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The Center for the Study of Islam Democracy

Biographical Profiles of Participants

Profiles are listed in alphabetical order

Belquis Ahmadi, ( has more than 15 years of experience in women’s rights and rule of law fields.  She is currently the Senior Human Rights Advisor with USAID’s Afghanistan Rule of Law Project, heading the Women’s Rights under Islam component.    Her responsibilities include promoting Afghan women’s rights through the use of progressive interpretation of Islamic Laws in consultation with a 45-member group of Religious Scholars, Researchers, Mullahs, Legal Professionals and Civil Society Representatives. Ms. Ahmadi was appointed to participate in Afghanistan ‘s emergency Loya Jirga in 2003, convened to determine the new government.  She was also closely involved in the Bonn process following the fall of the Taliban.  Prior to joining USAID’s Rule of Law Project, Ms. Ahmadi, worked as a Senior Advisor and Political Analyst for the Afghan Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.  She has also worked as Civil Society & Gender Advisor for the Iraqi Out of Country Elections.  Her professional experience includes working with The Asia Foundation ( Kabul ), International Organization for Migration ( Jordan and Pakistan ), Global Rights Partners for Justice ( Washington DC and Afghanistan ), the International Committee of the Red Cross ( Kabul ), CARE-International ( Kabul ) and the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief ( Pakistan ). Ms. Ahmadi earned her internationally-focused LLM in Women’s Human Rights from Georgetown University and her LLB from Kabul University . She has written extensively on the rights of Afghan women and has raised the issue of violence against Afghan women at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and before other international policy fora.


Azizah al-Hibri, ( is a professor at the T. C. Williams School of Law, University of Richmond . She is a former professor of Philosophy, founding editor of Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy, and founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. A Fulbright scholar, she has written extensively on issues of Islam and democracy, Muslim women’s rights, and human rights in Islam. She guest-edited a special volume on Islam for the Journal of Law and Religion. Her recent articles include “An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence” (Fordham International Law Journal, December 2003) and “Redefining Muslim Women’s Roles in the Next Century” (Democracy and the Rule of Law, Congressional Quarterly, 2001). She is currently completing a book on the Islamic marriage contract in American courts. Dr. al-Hibri is a member of the advisory board of various organizations, including the PEW Forum on Religion in Public Life, the Pluralism Project ( Harvard University ), and Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly (PBS).”


Margot Badran, ( is a historian of the Middle East and Islamic societies and specialist in gender studies, is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Muslim Christian Understanding, Georgetown University . She is currently Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of Religion and Preceptor at the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought at Northwestern University . She has a diploma in Arabic and Islamic religious studies at Al Azhar University in Cairo in addition to M.A. in Middle East Studies from Harvard University and a D. Phil. in Middle East history from OxfordUniversity . She calls both the United States and Egypt home. She is author of Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt, co-editor of Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing (appearing in a new expanded edition in April 2004), and translator, editor and introducer of Harem Years: the Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, Huda Shaarawi. Her writings on secular and Islamic feminisms have been translated into Arabic and several other languages. She is now finalizing a book on comparative Islamic feminisms. She also writes on feminism and gender for Al Ahram Weekly in Cairo.


Alejandro J. Beutel, ( is a Program Assistant at the Minaret of Freedom Institute, a Muslim think tank which seeks to educate Muslims on the importance of liberty and free markets to a good society, while also educating non-Muslims in the West about the beliefs and contributions of Islam. Alejandro recently finished his Bachelors of Science in International Relations and Diplomacy from Seton Hall University. His research interests include international religious freedom, democratization, and security studies.


Shajeda Dewan, ( is a Professional Social Worker in the Children and Families Division, for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and currently a MSc student at University College London at the centre for Behavioural and Social Sciences in Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Anthropology. She has extensive experience of working with Ethnic Minorities in Social Work, Health Promotion, Community Development, and related research. Her current and future academic interests are in discourses in Islam, Cultural Psychology, Anthropology, and Social Work Policy issues related to Ethnic Minorities. She has further research interests in Evolutionary processes of Religion related to Judaism, Christianity, in relation to its Historical Development; and hopes to undertake research which contributes to the deconstruction of Culture within Muslim Societies and to the development of Critical Perspectives in Islam. Her research paper “Islam and Jihad: The Associations with Violence and Martyrdom, History and Contributory Factors to Global Terrorism” was presented at the Northeast Region Conference on Christianity and Literature in New York . The paper identified cross disciplinary factors in relation to Terrorism, discovered distinct meanings of hadith not previously established and recommended directions to address the concerns of Global Terrorism in light of its findings.


