9:30a | Meet & Greet, Breakfast: Manakeesh and Refreshments

Section 1: Secular Identity

MC of the Conference: Hannah A.

Hannah Detroit ConferenceHannah is from Austin, Texas. At UT-Austin she studied Middle Eastern Studies and Religious Studies, then went on to study at seminaries in Iran and Lebanon. She is now completing her Master’s at City College of New York. Hannah grew up Christian and converted to Salafi Islam at 15, then became a Shia Muslim in college. She now teaches at an international high school in Manhattan with a large Muslim population. Hannah is socially and politically active and believes in building bridges across lines of faith and culture.








10:00a | Welcome Address by Noura Embabi


Noura Embabi is an Egyptian-American ex-Muslim from New York City. She is currently serving as President of Muslimish and has been a member for over four years. Noura identifies with the nuanced stance of the organization – giving voice to those leaving Islam in order to normalize and bring visibility to ex-Muslims, while cultivating conversations with others in order to move towards a pluralistic society.







10:10a | Ibrahim Abdallah: Questioning The Quran

Ibrahim Abdallah is an Egyptian-American atheist who grew up as a Muslim in Alexandria, Egypt. He moved to the United States in 2002 and was forced by overwhelming scientific information to admit the faulty nature of Islam and all religions. On the first day of Ramadan in 2008, he did not fast for the first time in his adult life, and he was no longer Muslim. In 2011, he met another former Muslim for the first time. This experience inspired him to meet other like-minded people and so he organized the first Muslimish meeting in NYC on May 30, 2012. Ibrahim takes pride in being one of the founding members of Muslimish who shaped the core principles and goals of the group: creating a safe environment for discussion, fostering a pluralist society, and abolishing blasphemy laws across the globe. Email Ibrahim at:


10:40a | Ginan Rauf: Constructing an Intergenerational Secular Identity

Ginan Rauf is an activist, educator, photographer, oral historian and mother. Rauf received a doctoral degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a joint MA degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Rauf has taught in various institutions of higher learning including Brandeis, Rutgers, University of Connecticut and University of Bridgeport. She is the co-founder- along with her son Sherif Ahmed- of a company called Narrative lives that produces oral histories using various mediums including photo essays, videos and audio recordings. Rauf is a secular humanist and feminist committed to promoting critical thinking and a nuanced knowledge of human cultures.





11:15a | Osama A. Siblani: Muslim Activism in America



Osama A. Siblani is the publisher of The Arab American News, the largest Arab American publication in the United States, based in Dearborn, MI. He was inducted in the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame on April 21, 2013. He is a recipient of the “Spirit of Diversity in Journalism Award” from Wayne State University. He has also received many local and national awards for excellence in journalism and for his leadership.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1955, Mr. Siblani immigrated to the United States in 1976 to pursue his education. He completed his B.S.S. in electrical engineering in 1979 at the University of Detroit. In 1980, he assumed the position of vice president at Energy International, Inc., a major import-export firm dealing with the Middle East. He held this position until he founded The Arab American News in 1984.

Siblani has now published The Arab American News for 33 years. The newspaper rapidly became a major source of news for the Arab American community and a helpful resource for mainstream news outlets and academic researchers seeking knowledge about the community.

He has appeared in local, national and international print, radio and television media. For a list of his media appearances, you may visit his complete profile (About the Publisher) at:

Mr. Siblani has a reputation for honest yet engaging interviews, with an eye and ear for both the culture and political milieu he lives in and those of the region of the world where he was born. He bridges American audiences’ the knowledge and understanding gaps and is able to speak on a number of issues in ways the average person can understand.

Successive presidential administrations have sought Mr. Siblani’s counsel at the White House on issues related to the Arab World. As a journalist, he has been contacted by both the White House and State Department press offices.

He is a frequent lecturer on U.S.-Arab relations and the role of ethnic, minority and alternative media in America at several universities, including the Columbia University School of Journalism, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University and Wayne State University, among others. In 2011, he hosted the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) convention in Detroit with a grand opening reception in Dearborn.

Mr. Siblani helped found the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) and the Congress of Arab American Organizations (CAAO), an organization with an unprecedented success at fostering cooperation among the community’s many groups.

He sits on several boards, including the College of Journalism at Central Michigan University, the Advisory Board of the Crestwood School District, New Michigan Media Board and the Presidential Search Committee for Henry Ford College. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Garden City Hospital.


