. Aside from operational duties, Noor also assists the Executive team with day-to-day tasks and special projects in order to keep the office running smoothly. Prior to this position, Noor has worked as a Communications intern at CAIR-Chicago and has written extensively on topics related to civil rights and social advocacy. As a young activist, Noor believes in CAIR-Chicago's mission of promoting tolerance and fighting bigotry, and is excited to become a part of the CAIR-Chicago team.
M. Yaser Tabbara, an attorney by profession, served as the executive director of CAIR-Chicago until 2006. During his tenure, he helped to establish CAIR-Chicago as a vibrant institution that continues to foster cutting-edge professional activism today. Yaser has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Juris Doctor degree from the DePaul University College of Law. Prior to joining CAIR-Chicago, Yaser initiated the Post 9/11 Immigrant Legal Rights Project, which provided legal representation, outreach and education on immigration law and civil liberties to the Chicagoland Muslim and Arab communities. Later, he taught at the college of International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Kalamoon in Damascus, Syria. He has received awards for his academic excellence and community service including a State Proclamation presented by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter. Tabbara is currently the Director of Chapter Development at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and serves as a board member at CAIR-Chicago, the Arab-American Bar Association, and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America.
Maaria is CAIR Chicago's Legal Advisor. Maaria founded and currently chairs the Civil Liberties Coalition of Illinois (CLCI), a coalition of 13 legal/advocacy organizations whose focus is to lobby Illinois elected representatives on the US Patriot Act and other civil liberties issues. Maaria also serves as legislative consultant for the Developing Justice Coalition (DJC), an interfaith community based coalition, on sentencing reform. In addition, Maaria serves as legislative consultant and member of Project Restore, the legislation/lobby arm of the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Prior to her joining CAIR Chicago, Maaria clerked for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, working on low income housing and welfare issues. Maaria graduated with a JD from the University of Illinois at College of Law in 2003, and received her Bachelors degrees in English and Political Science from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1999.
Sultan Muhammad is CAIR–Chicago’s Communications Coordinator. His professional background and life experience have been highly concentrated in the field of audio-visual communications and the development of Islamic media as educational tools. Sultan produced ‘Muslim Daily Prayers - A learner’s Guide,' is a multi-media producer by trade, having trained in broadcast editing and production at NBC/Universal and is the co-founder of MPD studios based in Chicago. At an early age Sultan studied Arabic and Islamic studies, on scholarship, at the Minaret al-Riyadh International school in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. His experiences abroad and a seventy-five year family tradition of prominent Islamic activism in America have contributed largely to his life-long focus on building understanding through education, cultural dialog, and accurate representation of Muslims and minorities in America. Sultan is the son of the late Imam Sultan Muhammad, nephew of Imam W.D. Muhammad, and the grandson of Elijah Muhammad. He is married to a Mexican-American Muslim convert and currently resides on Chicago’s South side.
Haady Taslim is the community organizer for CAIR-Chicago and runs a voter registration drive and get-out-the-vote campaign in Chicago's southwest suburbs. His main reason for becoming an organizer was to give Muslim and Arabs throughout Chicago a greater voice in our political landscape. Haady holds a Master's degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the George Washington University in political science and French language and literature. Haady's prior organizing experience includes a brief stint with UNICEF working in Tamil Nadu, India. Before coming to Chicago, he also taught early elementary school for two years in inner-city New Orleans with Teach for America.
Amal Khan is CAIR-Chicago’s Operations Coordinator. She is a graduate from the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian History. A native of California, she feels that giving back to the community is vital in creating an environment conducive to self-preservation; for this reason Amal has been considerably involved in the Muslim community, volunteering with organizations such as Muslim-American Society (MAS), Islamic-Networks Group (ING), and Human Development Foundation (HDF.) As Operations Coordinator, Amal works closely with all inter-office departments in order to cultivate an environment which galvanizes energies to ensure a fully functional and efficient chapter. Amal brings her charismatic charm, animated personality and admiration for the cause to CAIR-Chicago.
Musabji is CAIR-Chicago’s Staff Attorney. She is a graduate of the DePaul University College of Law. Previously, Heena initiated the Women and Human Rights Law Initiative at DePaul, and served as director of the Sex Trafficking Opposition and Prevention Project with the International Human Rights Law Institute. Heena has also worked with the Midwest Immigrant Human Rights Center where she provided legal assistance and outreach to asylum seekers and immigrant survivors of violence, and is still involved with the organization as a pro bono attorney. She is dedicated to serving the community and advocating for those who are denied equal access to justice.
Rima Kapitan is a Staff Attorney at CAIR-Chicago. She is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and Indiana University and a partner with Amal Law Group, LLC, a general practice law firm. Her main areas of interest and specialization are plaintiff-side employment discrimination, civil rights law, workers’ compensation and estate planning. She is active in the National Lawyers Guild Middle East Committee. Previously, Rima worked as an extern at the ACLU Racial Justice Project and at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Public Interest Law Initiative Fellow
Tawfiq Ali is CAIR-Chicago's Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow. Tawfiq is a graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in June 2007. He is an alumnus of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where he provided pro bono legal assistance, representation, and advocacy for indigent clients suffering sexual harassment, domestic violence, termination of benefits, and potential eviction from their homes. He now resides in Chicago, where following his fellowship, he will work as an associate with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
Bitta Mostofi is a Staff Attorney at CAIR-Chicago. She is a graduate of the DePaul University College of Law with a certificate in International and Comparative Law. Bitta has worked with the DePaul University Immigration and Asylum Clinic, providing assistance to asylum seekers and immigrant survivors of violence. Additionally, she has worked with the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago where she provided legal representation for women seeking assistance with family law cases. Bitta is on the Electronic Iraq editorial board and has written and spoken extensively on United States foreign policy.