MPV Governing Board

ani OSMAN-zonneveld

Founder and president

Ani Zonneveld is founder and President. Since inception, Ani has presided over MPV’s expansion to include chapters and affiliates in 12 countries and  19 cities.  She has organized numerous interfaith arts and music festivals, participated in many interfaith dialogues and is a strong supporter of human rights and freedom of expression. She is the brainchild of Literary Zikr – a project that counters radical Islam on-line and co-editor of MPV’s first book, an anthology titled “Progressive Muslim Identities – Personal Stories from the U.S. and Canada”; she has contributed to many forewords and numerous anthologies too many to list; is a contributor for HuffingtonPost, OpenDemocracy and al-Jazeera, and recently gave her TEDx talk titled – Islam: As American As Apple Pie; on the national Planned Parenthood Clergy Advisory Council and the subject of a documentary title "al-imam" featuring Ani's activism works. As an award winning singer/songwriter, she utilizes the power of music and the arts in countering radicalism as she speaks-sings her message of social justice and peace from a progressive Muslim woman’s perspective, and is the first woman to release an English Islamic pop album in the U.S. in 2004.

Born and raised Muslim from Malaysia and based out of Los Angeles, Ani spent a good portion of her formative years raised in Germany, Egypt and India as an Ambassador’s daughter. Her exposure to different politics, religions and cultures has shaped her inclusive worldview.

For a detailed overview of her CV, click here.

To request Ani for an interview, please email: info@mpvusa.org with Media Inquiry in the subject line.

kelly wentworth

MPV Secretary/MPV-Atlanta President

Kelly Wentworth was inspired by her strong belief in an open and inclusive worship space to create the American Islamic Fellowship (AIF) in Atlanta, GA in 2007. In 2011, AIF became a part of Muslims for Progressive Values and Kelly joined its board. In Atlanta, she has helped create a mosque space with continuous activities, educational programs, and chaplaincy and officiant services. Kelly received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Language from Tennessee Technological University. She spent two years in Yemen and worked as an EFL Instructor where she received a diplomacy citation from the U.S. Department of State. She currently works as an Implementation Consultant for an event software company. Kelly actively participates in human rights, women’s rights and LGBT rights efforts everywhere she can. She is a part of various projects that promote music and arts in the community. Kelly is a fellow at the Muslim Institute, which exists to promote and support the growth of thought, knowledge, research, creativity, and open debate.

Barza Diaz

MPV Treasurer/MPV-NY Founder

Barza Diaz is one the founding steering committee members of MPV-NY. She was born in Pakistan and raised in New Jersey. As an eldest child of first generation immigrants in the US, Barza was encouraged to continue to appreciate her religious and cultural background. After graduating from Saint Peter’s University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Barza actively sought a progressive Muslim community that would accept people judgment-free and found MPV. Barza previously worked as an auditor for CohnReznick to review financial integrity of her clients’ financials. Today she works as a Cost Accountant for Benjamin Moore.

mahfuzul islam

mpv-un Youth Representative

Mahfuzul was born and raised in Queens, New York. He has a BA in International Political Economy and Economics from Fordham University. Currently an intern with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, where he helps coordinates the Youth Assembly at the United Nations and other international projects. He’s been active abroad in South Africa, the Philippines, Bosnia, Turkey, and Bangladesh. He has aspirations of higher education and a career in the International Relations. He believes an inclusive community will naturally gravitate towards progress for mankind as a whole.

 

frank parmir

MPV-Columbus Director

Frank Parmir is a lifetime native of Columbus, Ohio. He is a retired carpenter and anti-nuclear weapons activist. Because he experienced such a common and casual tolerance for war and poverty within his society, Frank spent most of his adult life publically agitating for better ethics, but identifying himself as an atheist. After a visit to Konya on the eight hundredth anniversary of Rumi’s Union with God, Frank became deeply interested in Islamic Sufism. With subsequent readings of the Qur’an he found an ‘utterly magnificent description of the Infinite Power and Perfect Goodness of The One Reality.’ Frank and his wife took shahada at Masjid Omar in 2008. Visiting various nearby Mosques and finding none that would be welcoming of the their two lesbian daughters (should they embrace Islam) with full equality. Frank started MPV- Columbus which is the only inclusive mosque in Ohio, and perhaps the whole Midwest, with a regularly scheduled female khateeb.