11:35a | Professor Ron Stockton: The Muslim Cartoons and the Concept of Blasphemy



Ron Stockton is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a Research Associate at the University of Michigan Center for Middle East and North African Studies. He is co-author of A Time of Turmoil, a book on public opinion, and the author of Decent and in Order, a book on conflict within religious organizations. He has a long-standing interest in the Arab-American community and was one of two  Principle Investigators on the Detroit Arab American Study, a landmark  study of  1,016 Arab Americans and Chaldeans in southeast Michigan. That project produced a team-authored book, Citizenship and Crisis, Arab Detroit After 9/11.  He has written articles for Public Opinion Quarterly, The Middle East Journal, Middle East Policy, The Journal of Palestine Studies, and The Armenian Review, among others. His 173-page curriculum unit, The Israel-Palestinian Conflict was used in classrooms around the country.  He teaches comparative non-western politics, including a course on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  The university has awarded him its Distinguished Service Award, its Distinguished Teaching Award, and its Distinguished Research Award.

He makes frequent media appearances.  He has been on  CNN with Anderson Cooper, CNN with  Paula Zahn, Fox News with Brit Hume, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, IRN FourMore (UK), and Fars news (Iran).  He is often heard on local radio and television and has written for the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.  

He has most recently conducted a multi-year study of Muslim gravestones in southeast Michigan and produced a photographic exhibit, conference papers, and a formal lecture on that subject.



12:10pm | Amer Zahr: Muslim Over Arab


Amer Zahr is an Arab-American comedian, speaker, writer, academic, and adjunct professor at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He draws on his experiences growing up as a child of Palestinian immigrant parents, performing and lecturing on topics like politics, society, Islam, growing up Arab, and more. In 2016, Amer also served as a surrogate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
In February 2016, Amer headlined a packed house at New York City’s world-famous Carnegie Hall, alongside Palestinian-American comedians Said Durrah, Mona Aburmishan, and Mike Easmeil
In June 2015, Amer headlined at the world-famous John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. He produced this show as well, making it the first time that an all-Palestinian cast took the stage at the internationally-renowned venue.
He has produced and headlined in 3 of his own comedy tours, “1001 Laughs Comedy Tour,” “We’re Not White!” and “In 1948.”
He founded and produced the first-ever “1001 Laughs Ramallah Comedy Festival,” a production in Palestine that featured 10 comedians and 7 shows in August 2015. The festival entertained over 2,000 locals and was funded by the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, a branch of the United States Department of State. Amer, as the producer of the festival, received great acclaim and much media attention from the following outlets:
CNN Arabic
BBC Arabic
Palestine Today
Wattan TV
MAAN Network
972 Mag
Palestine News Network
Sky News
He is also the producer of the annual “1001 Laughs Dearborn Comedy Festival” in Dearborn, Michigan at the Arab American National Museum.
Amer recently completed production on his first documentary film, “We’re Not White,” a comedic and informative approach to the Arab-American struggle to get a box on the United States Census Form. Join the Facebook Page here.
He is also the author of the well-read blog “The Civil Arab,” as well as his first book, “Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile,” a collection of his writings relating to being Palestinian.
Amer holds an MA in Middle East Studies and a JD (law degree), both from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He writes and speaks widely on political and social affairs, and has appeared on radio and television, including ABC’s “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.” Some of his writings have been featured in major publications, including Time magazine, and Al-Jazeera.
Amer has performed throughout North America & the Middle East, including shows in:
New York City
Washington, DC
San Francisco
Los Angeles
San Diego
Portland State University
University of Colorado
University of Michigan
Carnegie Mellon University
Wooster College
University of Connecticut
Loyola University – Chicago
Stanford University
University of North Carolina
San Diego St University
Michigan State University
Tel Aviv
Muscat, Oman

12:30p | Panel discussion


Additional guests on panel discussion: Mohamed El-Hout


1:00p Lunch: Meat Shawarma/Chicken Shawarma/Falafil Sandwiches – Humus – Tabouli (Halal)

Section 2: Secular Identity in Muslim Communities

2:15p | Dr. Adnan Jaber: Morality, Secularism, and Islam


Adnan Jaber completed his Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology at the University of Detroit Mercy , where he also received his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology in 2010. Adnan Completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at Lawrence Technological University in 2007.  Adnan is currently working as a clinical psychologist at a local psychiatric hospital and is an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy. Adnan completed an APA-accredited internship at the Aurora Mental Health Center in Colorado. His current research interests include moral judgment and reasoning and applying EEG Technology to various questions and theories in moral psychology. Adnan is also interested in consciousness and the mind-body problem. He is currently in the process of brainstorming ideas with previous professors to utilize EEG technology as a tool to highlight the relationship between brain and consciousness.  Adnan’s clinical interests include Integrated primary care and working with students in various counseling and academic settings.  Adnan enjoys reading, soccer, and spending time with his wife and two kids.




