Board of Directors
President: M. Yaser Tabbara, Esq.
M. Yaser Tabbara is a principal of Zarzour, Khalil, & Tabbara LLC.
Tabbara was born in Chicago but grew up in Damascus, Syria. He moved to the United States in 1993 where he completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago. During his undergraduate years, Tabbara produced a full length feature film titled Adrift in the Heartland. This independent production dealt with the struggles of an Arab-American woman who migrates to the United States from her homeland of Palestine. It premiered at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Tabbara then went on to finish his Juris Doctor degree from the DePaul University College of Law.
While in law school, Tabbara was the research assistant to Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, International Law Scholar and Noble Peace Prize Nominee. As a research assistant, he wrote and edited several pieces on international human rights law and international criminal law in Arabic and English. He then went on to intern for the Chicago office of the public defender and then the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) where, upon his graduation, he initiated the Post 9/11 Immigrant Legal Rights Project where he provided legal representation, outreach and education on immigration law and civil liberties to the Chicago land Muslim and Arab communities.
Upon his departure from MIHRC, Tabbara spent the next year traveling throughout Central America, Europe and the Middle East where he attended several conferences on international law and human rights and lived in several places with the purpose of attaining an international perspective on civil and human rights as well as Islam-West relations.
Tabbara then coordinated the Legal Education Reform Project in Iraq where he worked with three main Iraqi universities on updating legal curriculums, rebuilding college of law facilities, and introducing legal clinical education.
Upon his return to the US Tabbara was appalled by the growing prejudice and hatred against Muslims in the years since 9/11. Motivated by the drive to do things differently, Tabbara joined forces with long-time friend, and Chicago Writer, Activist, Ahmed Rehab with a resolve to implement a precise vision for “a different kind of organization.” Together, they helped launch a new era for a Chicago office of CAIR which had been struggling for the two years since its incorporation in 2002. Under their stewardship and in a little over a year, the one-man franchise blossomed into a vibrant full-blown institution that continues to foster cutting-edge professional activism. Tabbara served as the executive director of CAIR Chicago until stepping down and deciding to relocate to Damascus, Syria.
Again, with the profound interest in bridging the divide between his two seemingly contradicting identities, Tabbara accepted a teaching position at the University of Kalamoon in Damascus, Syria throughout the following year where he taught subjects related to International Law and International Relations at the college of International Relations and Diplomacy.
A writer and lecturer on contemporary social issues including civil rights, media relations, and Islam-West relations, Tabbara has lectured at various University campuses. Tabbara comments as a guest on various local TV and cable news programs, as well as on radio stations. He has been interviewed numerous times by news publications.
Tabbara serves as board member of the Arab-American Bar Association and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America. Previously, he served as president of the Syrian-American Relations Council, and on the boards of the Muslim Bar Association and the Arab-American Advisory Council to the Mayor of the City of Chicago. He was also a Saturday night host for a local Radio Program on Chicago’s AM dial (1450AM, 6-7pm).
Tabbara has received several awards for his academic excellence and community service, among which is a State of Illinois Proclamation presented by Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter. He was recently named a Next Generation fellow at Columbia University’s American Assembly.
Vice President: Dr. Louise Cainkar
Dr. Cainkar is a sociologist and assistant professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences. She teaches courses in the social welfare and justice, sociology and anthropology majors. Her areas of expertise include Arab American studies; Muslims in the United States and immigration integration. Prior to joining Marquette, Professor Cainkar worked mainly in the human rights and social welfare and justice non-profit sectors and as a consulting researcher. She was a research fellow at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Great Cities Institute from 1998-2005, when she completed data analysis for her three-year ethnographic study of the impact of the September 11th attacks on the Arabs and Muslims in the United States, which was funded by the Russell Sage Foundation. Major study conclusions appear in her forthcoming book from the Russell Sage Foundation Press [Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American Experience after 9/11] available Spring 2009.
Dr. Cainkar published a number of scholarly articles and chapters based on the early findings of her post 9/11 study. These include a chapter in John Tirman’s edited book The Maze of Fear: Security & Mitigation After September 11th (New York: The New York Press) Spring, 2004, which is available in summary form from the Social Science Research Council as “The Impact of The September 11 Attacks and their Aftermath on Arab and Muslim Communities in the United States,” GSC Quarterly 13 (Summer/Fall 2004). Subsequent articles based on her Post 9/11 study as well as on other research are listed below under publications.
Cainkar received the prestigious Carnegie Corporation Scholar Award in 2004 for her work on Islamic revival in the United States, in which she examined domestic and transnational factors that play a role in the appeal of Islam and a life of faith to second-generation Arab and South Asian Americans. Cainkar argues that we need look beyond immigration and demography to understand increases in the practice of Islam in the U.S.