Salima Ebrahim, ( is currently pursuing her post graduate diploma in Islamic Banking and Finance and received her Master of Science in Public Policy and Administration at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She recently completed a fellowship at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights where she looked at the state of Muslim women in Canada . She currently works for the federal government and is a National Board Member with the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. Salima is the co-author of “In My Own Skin: Canadian Muslim Women Creating Our Own Identity,” a publication discussing identity, relationships and family dynamics, racism and discrimination, gender issues, and violence against women, and was invited to speak at the UN Conference on Racism and Discrimination in 2001. She speaks English and French, and is learning Arabic.


Alessandra L. Gonzalez, ( ) is a Presidential Scholar and Sociology Masters/Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Baylor University with a Specialization in Religion and World Affairs. Her current research interests include the role of Religion on the Women’s Movement in the Arab Gulf Region. She has substantive work experience in international policy organizations, including professional experience with the U.S. Embassy in Brazil and with the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy at the Organization of American States in Washington , D.C. She is the recipient of many awards including an Honors Fellowship to Oxford University with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and the Benjamin Franklin Award at the U.S. Department of State. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, has a working knowledge of French, and is currently studying Chinese and Arabic.


Nuzhat Jafri, ( ) is a member of the National Board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and has led various CCMW projects. She has held leadership and management positions in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.  She is the President and owner of RealDifference, a management consulting practice providing advice and counsel to clients in the areas of change management and organizational development, business improvement, strategic and business planning, education and training, diversity, human rights and employment equity. She has held several leadership positions in the diversity and employment equity area, including Director of Corporate Affairs at the Ontario Employment Equity Commission and she led the diversity and employment equity function at Scotiabank and previously at Bank of Montreal.  She continues to be active in a volunteer capacity with various community organizations.


Radwan A. Masmoudi, ( is the Founder and President of the Center of the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), a Washington-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting freedom, democracy, and good governance in the Arab/Muslim world. He has also been the Editor-in-Chief of the Center’s quarterly publication, Muslim Democrat. Radwan has written and published several papers on the subject of democracy, diversity, human rights, and tolerance in Islam. In recent years, Radwan has visited, organized events, and spoken at major international conferences inMorocco, Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan, Nigeria, the Philippines/Mindanao,Germany, South Africa, Lebanon, and Tunisia. Radwan has a Masters and a Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In Nov. 1998, Radwan founded and incorporated the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), becoming its first executive director. In 2002, Radwan left his engineering career to become a full-time president of CSID. Under his leadership, CSID grew from a small organization into a major institution based in Washington DC, with programs and activities in over 20 countries, an annual budget of almost $1.5 Million, 58 Founding Members, and over 600 regular and associate members. Radwan has written and published several articles on Islam, democracy, freedom, and human rights in the Muslim world. He has also appeared on several TV networks including CNN, Al-Jazeera, Fox News, Algerian TV, and MBC.Radwan is married and has four children.


Mariam Memarsadeghi, ( Senior Program Manager for the Middle East and North Africa Region at Freedom House.  Ms. Memarsadeghi has studied and worked in the fields of democracy and governance, Islam and women’s rights, conflict mitigation, and humanitarian assistance.  Prior to working at Freedom House, Ms. Memarsadeghi worked in the Balkan region for the International Rescue Committee and the International Organization for Migration.  In addition to her direct experience working with civil society and human rights groups in Kosovo and Macedonia, Ms. Memarsadeghi is familiar with the politics of the MENA region, particularly in Iran.  She has studied political theory, with a focus on liberalism and totalitarian regimes.  She travels regularly to Iran and has written on women’s rights and democratization issues there.  Ms. Memarsadeghi has a BA and MA in political science from Dickinson College and the University ofMassachusetts at Amherst, respectively. She was born in Iran and emigrated to the US at the age of seven.  She is fluent in Persian and proficient in French, German and Italian.

Archana Pyati, ( is a Senior Associate in the Human Rights Defenders program. Archana conducts defender campaigns that include overseas missions, diplomatic advocacy, advocacy with the U.S. government, including delivery of Congressional testimony, public education, and grassroots lobbying.  She previously focused her work on Russia and Central Asia , and is now developing a program focus on new strategies for the protection of women human rights defenders. Before joining the Human Rights Defenders program, Archana was an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the Asylum Program of Human Rights First. She provided legal counseling and rights information to detained asylum seekers. As part of advocacy efforts against the detention of asylum seekers, she also engaged in public education and outreach, worked closely with attorneys around the country, monitored changes inUS policy, liaised with government officials, and supported media efforts. Archana earned her B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.


