Youth Conference Panelists



Ben Rhodes has been the Deputy National Security Adviser for strategic communications since September 2009. Previously, he served as President Obama's foreign policy speechwriter.
Prior to joining the Obama campaign, Ben worked as Special Assistant to President Lee H. Hamilton at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He worked closely with President Hamilton through his tenure as Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), focusing particularly on policy recommendations and process matters.  He is the author, with Hamilton and Thomas H. Kean, of Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.
Sharik Zafar is currently the Director of the NSS Global Engagement Directorate at the White House, National Security Staff.  Prior to being at the White House he was the Deputy Chief of the Global Engagement Group at the National Counterterrorism Center and a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Homeland Security.  Mr. Zafar completed both his law school and undergraduate studies at the University of Texas.
Rashad Hussain is the Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on February 13, 2010.  The OIC is comprised of 56 nations and is the second largest international body after the U.N.  Mr. Hussain has also served as Deputy Associate Counsel to President Obama, focusing on national security, new media, and science and technology issues.   Mr. Hussain received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduation, he served as a Law Clerk to Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mr. Hussain also earned his Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His academic writings have focused on national security, constitutional law, and civil liberties.
Farah Pandith was appointed Special Representative to Muslim Communities in June 2009. Her office is responsible for executing Secretary Clinton’s vision for engagement with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level. She reports directly to the Secretary of State.  Prior to this appointment, she was Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. In this role she was focused on Muslim communities in Europe where she was responsible for policy oversight for integration, democracy, and Islam in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. She also worked on issues relating to countering violent Islamic extremism.  Ms. Pandith received a Master's degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she specialized in International Security Studies, International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and Islamic Civilizations and Southwest Asia. Ms. Pandith received an A.B. in Government and Psychology from Smith College
Arsalan Suleman serves as Deputy Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Arsalan assists U.S. Special Envoy Rashad Hussain in the Administration's efforts to deepen and expand the partnerships the President announced in Cairo, Egypt in June 2009. Arsalan graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service with a B.S. in Foreign Service as an International Security Studies major and with a Certificate in Muslim-Christian Understanding. As a George Mitchell Scholar, he earned a Master's degree in International Peace Studies from Trinity College, Dublin.  His J.D. is from Harvard Law School, where he published several articles on national security and the law and was a Fellow with the Harvard Negotiation Research Project. After law school, Arsalan clerked for Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, a federal district court judge in the Southern District of New York, and worked as a litigation associate at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Nadia Naviwala is currently working at the Pakistan Desk at the USAID Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs.  She was also a Student Associate at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a Student Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.   Ms. Naviwala obtained her Master in Public Policy, International and Global Affairs from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and her B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Lubna Fazal joined the Office of Refugee, Asylum and International Operations (RAIO), Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in Fall 2008.   RAIO is a directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  Ms. Fazal received her B.A. in English literature and International Studies from the University of Houston and her J.D. from the University of Houston Law center.  She is a licensed attorney with a strong interest in human rights issues and asylum/refugee law.  
Jihad Saleh Williams is the Government Affairs Representative at Islamic Relief.   He obtained his MPA in Domestic Policy from Princeton University, his MA in Sociology from Stanford and his Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Sociology from the University of California.
Ziad Haideris a White House Fellow in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. He previously served as a Legislative Aide on foreign policy and immigration issues in the U.S. Senate and Professional Staff on the House Committee on Homeland Security. He was a Research Analyst at the Henry L. Stimson Center developing conflict resolution measures in South Asia, a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia working on Muslim women’s rights issues and studying Islamic law, and a Fellow at Human Rights Watch’s China Program and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, conducting field work on governance reforms in Pakistan’s tribal belt. He has also worked at leading international law firms in the United States, India, and Singapore. Haider is the author of The Ideological Struggle for Pakistan (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2010) and a foreign affairs columnist for The Sun (Malaysia). He received his B.A. with distinction in Political Science from Yale University and his J.D. and M.P.A. from Georgetown and Harvard University. He is fluent in Urdu and proficient in Mandarin and French.
Salmah Rizvi is currently a Department of Defense employee.  She was a double-major in Anthropology and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University and founded Vision XChange, a nonprofit organization which serves as a mechanism to create entertaining, opportunistic events while spreading awareness of important issues. 