ahmed karrar

mpv-chicago director

Ahmed Karrar is a 2nd year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He was born in Coventry, England and has been living in America since 1996. He grew up in Grand Blanc, Michigan and attended University of Michigan-Flint for undergrad; currently a civil rights law clerk at the Council of American Islamic Relations in Chicago and has aspirations of going to business school after attaining his law degree. He has always been an advocate for progressive values within the Muslim world and looks forward to working with MPV to building Muslim communities in which inclusion and open dialogue are promoted.

BARBARA KHANDAKAR

BOARD Member/MPV-Atlanta

Barbara Khandakar is a local Board Member of MPV-Atlanta and has been involved with the community since 2009. Her compassion for equal rights and a community with a judgment-free environment for all ages brought her to American Islamic Fellowship, which later became part of Muslims for Progressive Values. Barbara's focus has been on education for children within an open environment of Progressive Muslims and providing them with a love of Islam and curiosity.  Barbara received her education in Environmental Horticulture and worked in the horticulture field for 10 years managing, designing and, training.  She also is a mother of 4 brilliant life-changers.  She taught Sunday School for 4 years at an Episcopal church in Georgia and is an advocate for her own children, standing up to make sure they receive the rights they deserve within the Special Needs programs.


 

MPV Board of Trustees

Ali Parsa

Born in Tehran, Iran, Ali Parsa came to the US to study biochemistry, architecture, and philosophy. After receiving two B.A. degrees in philosophy and in architecture from University of Kansas, then he received a double masters at UCLA in history and Islamic/religious studies, followed by a Ph.D. in history. He has been teaching world history, comparative religion, humanities, architecture, philosophy of religion, and gender and religion at universities and colleges in California since 1998.

As a young man Parsa returned to Iran in 1979 to join the revolution against the shah, and though he had to escape back to the US after Khomeini came to power, he continued his political activities against the Iranian regime to promote religious freedom, equality, and women’s rights.

Dr. Parsa seeks ways for people to appreciate different points of view that go beyond political correctness. To that end, he calls for the implementation of paradigm shifts in physics—quantum, relativity, new cosmology—to shape a  reinterpretation of human history. This in turn can be applied to religious texts and lead to a more universalist ethic, despite cultural and religious differences.

His last book, The Mind of the Historian: Causation on Philosophy of History, which reveals unavoidable biases of historians, is used in graduate-level classes in historiography.

Michael Alexander

In 1990, following a 22-year career in arts management, Michael Alexander, became the Director of Grand Performances free public concert series where his skills in curating, producing and marketing were responsible for the growth of that organization into a nationally recognized leader in the free performing arts field.  He has a career-long history of involvement in developing programs that bring the performing arts into people’s lives in new and interesting ways; leading statewide and regional advocacy and networking efforts; and supporting the work of outstanding performing artists.  

Of particular importance to Michael, is finding ways for the arts to play leading roles in breaking down the barriers that divide communities and raising issues of concern to the community at large.  Under his leadership at Grand Performances, hundreds of artists from around the world – many from countries that are making headlines in less than the most positive ways – have been featured on GP’s stages.  He initiated relationships with many niche ethnic communities.  He led GP’s efforts to attract diverse audiences for all the artists presented and for developing activities that give the artist opportunities to meet and interact with other artists and members of the general public.  


He was a member of the California Arts Council from 2004 to 2016 – appointed by three Assembly Speakers and was twice elected Chair of the Council.  His other professional involvements include serving as Executive Director of the Aman Folk Ensemble, Company Manager of the San Francisco Ballet, Director of Performing Arts for the City of Los Angeles’ Cultural Affairs Department and the owner of his own artist management company.  A native Angelino, he started his performing arts career in 1965 as a dancer with the Aman Folk Ensemble.

 

Nahil Sharkasi

Nahil Sharkasi is a Libyan-American technologist focused on digital identities and the intersections of technology and empowerment. As a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, Nahil has developed devices like Kinect and Hololens that seek to bridge the gap between humans and the digital world.  As a mentor and facilitator with Young Women Empowered, Nahil runs coding workshops that introduce young Muslim women, and other women of color from across the Puget Sound area to computer science fundamentals and career opportunities in the tech industry.  Nahil holds an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Journalism from University of Maryland.

