Meet Our Shura Council
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ruqia Abdi attended the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan where she learned Arabic and Islamic Studies, and came to the United States as a refugee in 2000. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development from Walden University in 2016 and since then has worked as a tireless advocate for women and children, particularly in the Somali community. Her work helping immigrant parents find opportunities for their children has been featured in the Star Tribune. Ruqia lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and three teenaged children.
Sarah has Masters degrees in Public Policy and Social Work as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Minnesota. She has dedicated herself to nonprofit work that supports and elevates the Muslim community. To that end, she currently works as the Director of Operations at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley and serves as the Board Chair of Sisters Need a Place (SNAP), providing social support for women in need.
Amina Baha holds a bachelor degree in Information technology and attended graduate school for Healthcare Administration. She is an information technology professional working with various healthcare organization throughout the Twin-cities on electronic health-record projects. She is a member of the Northeast Art Association and served as the board of directors at Alexandra House is Blaine. She is inspired by the many strong women in her life, who have shattered stereotypes and have made the world and our communities a better place. She is hoping to shatter stereotypes about Muslim Afghan women through her activism and involvement in the community.
Lila is a proud Minnesotan on a mission to change the way black, indigenous, and communities of color are represented in government. She is a fierce advocate of authentic representation, access, inclusion, and breaking down systems of oppression. Her life work has been dedicated to community organizing through engagement and education, social justice advocacy, leadership empowerment, and political candidate support & strategy. In 2018, she stepped forward as one of a few unapologetic Muslim women of color and the first Egyptian American woman to run for political office in the state of Minnesota.
Memoona’s day job is a Business Analyst at the University of MN. But, most of her nights and weekends are dedicated to serving the community. She leads the IMPACT volunteer initiative for Qabeelat Madinatayn (MN chapter of the Al-Maghrib Institute), putting knowledge into action. She is also part of the Speakers Bureau for the Islamic Resource Group, which provides educational resources and tools to the community about Islam and Muslims. Her passion lies in breaking stereotypes and dispelling myths about Islam and Muslims through blogging.
Farheen Hassan has been part of the Minnesota mosaic since 1998. Born in the United Arab Emirates and growing up in the UK and Pakistan, she appreciates the value diversity brings to our state and nation as a whole. An AMI Certified Montessori guide, she holds degrees in Psychology and Education. Farheen has been engaged in the community as a teacher, consultant, administrator, Montessori advisor, volunteer, and a board member at Az-Zahra Madressah in Brooklyn Park. A mother of three daughters, Farheen is passionate about social justice, women’s rights, and advocacy for minorities. As a hijab–wearing immigrant woman, she recognizes the lack of representation of Muslim women leaders in our culture and communities.
Maher Mahmood is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and currently works as an attorney. Maher is passionate about serving the community and has been a volunteer for the Islamic Society of Woodbury, Council on American and Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), Tubman, and Second Harvest. As a student, she was actively involved with the Muslim Law Student Association and hosted various leadership events. She believes in the importance of an organization like RISE that not only seeks to empower Muslim woman but foster them with the right skills so they can be leaders in their own communities.
Biftu Nejash is a University of Minnesota Alum with a degree in Marketing. She is currently a Project Manager at Clockwork where she serves as a strategic partner to her clients. Passionate about leadership development, she serves as a Shura Council member at RISE where she aims to connect and amplify the voices of Muslim women in the spaces they take up. In her free time, she loves to travel and explore new corners of world.
Maria Nezami graduated from the University of Minnesota with her Bachelors of Arts degree in Speech-Communication. Currently, she works for AT&T in the finance field on their business wireless accounts and also as a consultant for Novation Education Opportunities, a charter school authorizer. Maria worked for the Special Education Department for the Bloomington School District with children and served on the founding team of a successful charter school: Star of the North. She also worked for Multilingual Word, as an interpreter for the Dari/Persian language in clinics and hospitals throughout the Twin Cities. In 2018, Maria joined Faith in MN to organize and advocate for our state’s elections and political process. She is involved in interfaith groups and loves traveling, reading, cooking, scrapbooking and spending time with family and friends. She has a YouTube cooking channel called Cooking With Maria & Little Mustafa.
Emaan is a recent graduate from St. Catherine University. She majored in Public health with a double concentration in health sciences and public policy as well as minored in Biology. She has experience in organizing and community outreach. Recently she served as an organizer for three candidates who ran for the Minnesota State House of Representatives and aid in getting all three candidates elected to office serving in the majority. Emaan works as a legislative assistant at the Minnesota House of Representatives for the DFL house Caucus.
She is passionate about issues related to the public health such as equal access to health care, environmental issues, the public policy sector as well as clinical medicine. Emaan believes that one of her strength is consequential compassion, where compassion to helping others is linked with actions.
Shamaila Usmani currently serves as ARC’s South Asia Creative Connector. While she has been co-leading the organization’s response to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh since November, she brings an array of expertise in global mental health, knowledge synthesis and exchange as well as monitoring and evaluation, to the table. Prior to joining ARC, she served a Knowledge Exchange Officer for the Mental Health Innovation Network, based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In this position, she served as one of the faces of the platform, connecting the GMH community to facilitate creative evidence-based projects into policy. She is an advocate for social justice and human rights, striving to support the most marginalized and underrepresented communities globally to reclaim their voice.