Arif Haque is a Special Assistant at the U.S. House of Representatives.  He obtained his Masters at the John Hopkins University and his Bachelors at the University of Michigan.
Sarah Peck is a career foreign service officer from Boston, Massachusetts.   She is currently serving as the Team Leader of the Political Unit on the Pakistan Desk at the U.S. State Department.  The political unit focuses on internal and external politics, democracy and governance, human rights, and other issues relating to the bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the U.S.
Before joining the desk, she worked as a Pearson Fellow at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the majority staff, focusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  She helped organize six senate hearings on those countries and contributed to staff reports on assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sarah served for sixteen months at U.S. Embassy Kabul.  As the Deputy Rule of Law Coordinator, she was responsible for coordinating the Embassy’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption in Afghanistan, in cooperation with the international community, NATO, and the U.S. interagency.  At the request of General Petraeus, she helped establish a combined joint inter-agency task force at NATO headquarters to help the military fight corruption in Afghanistan.  
Sarah served as a Visa Consul in Manila from 2007 to 2009.  Among other things, she adjudicated non-immigrant and immigrant visas, managed the Embassy’s seafaring and international adoption portfolios, and served as the acting Chief of Mission to Palau. 
Sarah began her diplomatic career serving as a political officer in Prague.  She reported on Czech foreign policy, including Czech efforts to promote democracy in Eastern Europe, Burma, and Cuba. 
She has received six meritorious honor awards for, among other things, political reporting, an initiative to reduce visa fraud, developing a protocol for handing international adoptions, and promoting justice in Afghanistan.  She received a Franklin Award for organizing an outreach program for Czech youth.  In 2010, she was nominated for the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for her policy-related work developing the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption strategies for Afghanistan.
Prior to entering the State Department, Sarah worked as an intellectual property attorney in Boston and as a corporate counsel for a software company in Paris, France.  She earned a B.A. with honors from the University of Florida, and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. 
Faizan Haq has earned his Bachelors in American Studies with concentration in Intercultural Studies from SUNY at Buffalo. His graduate course work included economics, multiculturalism and cultural history. His Masters' focus at Buffalo State College was in Multidisciplinary Studies with concentration in Public Relations and Education Technology. He also holds an M.S. in Education Technology.
Priya Murthy is the Policy Director at SAALT.   As Policy Director, she monitors and analyzes legislative and administrative policies affecting the South Asian community; conducts advocacy on various policy issues; and develops educational materials for the South Asian community members and organizations. She also represents the organization as a member of immigrant and civil rights coalitions as well as before lawmakers and governmental agencies.  Priya received her J.D. from Tulane University and her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Moh Sharma is a Walmart/General Motors Fellow.  She has worked at the CT Judicial Branch, the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic during law school, and interned at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the United Nations. Moh received her B.A. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut, a M.S. in Global Affairs from NYU, and a J.D. from CUNY School of Law.
Haris Tarin is currently the Director of the Washington DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). He was raised and educated in Southern California where he received his undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies/Education at the California State University of Northridge. Haris is currently pursuing his graduate work at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.
Shazia Kamal (Associate Editor at is a community activist and writer, dedicated to empowering communities and creating access to information to help foster civic engagement and dialogue. She has been involved in carrying out these tasks while working at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the South Asian Network, and as the Urdu Language Outreach Partnership Assistant at the United States Census Bureau for the 2010 Census campaign.  Shazia completed her undergraduate degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently pursuing an M.A.
Muslim Lakhani ML Resources LLC was founded in mid-2007 to review opportunities that provide positive returns in today's uncertain markets. At the same time, the company aims to encourage open dialogue through philanthropy and partnerships in order to promote a culture of tolerance in a world where prejudice, exploitation, and extremism have been allowed to thrive.
Mr. Muslim Lakhani is Founder and CEO of ML Resources and ML Private Investments, LLC. For over 30 years, he has developed natural resource projects as well as undertook other business ventures in the Middle East and South Asia.
Mr. Lakhani has led ML Resources to promote dialogue among different faiths, ethnic groups, and social classes, helping build institutions for political, social, and economic reform. He formed ML Resources Social Vision, the strategic philanthropy arm of the company, with a spirit of sharing and tolerance.