 

Kevin Jennings High Res.jpg

Kevin Jennings

Kevin Jennings is a social entrepreneur with over three decades starting and leading organizations promoting progressive change in America.  A First-Generation college graduate, Jennings received his B.A. magna cum laude in History from Harvard in 1985 and then became a high school history teacher.  In 1988 he helped students at Concord Academy to create the nation’s first Gay-Straight Alliance, leading him two years later to found the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).  Under Jennings’ eighteen-year leadership GLSEN grew from an all-volunteer local organization in Massachusetts to a multimillion dollar national nonprofit whose programs – including Gay-Straight Alliances, No Name-Calling Week, and the Day of Silence – became commonplace in America’s K-12 schools.

In 2009 Jennings was named Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe & Drug-Free Schools in President Obama’s Education Department.  Jennings created the Safe & Supportive Schools grant program, which provided funds to states to develop and implement school climate measurement systems that went far beyond simple standardized tests, and Green Ribbon Schools, a national award program recognizing schools for promoting environmental literacy.  He was perhaps best known for his role as the President’s “anti-bullying czar,” leading a national campaign to reduce bullying that culminated in the 2011 White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.

In 2011 Jennings left the Obama Administration to become Executive Director of the nonprofit Be the Change and to help launch its Opportunity Nation campaign, aimed at reducing economic inequality and promoting social mobility in America.  In 2012 Jennings became Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, a leading international funder of conservation and human rights work.  Jennings streamlined Arcus’ operations so that the percentage spent on programmatic work reached a high in the foundation’s history and developed and implemented a new strategic plan that focused the foundation’s giving on the most vulnerable in the LGBT community, including a multiyear $20 million initiative on transgender rights.  Jennings launched new funding collaboratives including the Contigo Fund, which provided support to LGBT Latinx communities in the wake of the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub mass murder, and the International Donor Initiative, a collective of high net worth individuals focused on promoting LGBT rights in the Global South.

Jennings has a long record of community leadership.  He is the author of seven books, including the 1997 Lambda Literary Award-winner Telling Tales of Out School and his memoir Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son, named a “Book of Honor” by the American Library Association in 2006.  He has produced two documentaries, The Lavender Scare (2017) and Out of the Past (1996), the latter of which won the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Documentary.  He has served on numerous boards, including those of the Harvard Alumni Association, Union Theological Seminary, and the Council on Foundations.  He served as founding Board chair of the Tectonic Theater Project (creator of the acclaimed play The Laramie Project), First Generation Harvard Alumni (winner of the Harvard Alumni Association Award for Best Alumni Organization in 2017), and the Ubunye Challenge. A frequent speaker at schools, colleges, conferences and in the media,  Jennings has received numerous honors for his work, including: the Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia University Teachers College (from which he received his M.A. in 1994), being named Chief Marshal of the 2010 Harvard Commencement,  the “Friend of Children” Award from National Association of School Psychologists, the Diversity Leadership Award  of the National Association of Independent Schools, the Distinguished Service Award  from the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Human & Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association, the “Appalachian Hero” Award from the Appalachian Community Fund, and the Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Ali Forney Center.  He received his MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business in 1999.

 

Misbah Tahir 

Misbah Tahir is a biotechnology finance executive who has spent most of his career advancing important new therapies for patients.  He has worked at some of the leading companies in the industry in diseases ranging from cancer to medical dermatology. Mr. Tahir began his career as a management consultant, where he developed growth strategies for clients in the U.S., China, Indonesia, and South Korea.      

Mr. Tahir is a first-generation American Muslim, born in Boston and raised in New England. He is an avid runner and life-long Red Sox fan, and lives with his wife and family in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds a B.A. degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.


 

MPV Advisory Board

Reza Aslan

Dr. Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer, scholar of religions and TV producer, is author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

He is the founder of AslanMedia.com, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world, and co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East.

Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek) , a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan’s first book is the International Bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife (author and entrepreneur Jessica Jackley) where he is Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Cooperating Faculty in the Department of Religion at the University of California, Riverside. His previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).

