Maria M. Ebrahimji, MA
As a journalist and Executive Editorial Producer for CNN, I am responsible for guest coverage and story planning for the network’s special events and breaking news programming. I am a member of the Asian American Journalists Association, and serve on the boards of the Atlanta Press Club and Tau Chapter of Alpha Chi Omega. I received my BA in Mass Communications from Brenau Women’s College and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Georgia State University.
While I was born in Westminster, MD and raised near the mountains of Northeast Georgia, I grew up distinctly reminded I was the child of East African Indian immigrants. As such, I have learned that finding harmony between values of culture and community are truly the greatest of life’s balances. I currently live in Atlanta, GA and my spare time is spent travelling the world, hiking, running, and being an idealist.
This book is important to me because I truly believe more Muslim women need to speak up as well as speak out. More of us need to be involved in public life and have our voices heard. More of us need to dialogue with our fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. But more importantly, we need to collectively speak to each other. There is a need for women within the interfaith community to learn from one another and it is my hope that by bringing the voices in this book to light, we will be able to truly expose the individualism that makes us even stronger.
As a member of the mainstream media, I am constantly exposed to the stereotyping of my faith, and continue to work in my own circles to advocate for distinctive reporting on Islam in addition to participating in conferences and panels to discuss media coverage of my faith. I am excited to use the knowledge I have gained in my profession to offer a new approach to presenting the public with a more candid and realistic idea of my life as a Muslim, and as an American woman.
Zahra T. Suratwala, MA
As Co-Founder of the I Speak for Myself book series and President/CEO of Zahra Ink, Incorporated, I have found a way to combine my love of writing with my desire to pursue projects that can truly affect change. My writing has appeared in various publications including Patheos, Elan Magazine, AltMuslimah, and Feminist.com. Volume 1 of the ISFM series, “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim”, was released in May 2011 and was named #2 on HuffPo’s list, Best Religion Books of 2011. Volume 2, “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim”, was released in June 2012 and immediately received a coveted Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly. The ISFM series continues to grow with a new volume coming out each year, and is sparking dialogue across the country.
In September 2012, I was invited by the U.S. Department of State to travel to several cities in Thailand and Cambodia and spoke with various communities there, in an effort to engage in cross-cultural dialogue and break down stereotypes about American Muslims.
I obtained my Masters of Arts degree in English Literature from Loyola University Chicago in 2003. I have lived in Bangkok, Thailand and Cairo, Egypt and have negotiated my identity as a Muslim American woman living both in the US and abroad. When I am not writing, I can be found causing a ruckus with my husband, son and daughter. If home is where the heart is, my home is firmly placed in their hands.
I currently live in one of the most soulful urban landscapes in America: Chicago, IL. However, my restless feet have taken me across the globe on more than one occasion. I have traveled the world in an effort to find myself and have only recently begun to understand that while traveling is indeed a wonderful activity, finding myself can be done much closer to home, by simply picking up a pen. Thus I write in anticipation of what I will discover in my words.
I feel this book is significant in that it gives me, and women like me, the opportunity to write about life itself. I do not write in response to someone else’s views about Muslim American women. I do not write to prove anything or negate anything. I write to express myself, and I invite women in this book to do the same. I write to reach out, to build a bridge between myself and others. I believe this book to be a forum: an enlightened space in which a community is formed among intelligent, diverse women, who fall under the umbrella of “Muslim American” but, like all women, cannot genuinely be labeled. I defy labeling and I write to celebrate this fact.