Negar Razavi, ( is a native of Iran , is currently a Research Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she works with Dr. Isobel Coleman on issues of development and gender in the Middle East . Her areas of study include women’s rights, identity politics and development in Central Asia and the Middle East . Ms. Razavi has conducted field research on women’s rights in Palestine , Egypt , Iran and Turkey , and has published her research in various publications. She is also involved with a number of non-governmental organizations and projects in the Middle East and the U.S, and is the cofounder of the Iran Dialogue Initiative, a student research group that organized and led the first official university student exchange with Iranian universities since the revolution in 1979. Ms. Razavi holds a B.A from Tufts University in history and peace and justice studies.

Reza Eslami-Somea, ( is Assistant Professor of human rights, Faculty of Law, University of Shahid Beheshti in Tehran, Iran. Research and teaching area: international human rights law, citizenship education,public freedoms, rights of women and minorities, and Sharia law.


Christina Sommers, ( is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington , D.C.  She has been a professor of philosophy atClark University since 1981 and is currently an Affiliate Professor. She specializes in ethics and contemporary moral theory and has published many scholarly articles in such journals as the Journal of Philosophy and the New England Journal of Medicine. Sommers is editor of Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life — one of the most popular ethics textbooks in the country. She became known to the wider public as the author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women.   Her book The War Against Boys  received widespread attention and praise and was excerpted for a cover story in the Atlantic Monthly. It was included in the New York Times “Notable Books of the Year.”  Her most recent book is One Nation Under Therapy, with Dr. Sally Satel, has received a great deal of attention and critical acclaim. Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Time, Washington Post, Boston Globe, USA Today, the National Review, the New Republic , and the Weekly Standard. Sommers has appeared on  programs such as Nightline, ABC Evening News,   the Oprah Winfrey Show -and twice on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. During her appearances she discussed such topics such as  moral education,  the strengths and weaknesses of the women’s movement,  and  the plight of boys in the nation’s schools, and one nation under therapy. Profiles of her have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the London Times.


Tamara Sonn, ( ) is the Kenan Professor of Religion and Professor of Humanities at the College of William and Mary. She has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Santa Clara, an M.A. in Philosophy from theUniversity of Toronto, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Her areas of specialization are Islamic intellectual history and Islam in the contemporary world. Professor Sonn’s books include “Between Qur’an and Crown: The Challenge of Political Legitimacy in the Arab World” (Westview, 1990), Interpreting Islam: Bandali Jawzi’s Islamic Intellectual History (Oxford, 1996), Islam and the Question of Minorities (Scholars Press, 1996), and Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam (with J. Neusner; Routledge, 1999), and Judaism and Islam in Practice (with J. Neusner and J. Brockopp; Routledge, 2000). She has contributed chapters and articles to numerous books and journals, as well as the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World and Colliers Encyclopedia. Dr. Sonn has lectured in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. She has received grants from the United States Institute of Peace and the American Council of Learned Societies, among others.


Antony T. Sullivan, ( ) is a distinguished senior scholar who holds an honorary position as an Associate at the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan. Before his retirement in 2000, Dr. Sullivan was affiliated for 30 years with Earhart Foundation (Ann Arbor,Michigan), most recently as Director of Program and Corporate Secretary. From 1962-1967 Dr. Sullivan taught at International College (Beirut, Lebanon). Dr. Sullivan received his BA from Yale (1960), his MA from Columbia (1961), and his Ph.D from the University of Michigan (1976) in European history and Middle Eastern Studies. He has written two books and some 80 articles and reviews, and has lectured widely at universities in the United States and abroad. Over the past three decades he has traveled frequently to the Middle East in connection with his professional responsibilities and research interests.

Christina Tobias-Nahi, ( is Director of Public Affairs for Islamic Relief in Washington , D.C.  Before moving to the Capitol, she participated in setting up an interfaith youth program at Tufts University , where she also co-taught two seminars on comparative religion and religion & politics.  She worked for nearly a decade atHarvard University with both The Civil Rights Project doing education research and policy and the Islamic Legal Studies Program.  Mrs. Tobias-Nahi received a M.A. in International Relations from the Boston University – Paris Overseas Graduate Centerand later a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  She conducted a national study on Muslim women converts funded by the Harvard Pluralism Project, wrote a personal essay in the days after 9/11 for the Boston Sunday Globe, and co-authored a chapter “An Islamic School Responds to September 11” in Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools (2003, 2007).  Another co-authored chapter, “Authentic Interaction: Eliminating the Anonymity of Otherness” is under publication (Yvonne Haddad, Ed.) Teacher certified, she also helped found an Islamic school in the Boston area and for many years administrated a weekend school and worked with immigrant parents.




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