September 11, 2001 shook the foundations of our country; however, for American Muslims this was doubly so. In a quickly polarizing world filled with “expert” pundits on Islam at one end, and terrorists at the other, American Muslims found themselves and their faith being defined for them. With post-9/11 misconceptions of Muslims and Islam increasing drastically, hate crimes spiked across the nation, and Muslim children were bullied in schools on a daily basis. In the midst of this, requests for Muslims to represent themselves started to increase. As local college professors, teachers, civic and social groups reached out to the American Muslim community for accurate information, a small group of Southern California residents rose to meet the demand for representation. Through this work, some crossed paths, realizing they had been individually pursuing their passion to correct misinformation and dispel stereotypes. They combined efforts first in 2007 and started to consolidate their efforts.
Shaista Azad (a lawyer), Duaa Alwan (an educator), and Farhan Simjee (an engineer), pulled their resources together to provide audiences with objective, comprehensive, and scholarly content. They created presentations, compared notes, sought feedback from teachers and students, consulted with scholars in various fields, and handled all requests. By 2012, requests started to come not only from teachers and professors, but also from Muslim community members who wanted to address misinformation and bullying of Muslim students. In 2015, the Muslim Speakers Network was born. While Shaista, Duaa, and Farhan continued to develop and update content, train new speakers, and present to various audiences, they handed off logistics to a full time staff under the umbrella of the Shura Council of Southern California. Since 2015, the number of MSN certified speakers and presentation requests has tripled. MSN now reaches thousands of students, adults and professionals every year, covering a variety of topics and accommodating special requests from anyone seeking to learn and connect. We invite you to check out our presentations, resources, and services. We look forward to connecting with you.