ML Social Vision provides funding and support for initiatives both in the United States and in Pakistan. Social Vision’s recent U.S. interfaith partnerships include the 9/11 Unity Walk’s Interfaith Youth Action Group, the 6th and I Synagogue for the Fast2Feed Interfaith Iftar, the Center for Global Understanding, and the Salvation Army, in which the company funds their DC area feeding program for the homeless, the Grate Patrol. Mr. Lakhani resides with his family in Washington DC. 
Assad R. Akhter was named as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) in February 2011.  In this new capacity he will be directly responsible for managing the local district offices and staff for the 8th Congressional District of New Jersey.  Before this most recent assignment Assad served since 2006 as the Legislative Director in the Washington, DC office where he oversaw the Congressman’s legislative agenda and staff as he was tasked with coordinating the Congressman’s position on the House Ways & Means Committee as well as staffing his assignment on the House Homeland Security Committee
Umair Khan is currently Counsel to New York State Senator Kevin Parker.  He obtained his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and went to law school at Albany Law School of Union University.
Raza Naqvi is broadcast journalist at Voice of America’s Urdu TV service. He co-hosts The Platform, a bi-weekly current affairs show that brings together news and opinion makers from the US and Pakistan. He also reports on issues ranging from US-Pakistan relations, Muslims in America, and US domestic politics for a Pakistani audience.  Naqvi studied economics and journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is a cricket devotee.
Taha Gaya is the Executive Director at the Pakistani American Leadership Center.  He went to law school at the University of San Diego School of Law and obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of California at San Diego.
Kulsoom Abdullah is a Pakistani-American computer engineer, who has been weightlifting for three years and Crossfitting for two years.   Kulsoom started competing in Olympic Weightlifting competitions in March 2010 and obtained the Crossfit Level I certification the same year.  She completed her undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.  Kulsoom then finished her PhD in Electrical/Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  
Winston Ibrahim is the Co-Founder, Lead Investor, and Executive Vice President of Business Development for Hydros  Bottle LLC. In addition he serves as Executive Director of Operation Hydros, the company’s effort to address the Global Water Crisis by financing the construction of clean water infrastructure in the developing world.  Winston received his B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from the Johns Hopkins University in 2009.  While a student at Hopkins he served on the Executive Board of the Jewish fraternity AEPI.  He currently serves on the Boards of the Interfaith Youth Core, and that of leading social entrepreneurship company ThinkImpact. He also serves on the Advisory Board of i On Poverty.
Shazia Kamal (Associate Editor at is a community activist and writer, dedicated to empowering communities and creating access to information to help foster civic engagement and dialogue. She has been involved in carrying out these tasks while working at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the South Asian Network, and as the Urdu Language Outreach Partnership Assistant at the United States Census Bureau for the 2010 Census campaign.  Shazia completed her undergraduate degree in English at the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently pursuing an M.A.
Alejandro J. Beutel is a Government and Policy Analyst at Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  He completed his undergraduate degree at Seton Hall University and his Masters degree in Public Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Akil Vohra serves as Senior Advisor in the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. At the Initiative, Akil will be working with the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs, leading the communications effort, handling the anti-bullying campaign, and improving efforts of AAPI representation in federal government. Prior to the Initiative, Akil was Counsel at Muslim Advocates where he focused on anti-terrorism financing, strengthening the nonprofit sector, and civil rights and civil liberties issues.  He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Irvine, and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School where he received the Michael Dillon Cooley Award for service to the law school community.  He has also completed a program in international human rights and immigration at Oxford University (U.K.).
Syed Mansoor Alam  is the founder and current director of The Enough Foundation, and its sister group, Enough Advocacy, a student-led nonprofit organization based out of Cheshire, Connecticut.  He is a social entrepreneur focused on non-profit marketing, as well as a political activist concerned with issues pertaining to race and youth engagement. As of August 2011, Alam is the youngest organization consultant to the United Nations, specifically to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Daniel Nainan is a comedian who has performed at the Apollo Theater, the Laugh Factory, the New York Comedy Club and many other venues in both the United States and throughout the world.  He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland at College Park and his graduate studies at the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.
Deborah Temkin is the Research and Policy Coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives at the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education.  In that role, she contributes to all activities in the Department that relate to bullying and bullying prevention including managing the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Working Group, a coalition of 9 federal agencies working towards reducing peer to peer bullying in American Schools.  Temkin received a Master of Arts in Education Theory and Policy from the Pennsylvania State University in August, 2009 and a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies also from PSU in May, 2010.