Professor Cainkar has been a consulting scholar for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs project on Muslim American Political Voice and the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC) project “Reframing the Challenge of Migration and Security.” Her background paper for this project “US Muslim Leaders and Activists Evaluate Post 9/11 Domestic Security Policies” is available on-line.
Professor Cainkar has presented her research internationally including at the Institute for Diplomacy in Amman, Jordan and the Danish National Institute of Social Research, and has participated in joint meetings with French scholars of Muslims at Stanford University and in Nantes, France. In June 2008 Cainkar presented at the British Library with Muslim activities and scholars of Muslims living in Britain, Germany, and France during a meeting on Muslim-Government Relations organized by the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS; the Social Science Research Council (SSRC); the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC); the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and the Council for European Studies (CES). She has also presented papers at Harvard University’s International Conference on Transalantic Islamophobia and the University of California at Berkeley Conference onDeconstructing Islamophobia and the University of California at Berkeley onDeconstructing Islamaphobia.
In addition to scholar research, Professor Cainkar has spent her career committed to public sociology by conducting community research and needs assessments in partnership with non-profits and community organizations, serving on the Board of Directors of various non-profit agencies, and publishing in scholarly magazines that reach broad audiences. In partnership with the Arab American Action Network she conducted a study of barriers and resources affecting domestic violence intervention in Arab/Muslim families. She completed a study Assessing the Need, Addressing the Problem: Working with Disadvantaged Muslim Immigrant Families and Communities”) for the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the capacity of American Muslim community institutions to provide services to low-income Muslims.
Treasurer: Nareman Taha
Nareman Taha is a highly accomplished public service leader. She has a broad background in community development and social service delivery at the local, state and federal levels, as well as extensive experience in community affairs.
In 2001, Nareman co-Founded Arab American Family Services (AAFS) and is currently serving as the Director of Development. AAFS is among the first leading social service organizations in the Southwest suburbs established to serve and advocate for Arab Americans within the Chicagoland area. AAFS is located in Bridgeview, Illinois and its mission is to change and impact the quality of life by serving and building stronger and healthier generations of Arab Americans in our communities.
Nareman Taha oversees and works with the various areas of administration, management, social services, and community services, and fund raising and development. She coordinates the agency’s efforts to identify and remove barriers to the participation of Arab/Muslim based/community groups in accessing services. She works across government agencies, schools, social service providers both locally and nationally to improve and provide quality life to Arab Americans and immigrant families and individuals who need the help.
Nareman received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1999. In 2006 she graduated with a Master’s of Science in Public Services Management from DePaul University. She serves on a number of boards both local and national.
Secretary: Ahlam Jbara
Ahlam was born in Palestine and immigrated with her family to Chicago in 1974. She began her career in community advocacy as 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. In 2006, Ahlam joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) as the Outreach and Interpretation Program Director. 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 .
After expanding her program at ICIRR, Ahlam took her vast experience in civic engagement, social services, voter mobilization, advocacy and immigrant rights to the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) to become their Associate Director in the fall of 2010. She continues to work through all channels to encourage and foster greater civic awareness and empowerment on behalf of the Muslim American community.
Board Member: Mehrdad Azemun
Mehrdad Azemun has an extensive history working across various communities for empowerment and change in Chicagoland, Iliinois, and across the country. He has worked with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) as their Senior Organizer as well as the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign as their National Field Director. More recently, Mehrdad has continued his passion for community organizing through efforts with the Asian American Institute and the New Organizing Institute (NOI).
Board Member: Oussama Jammal
Oussama Jammal has long been a leader in the Muslim civic engagement efforts of the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He is currently Vice President of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois and also serves on their government relations committee.
Board Member: Maaria Mozaffar
Maaria Mozaffar has experience in legal mediations, legislative negotiations and policy advocacy. She has developed policy on different issues in the state of Illinois and spearheaded negotiation agreements and policy task forces. She believes her strongest mentors in these processes have been the wide variety of community organizations she has worked with around the state of Illinois.
In addition to policy development and legislative strategy in the State of Illinois, Maaria has experience in grass roots lobbying and advocacy organizing. She founded and chaired the Illinois Civil Liberties Coalition of Illinois, a 22 member coalition comprised of professional legal organizations and advocacy groups including but not limited to the American Civil Liberties Union, The National Lawyers Guild and the Chicago Council of Lawyers. The Coalition lobbied members of Congress on civil rights violations of the US Patriot Act by holding town hall district meetings and press conferences with Congressional representatives as well as carried through phone-in and letter writing lobby campaigns to all the major media outlets in Illinois. Maaria has been a frequent guest speaker, lecturer and panelist on conferences around the country on issues regarding civil rights and civil liberties.