KARIMA BENNOUNE

Karima Bennoune is a professor of international law at the University of California–Davis School of Law. She grew up in Algeria and the United States and now lives in northern California.

She has published widely in many leading academic journals, as well as in the Guardian, The New York Times, Comment is Free, the website of Al Jazeera English, The Nation and is a Dayton Literary Peace Prize award winning author of ‘Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here’.

She has served as a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law and on the board of directors of Amnesty International USA. Currently, she sits on the Board of the Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws. She has also been a consultant on human rights issues for the International Council on Human Rights Policy, the Soros Foundation, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Her human rights field missions have included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Korea, southern Thailand, and Tunisia.

AMIR HUSSEIN

Dr. Amir Hussain is Associate Professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on world religions. His own particular speciality is the study of Islam, focusing on contemporary Muslim societies in North America. Although born in Pakistan, Amir immigrated to Canada with his family when he was four. His academic degrees (BSc, MA, PhD) are all from the University of Toronto where he received a number of awards, including the university’s highest award for alumni service. Amir’s PhD dissertation was on Muslim communities in Toronto. In 2008, Amir was chosen by vote of LMU students as the Professor of the Year. Amir’s new book is an introduction to Islam for North Americans entitled Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God (Kelowna: Copper House, 2006). He is currently working on a scholarly book on Islam in Canada entitled Canadian Faces of Islam; and a textbook entitled Muslims: Islam in the West in the 21st Century.

Ambassador Roderick van Schreven (retired)

Roderick van Schreven was the former Permanent Representative to the United Nations and WTO in Geneva, appointed in March 2006 to Director-General for Foreign Economic Relations at the Ministry of Economic Affairs in The Hague. As a career diplomat, Van Schreven served from 2002 to 2006 as the Netherlands Ambassador in Damascus (Syria) and was previously posted in different diplomatic levels at the Netherlands Embassy in Caracas (Venezuela) and the Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels. He was also Deputy Director for European Integration at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in The Hague. Before joining the diplomatic service Van Schreven set out on a career in the private sector. He worked at Exa Nautica in Geneva and was Marketing Director for La Chemise Lacoste in Geneva and Paris. A Dutch national, Van Schreven was born in Ottawa (Canada) and educated in Switzerland and France. He gained an MBA at INSEAD and holds a degree in Economics from the University of Geneva. Roderick van Schreven is fluent in French and English. Roderick van Schreven is an avid sailor. In 1977-78 he competed in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Van Schreven is married with three children.

 


 

MPV Activist Advisory Board

DAAYIEE ABDULLAH

Imam Daayiee Abdullah is founder and Executive Director of MECCA Institute (Muslim Education Center for Creative Academics), a Muslim think tank and online school (opening Fall 2015). Based in Washington, D.C., he is a scholar in Shari’ah Sciences and Quranic Interpretation. A former public interest lawyer, he lectures nationally and internationally on progressive Muslim concepts, intra-faith and interfaith networking, and the development of inclusive and progressive revisions of Islamic theological thought and Islamic law. He has long been involved in actively promoting understanding and awareness of issues of racial, gender and sexual equality as understood in the UN Declaration of Human Rights within and beyond Muslim communities. As Imam and Education Director at Light of Reform Mosque, Imam Daayiee provides pastoral counseling for Muslim youth and adults, their families and friends. He performs same sex, opposite sex and interfaith marriages for Muslims and non-Muslims of diverse backgrounds.

SALEEMAH ABDUL-GHAFUR

Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur is part of a national movement to end gender discrimination in the American Muslim community by participating in a civil action to give women space and voice in American mosques where they have traditionally been banned. In addition to working to establish women as prayer leaders and co-organizing a historic woman-led prayer in New York City, Abdul-Ghafur edited LIVING ISLAM OUT LOUD: American Muslim Women Speak, the first anthology collecting the voices of American Muslim women. The book presents American Muslim women dealing with the complexities of forging their own identities while contributing powerfully to public life. She is a graduate of Columbia University.