2:35p | M Baqir Mohie El-Deen: Charter of Compassion

M Baqir Mohie El-Deen was born in Montreal, Canada to Iraqi parents.  Baqir has lived in various cities throughout North America, however Detroit, MI is where he calls home.  Baqir currently resides in East Lansing, MI where he is a masters candidate for public policy at Michigan State University.  Prior to Michigan State University, Baqir completed a BBA in Finance at Eastern Michigan University, and two associates degrees in general science and liberal arts at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, MI.

Baqir grew up serving the communities he resided in, spending most of his childhood and adolescent years volunteering at various Masajid.  Baqir currently holds an executive board position at M.O.V.E. (Movement for Outreach-Volunteerism-Education), a non-profit 501c3 organization that is concerned with providing education and services that promote a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual mental and physical health model, which envisions to move communities towards personal growth and cultural understanding.  Baqir believes that diversity gives strength to a society, and that all of humanity are capable to unite and live together peacefully, embracing the differences in each other.




2:50p | Lej: Muslims and Gays, Boy We Hate Your Ways


Lej (pronounced “lay”) is a queer Muslim youth, displaced from Bosnia at the hands of genocidal nationalism and currently residing in Detroit by the grace of god. She’s not a professional or scholar in anything but her own lived experience — really she’s just humble and happy to be here. Lej is working to witness heteropatriarchal capitalist white supremacy burn; she advocates for the better worlds in birth every day by supporting the radical grassroots work of her friends, while currently concocting some projects of her own. About as lowkey as this bio, her interests include tapping into her radical Yugoslavian peasantry roots; playing outside; the power of memory and its role in remaining connected to a lineage of liberatory resistance; basketball-playing-lesbian aesthetics; making academic thought accessible to the masses — where wisdom truly lies anyway; and hip hop.





3:05p Break – Sweets

3:20p | Wissam Charafeddine: Secular Values in Islam

Wissam Charafeddine, was born in United Arab Emirates from Lebanese parents. He attended the Islamic Hanbaly Educational Institute and graduated with a diploma in Islamic Shariah. After the first gulf war, His family immigrated to the U.S. and he became an American Citizen in 2004. He completed Associate Degrees in Fine Arts and Liberal Studies from Henry Ford Community College, a Bachelor’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Wayne State, and a Masters in Software Engineering from University of Michigan Dearborn. During his academic studies, Wissam continued to study and give lectures on Islamic Shariah through distant-study programs with Hawzah of Ahlulbait in Qum, Iran, and with local scholars.

Mr. Charafeddine was the founder of Halakat Imam AlBaqir, an Islamic Studies Institute in Dearborn where he taught, among other teachers, various topics in Islamic studies. He was a co-founder of the Muslim Scouts of Michigan, Islamic Monitor Action Network, Islamic Unity Magazine, and was a member of various organizations, among which were the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic House of Wisdom, and Amnesty International.

Mr. Charafeddine co-founded IRSHAD (the Institute for Religious Studies, Humanities, and Dialogue) in 2005. IRSHAD is an organization that seeks free coexistence between human beings and the aspiration for building a better life centered around the well being of humanity. IRSHAD functions in its Islamic branch as a reform movement that calls for freedom of belief and expression, and a less literal interpretation of Quran. In 2008-2009, Mr. Charafeddine, while researching to write an article about Islam and Evolution, found new understanding of science, and adapted a new understanding of life based on it. The article was never finished, but a new intellectual journey started.

Mr. Charafeddine co-founded Muslimish in 2012, which is an organization that seeks to create an environment for support and dialogue among exMuslims and questioning Muslims, and fight for the freedom of expression and against blasphemy laws in Islamic countries. Mr. Charafeddine works in the field of Educational administration, and he is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of W Design and Developement, W Institute, and Dearborn Blog. In his free time, he enjoys Sailing, Poetry, reading, music and traveling with his 2 daughters and son.




3:50p | Panel discussion

Additional guests in panel discussion: Alaa Eddine Barakat and Dr. Shadi Shebak

Alaa Barakat Detroit Muslimish ConferenceAlaa was born in Lebanon in February 10, 1990. He lived there till October 2009 and then moved to the United States to be with his mother. He comes from a big family. Both his mother and father were married twice, and both had kids from each marriage. He has a total of 14 brothers and sisters but he only grew up with 4 of them. He is the youngest in the family.

In the United States, he has developed a passion for photography. His approach to the latter was mostly experimental as he wanted to learn it from a really close place rather than books and videos. This was a harder process to go through than learning it by going to school.  That being said, it has been rewarding on an individual level.