Maaria Mozaffar is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, a Chicago Committee member of Human Rights Watch and a board member of the Inner City Muslim Action Network. She received her undergraduate degrees in Political Science and English – Short Fiction from the University of Illinois at Chicago where she served as President of the Undergraduate Student Body. She was a recipient of the Ron Brown Memorial Public Service Scholarship, Chancellor’s Student Service Awards and Distinguished Advocacy Award awarded by the Chancellor’s Committee for Students with Disabilities. She received a certificate in British Contemporary Politics and Development of Anglo- Saxon Law from the Ohio State University and Oxford University Pre – Law Program. She received her JD from the University of Illinois College of Law where she served as President of the Muslim Law Students Association and President of the Student Bar Association. She is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois.
Board Member: Dr. Azher Quader
Dr. Azher Quader, MD., is a board certified urologist in private practice. He serves as chairman of the Community Outreach Committee. He is founder and Executive Director of the Compassionate Care Network, which is a provider network of mostly Muslim physicians formed to provide affordable health care to the uninsured in Chicago and suburbs. He is president of Quader & Associates, who publish the Chicago Muslim Yellow Pages. He serves on the Board of Albany Park Neighborhood Council (APNC), He is a founding member of Community Builders Chicago and serves as its Executive Director.
Board Member: Safaa Zarzour, Esq.
Safaa Zarzour is an educator, a civic leader, and an Attorney. Mr. Zarzour holds a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University School of Law, a Masters in Education from the University of Illinois in Chicago, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Arkansas State University. He is a member of the Bar in the State of Illinois, and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Mr. Zarzour is a passionate educator. He is currently an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School teaching courses in Education and Islamic Law. For over a decade, he served as a teacher and then principal at Universal School, one of the largest PreK-12 independent Islamic schools in the United States with enrollment of over 650 students. During his tenure at Universal, the school tripled its enrollment and became known among Islamic schools in North America for pioneering educational and social service programs as well as outstanding student academic achievement. Mr. Zarzour continues to serve as the vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Universal School.
In addition, Mr. Zarzour is a recognized national educational leader. He is the chairman of the Council of Islamic Schools of North America, CISNA, which claims membership of 50 Islamic schools and educational organizations. CISNA’s goal is to provide services to the over 300 Islamic schools in North America. Also, Mr. Zarzour serves as the Program Chair of the ISNA Education Forum since its inception in December 1999. The Forum provides networking and professional development opportunities to over 500 Islamic school educators annually.
Working with the broader community in the area of education, Mr. Zarzour is also a member of the Board of Advisors of St. Xavier University School of Education and member of the Board of Directors of the Governor State University Foundation.
Mr. Zarzour is known to many local Muslim communities in the United States and around the world including Belgium, South Africa, and the Middle East, through his workshops, lectures, and presentations on legal, educational, and community issues. In 2008, Mr. Zarzour was a presenter at the Brussels Forum, an annual gathering of political, civic, and academic leaders on both sides of the Atlantic brought together by the German Marshal Fund to discuss issues of development, security, education, and future relations between Europe and the United States.
Mr. Zarzour is active in interfaith circles. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Bernadine Center at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where he serves along with distinguished faith leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. He has participated for several years in the Mid-Atlantic Muslim-Catholic Dialogue. In 2005, Mr. Zarzour participated in a “Religion and the Press” symposium sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University alongside Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George, Michael Kotzin, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and professor and scholar of religion Edith Blumhofer, to discuss the responsibility of the media to report the facts accurately, regarding religion and religious communities, and the ramifications of erroneous coverage and stereotyping.
Mr. Zarzour is a well known civic leader in Chicago’s southwest suburb of Bridgeview. He has served in various capacities in his town, including as an administrative coordinator, Zoning Commissioner, and an elected trustee of the Bridgeview Public Library. Currently he is serving his second term as an elected Commissioner of the Bridgeview Park District. In 2006, he was named to the transition team of Illinois State Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, who is currently running to fill President Obama’s vacated seat in the United States Senate.
Mr. Zarzour’s civic and educational work has been featured in many media including 60 Minutes, PBS Front Line, Chicago Tribune, Time Magazine and many others. Mr. Zarzour has received several honors and awards for his public service. Most recently, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley handed him the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ 2009 Outstanding Service Award.
Over the last 15 years, Mr. Zarzour helped establish and has served on the boards of a variety of local community and advocacy organizations including being the chairman of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago.
As an attorney, Mr. Zarzour is a principal of the law firm of Zarzour, Khalil & Tabbara, LLC. He focuses his law practice in the areas of local government, education and nonprofit law. Prior to his founding of the law firm, Mr. Zarzour worked for several years as an associate attorney at the law firm of Odelson & Sterk, Ltd., Evergreen, Illinois.
Mr. Zarzour lives with his wife Rhonda and their children in Bridgeview, Illinois.