ZAINAH ANWAR

Zainah Anwar is a prominent Malaysian non-governmental organisation leader and activist. She was the head of Sisters in Islam (SIS) for two decades. Ms. Anwar currently serves as project director for the SIS-initiated global movement for justice and equality in the Muslim family (MUSAWAH) and is on the board of directors for SIS. Ms. Anwar received a postgraduate degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and is a former member of Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission. She has been profiled in the International Herald Tribune and on the PBS news show, Frontline.

Ms. Anwar’s book, Islamic Revivalism in Malaysia: Dakwah among the Students (Pelanduk, 1987), continues to be cited for its insights into modern-day Islam in Malaysia, and she is a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of Malaysia’s main newspaper, the New Straits Times. Her recent editorials cover such topics as freedom of the press, the underachievement of boys in Malaysian schools, compassion and pluralism in Islam, freedom of religion in the Arab world, and Malaysia’s gender gap in politics and the economy.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) is a Malaysian non-governmental organization founded in 1988 that is committed to upholding the principles of justice and human rights for women within the framework of Islam. Their program highlights provision of legal services, public education, outreach and advocacy to promote legal reform and protect the rights of women. SIS has published a number of publications concerning women, Islam and the law, including the following titles: Are Muslim Men Allowed to Beat Their Wives?, Islam and Family Planning, and Hadith on Women in Marriage. They have also conducted research on the impact of polygamy on the family, have developed draft legislation on Islamic Family Law, and maintain an active media presence in Malaysia to combat movements by government officials and religious authorities to restrict the rights of women at home and in society.

Zainah Anwar is a prominent Malaysian non-governmental organisation leader and activist. She was the head of Sisters in Islam (SIS) for two decades. Ms. Anwar currently serves as project director for the SIS-initiated global movement for justice and equality in the Muslim family (MUSAWAH) and is on the board of directors for SIS. Ms. Anwar received a postgraduate degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and is a former member of Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission. She has been profiled in the International Herald Tribune and on the PBS news show, Frontline.

Ms. Anwar’s book, Islamic Revivalism in Malaysia: Dakwah among the Students (Pelanduk, 1987), continues to be cited for its insights into modern-day Islam in Malaysia, and she is a frequent contributor to the editorial pages of Malaysia’s main newspaper, the New Straits Times. Her recent editorials cover such topics as freedom of the press, the underachievement of boys in Malaysian schools, compassion and pluralism in Islam, freedom of religion in the Arab world, and Malaysia’s gender gap in politics and the economy.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) is a Malaysian non-governmental organization founded in 1988 that is committed to upholding the principles of justice and human rights for women within the framework of Islam. Their program highlights provision of legal services, public education, outreach and advocacy to promote legal reform and protect the rights of women. SIS has published a number of publications concerning women, Islam and the law, including the following titles: Are Muslim Men Allowed to Beat Their Wives?, Islam and Family Planning, and Hadith on Women in Marriage. They have also conducted research on the impact of polygamy on the family, have developed draft legislation on Islamic Family Law, and maintain an active media presence in Malaysia to combat movements by government officials and religious authorities to restrict the rights of women at home and in society.

EL-FAROUK KHAKI

El-Farouk Khaki is a refugee and immigration lawyer. His practice primarily involves representing women fleeing gender violence, LGBTQI People fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation and or gender identity, as well as people fleeing persecution because of their HIV status.

A human rights and social justice advocate, he leadership has been recognized by the awards he has received including: 2006 “Excellence in Spirituality” Award – Pride Toronto; 2007 Hero Award, Canadian Bar Association The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference; 2007 Steinert & Ferreiro Award from the Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal.

In 2009 in addition to being the Grand Marshall for the 2009 Toronto Pride Parade, he was also the recipient of the “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”, Pride Toronto Theme Award. In 2008, he ran for Canadian Federal Parliament in two elections for the New Democratic Party of Canada.

El-Farouk is the founder of Salaam: Queer Muslim community, an organization he originally started in 1991. In May 2009, he co-founded the el-Tawhid Juma Circle with his partner Troy Jackson and dear friend, Dr. Laury Silvers. He is also co-founder of Canadian Muslim Union of which he is Secretary General, as well as co-Founder of the Muslim AIDS Project. El-Farouk has set on many boards and is a public speaker on Islam, the Immigration and Refugee system, human rights, racism, politics and HIV/AIDS.