Contact Alaa at:



Dr. Shadi Shebak completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he majored in Psychology and minored in Biology and graduated in 2008. He went on to medical school at the American University of the Caribbean and received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 2013. He trained in general psychiatry at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Michigan State University. His interests include Arab and Muslim mental health as well as narrative learning theory. He can be contacted at for any inquiries.





4:15p Workshops

Ali Harb: Secular Journalists in Muslim Communities


Ali HarbAli Harb is a reporter and editor based in Dearborn, Michigan. He covers the Middle East and US politics with a focus on civil rights and Arab and Muslim communities.




Alaa Eddine Barakat: Finding your voice as an LGBTQ individual within the Muslim community

Alaa Barakat Detroit Muslimish ConferenceAlaa was born in Lebanon in February 10, 1990. He lived there till October 2009 and then moved to the United States to be with his mother. He comes from a big family. Both his mother and father were married twice, and both had kids from each marriage. He has a total of 14 brothers and sisters but he only grew up with 4 of them. He is the youngest in the family.

In the United States, he has developed a passion for photography. His approach to the latter was mostly experimental as he wanted to learn it from a really close place rather than books and videos. This was a harder process to go through than learning it by going to school.  That being said, it has been rewarding on an individual level.

Contact Alaa at:


Alishba: Secular Woman Identity in Muslim Communities

4:45p Break

Section 3: The Future of Secularism in Muslim Communities

5:00p | Noura Embabi: Why Muslimish?


Noura Embabi is an Egyptian-American ex-Muslim from New York City. She is currently serving as President of Muslimish and has been a member for over four years. Noura identifies with the nuanced stance of the organization – giving voice to those leaving Islam in order to normalize and bring visibility to ex-Muslims, while cultivating conversations with others in order to move towards a pluralistic society.

5:25p | Jeffrey Falick: The Model of Secular Humanistic Judaism


Secular Humanistic Rabbi Jeffrey L. Falick was appointed to lead The Birmingham Temple in July 2013.

He received his B.A. (1984) from the University of Texas at Austin, and his M.A. (1987) and ordination (1989) from the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. Subsequently, he served director of Hillel Jewish student centers at universities in Illinois and Miami and as assistant executive director at a Jewish Community Center in Miami.

Originally a member of the theistic Reform movement, Rabbi Falick became involved in non-theistic Secular Humanistic Judaism in 2009 after a lifetime of searching and questioning. He serves on the boards of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis and the board of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and is founder of the Humanists of Southeast Michigan (AHA affiliate) and the Center for Secular Humanism in Michigan.

He is married to Arthur Liebhaber. His children, Aliza (Jason) Mann and Ilana Falick live in Maryland and Washington, D.C.





5:50p | Ambassador Ali Ajami: Can a Secular Identity Thrive in a Muslim Community?

Born in Lebanon, September 1st, 1952. Married to Leila Jawad, with four
children: one daughter, and three sons.
 Actual address:1848 N. Evangeline- Dearborn Heights- MI 48127- U.S.A.
 Mobile phone number: 313-888- 7188
* B.A. in Arabic Language and Literature (Lebanese University Beirut, 1982).
* M.A. in Arabic Language and Literature (Lebanese University Beirut, 1985).
* Ph.D. in Arabic Language and Literature (Lebanese University Beirut, 1998).
Diplomatic career:
* (1992–1994): Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon.
* (1994–1996): Consul of Lebanon in Cairo, Egypt.
* (1996–1998): Consul of Lebanon in Brasilia, Brazil.
* (1998–1999): Counselor at the Embassy of Lebanon in Brasilia, Brazil.
* (1999–2002): Counselor at the Embassy of Lebanon in Muscat, Sultanate of
* (June 2002-April 2004): Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon (Head of
Asian, African, and Australian Desk).
* (April 2004 – Aug 2007): Consul General of Lebanon in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
* (Aug 2006 – Aug 2007): Dean of the Consular Corps of Detroit.
* (Aug 2007 – June 2013): Ambassador of Lebanon in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
* (June 2013 –Sept 2016): Ambassador of Lebanon in Stockholm, Sweden.
* (May 2015 – Sept 2016): Dean of the Arab Ambassadors Council in Sweden.
* Poet and short story writer.
* Published 9 books in Arabic language (short stories) :
– The fool (Scenes from the civil war of Lebanon) – 1981
– Maybe it was a dream – 1982
– The fox and his buddy ( A series of 6 short stories for
kids) – 1982
– Situations – 2006
* Published his first book of poetry in Arabic language : The meadows of the body
* His second book of poetry is under way to be published soon.
* He accomplished recently a huge project he worked on for 13 years, which
consists of several dictionaries in Arabic language. These dictionaries will be
published soon.
* Member of the Lebanese Writers Union.