Professor Tahir I. Shad teaches the politics of the Middle East and Africa. A specialist in international relations, he joined the Washington College faculty in 1990.  As Associate Dean of the College between 1995 and 1999, Shad developed and implemented 40 international programs in 25 countries, including exchange programs, study abroad programs and summer programs. He established four faculty exchanges (China, South Africa, France and England) as well as special academic sessions abroad (in Ecuador for environmental studies, in England for English literature, and in Tanzania for interdisciplinary studies). He also helped to negotiate dual-degree programs in nursing and engineering with the University of Delaware.   Educated in the U.K., Shad received a bachelor's degree with honors in political science from the School of African and Asian Studies at University of Sussex, and earned his post-graduate certificate in education from the London Institute of Education, London University. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees in political science at University of Pittsburgh.
Melanie Maron Pell joined the Washington Regional Office of the American Jewish Committee as Director in December of 2006.  As Director, Melanie oversees all of the DC Regional Office activities, represents AJC in a variety of diplomatic, civic, and intergroup settings, and is the primary liaison for AJC’s National Office and for the media.  She is a frequent speaker in the Washington community and currently serves on the Board of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and on the Grant Review Committee of the Israel on Campus Coalition of Greater Washington.  Melanie also serves as staff chair of AJC’s national Program Coordinating Committee and as a member of AJC’s national Talent Management Task Force.
Melanie joined AJC as the Assistant Director of the Chicago Regional Office in 2001 and was promoted to Associate Director prior to leaving Chicago to join the DC Office.  A licensed attorney, Melanie oversaw the Chicago Chapter’s international relations activities and the cultivation and maintenance of relationships with agencies and community leaders from Chicago’s various ethnic and religious communities.  She also directed the Chicago Office’s domestic policy and advocacy efforts.  While in Chicago, Melanie served on the Executive Board of the Alliance of Latinos and Jews, on the Steering Committee for the Interfaith Youth Core, and on the Planning Committee for the Women Everywhere: Partners in Service Project. 
Melanie graduated with honors from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2001 and was the recipient of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Law Student Public Service Award and of the Chicago-Kent Bar and Gavel Public Service Award.  Melanie is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville.  She and her husband, Ken, live in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Paul Entis joined the staff of AVODAH:  The Jewish Service Corps in 2008 as the agency's DC Site Director.  AVODAH's mission is to strengthen the Jewish community's fight against the causes and effects of poverty in the United States. The organization does this by engaging recent college graduates in service and community building that inspire them to become lifelong agents for social change whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values. Paul has been a fundraiser for nonprofits and colleges for nearly 20 years.  Paul's undergraduate degree is from Emory University (Atlanta, GA) and he holds a Master’s Degree in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Sarah Hilleris a communications expert focused on promoting the use of mobile phones and other mobile technologies to improve health care for people in developing countries. Currently, she is Communications Technology Coordinator for the public health firm John Snow Inc. (JSI). Before that, she led communications for the UN Foundation’s $30 million partnership with Vodafone Foundation. Prior to that, she worked on a USAID project helping entrepreneurs in Guatemala apply for loans to start social enterprises. She also trained branch managers and loan officers at Guatemala’s largest bank, Banco Industrial. In Managua, Nicaragua, Hiller worked for an NGO in the field of economic development, where she spearheaded the organization’s monitoring and evaluation program and provided consulting to local entrepreneurs. Prior to that, Hiller worked for four years at a public relations agency in Washington, D.C., with clients including The Coca-Cola Company and Shell Chemicals. Hiller graduated from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, where she founded a chapter of Net Impact.
Hiller serves on the board of Access, where she leads Indian-Jewish relations. In 2010, she traveled with Access on a diplomatic mission to India. Her involvement with the American Jewish Committee began when she was a Goldman Fellow in 2004.
 Jamie Kamlet joined the Washington Regional Office of AJC as Program and Development Assistant in September 2010. Prior to joining AJC, Jamie was an AmeriCorps Member at Academy of Hope, a school for low-income, low-literacy adults trying to earn their high school credentials.  At Academy of Hope, Jamie taught reading, writing, math, science, and social studies classes, tutored on an individual basis, and served as a volunteer coordinator.  Originally from New York, Jamie graduated magna cum laude from American University in May 2009 with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Justice.


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