Other positions:
* (1971-1992): Teacher of Arabic language and literature, and assistant principal,
in public schools in South Lebanon.
* (1978–1992): Journalist and correspondent in South Lebanon for international
news agencies (Reuters, AFP), as well as many local Lebanese and Arab
magazines and radios and newspapers and agencies.
Arabic, English, and French ( fluent ).
Achievements :
* 1990: Created The Cultural and Social Forum in his hometown, Abbassieh, in
South Lebanon, which became the most active Cultural community in the region.
* 1996: Created The Arab Diplomatic Group in Brasilia, Brazil.
* 1999: Created The Diplomatic Group in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
* 2007: Created, with other Arab ambassadors, The Council of Arab Ambassadors
in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
* 2009: Created The Lebanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Abidjan,
Cote d’Ivoire.
* Mid March 2013: Organized an excellent and very successful official 3 days visit
for the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
* 2014: Created The Swedish Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm.
* June 2016: Organised a successful official 4 days visit for Mr. Jebran Bassil,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland.
* May 2011: The trophy of The Lebanese Parliament, awarded by The Speaker of
the Parliament Nabih Berry, for his role in protecting the Lebanese large
community during the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire (2011).
* March 2013: The trophy of The Lebanese Presidency, awarded by The Lebanese
President Michel Sleiman, for the same reason.
* June 2013: The National Medal of Cote d’Ivoire (Commander Rank), awarded by
The Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
* (2008-2013): Tens of trophies and medals and decorations, awarded by
Diplomatic, Consular, Social, Cultural, Economic, and Civic entities and
associations and clubs and groups, in the U.S.A. and Lebanon and Cote d’Ivoire
and Sweden.
* (December 2016): The Medal of Honor (Commander Rank, 1st Grade), awarded
by His Majesty The King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustav.
Remarks :

* During his mission in Cote d’Ivoire, he was an eyewitness to the civil war that
erupted there. He experienced horrifying moments, where his duty was to save
the large Lebanese community ( around hundred thousand ) living in Abidjan.

That gave him a great experience in dealing with such international crisis in West
* During his mission in Sweden, he followed the huge influx of the refugees
coming from different countries ( mainly Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc…)
to Europe, including Sweden. He was in direct contact with the refugees in
coordination with the Swedish authorities. He had the chance to examine
hundreds of refugees humanitarian cases, where he accumulated vast knowledge
about civil wars which devastated their countries, Syria and Iraq in particular.
* During his Diplomatic missions worldwide he had the chance to have thorough
relations with many Diplomats, as well as studying the recent situations in the
countries he served in and building strong relations with the officials and
citizens in those countries. This large experience helped him in building up his
personality as an innovative and creative person, with a great sense of leadership,
and capability to be a successful negotiator.
* During his work as a journalist in South Lebanon, mainly during the Israeli
invasion and occupation, he was in direct contact with horrifying experiences,
due to the daily atrocities, and eye-witnessed massacres and brutalities
committed against the innocent citizens. Later, he realized what is the real
meaning of being a journalist under occupation. He is now preparing to write his
own biography about that specific experience.
* During his work as Consul General of Lebanon in Detroit, he managed to build
solid relations with the great Lebanese community, as well as other Arab
communities, living in Michigan and other surrounding States. Sharing with them
their festivities and activities and daily life, gave him the chance to follow up their
recent history, their worries, their problems, and their ambitions. He is preparing
to write


6:15p | Ali Rizvi: Islamic Ideology, Muslim Identity, & Secularism


Ali is the award-winning author of the book, The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason (St. Martin’s Press, 2016). Ali grew up in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, as part of a progressive Muslim family, before he moved permanently to Canada in his twenties. As a physician, he trained in pathology (with fellowship in oncologic pathology) at SUNY Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and also holds a master of science degree in biochemistry from McMaster University. In 2011, he switched his career to medical communications so he could focus more on his writing. Ali is an avid and vocal advocate for secularism, science, and reform, particularly in the Muslim community. He has been featured on CNN, in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Vox, The Huffington Post, CBC, BBC, the New York Post, and a range of other major media outlets. The Atheist Muslim won the 2016 Morris D. Forkosch Award for Best Book from the Center for Inquiry. Link to longer bio:





6:45p | Panel discussion





Additional guests in panel discussion: Ibrahim Abdallah and Ali Harb




7:00p End