Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha an Iraqi immigrant and Director of the Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center helped raise awareness about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2016 .
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha an Iraqi immigrant and Director of the Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center helped raise awareness about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2016 .
Kameelah Mu’Min Rashad joined the Office of the Chaplain in January 2013 and is thrilled to be back at her alma mater, serving the Muslim community on campus. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology (CAS’ 00) and M.Ed in Psychology Services (GSE ’01). She has also pursued further graduate education, completing a post-Masters certificate in Family Therapy and obtaining a second Masters in Restorative Practices and Youth Counseling. Kameelah has gained extensive clinical and program development experience in the behavioral health field and most recently served as the Manager for Community Development for Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS).
Kameelah is the Founder of Muslim Wellness Foundation, Inc., an organization dedicated to reducing stigma and raising awareness regarding the unique behavioral health needs and concerns of American Muslims stemming from trauma, addiction and mental illness. As Chaplain, Kameelah plans to focus on mental health, faith and diversity on campus, as well as building strong relationships with the wider Philadelphia community.
Kameelah was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and currently resides in the Philadelphia area with her husband Qasim Rashad, Amir of United Muslim Masjid in South Philadelphia, her two children Laila and Bilal and three stepchildren Hakim, Layla and Sanaa.
Yasmin Diallo Turk is a passionate advocate for women, parent to two young children, and geographer making her way from GED to PhD. Ms. Turk graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Sociology from Huston-Tillotson University, a Master’s in Global Policy from the University of Texas (LBJ School of Public Affairs) and is now in her third year as a PhD student at Texas State University in the Department of Geography.
In addition to her work in academia, Ms. Turk is in her twelfth year working directly with survivors of sexual and domestic violence at SafePlace. Through Ms. Turk’s commitment to volunteerism, she serves as a Girl Scout co-leader, an Arabic language interpreter for American Gateways, mentor to girls who will be first generation college attendees, and as project director for HOPE for Senegal.
In her role with HOPE for Senegal, Ms. Turk has raised more than $40,000 to grant scholarships to girls, build a science lab, and bring drinking water to a school of more than 4,000 students.
Syed Shadman Hossain won the Alternate Grand Prize in the Medicine and Health Sciences category in the 2012 Fairfax County Regional Science and Engineering Fair for his project entitled, Cytotoxicity of TQ on Bacteria and Cancer Cells.
He is currently a freshman at Johns Hopkins University studying biomedical engineering and computer science and hopes to integrate his two areas of interest to hopefully one day develop novel methods of disease detection and treatment.
His publication of his research is here: http://www.jes2s.com/pdfs/hossain_et_al.pdf
Hammad Aslam was set to start medical school in Augusta in the fall of 2009 when a car accident almost took his life. But paralysis from the chest down only delayed his plans by one year. Hammad has overcome many obstacles and is now pursuing his doctorate at the Medical College of Georgia.
MH: You overcame a pretty serious life-changing event in your life. Can you tell us more about it and how you overcame it?
I was in a car accident with my family in May of 2009. Our SUV hydroplaned off the road and hit a tree. The tree fell on top of my corner of the vehicle, crushing me under the roof and glass. Thankfully, no one else was seriously hurt. My dad fractured a bone in his forearm and had a small neck injury. My mom had a minor injury to her ribs. My younger sister broke her leg and my youngest sister was untouched. My older brother was away at the time.
I am just blessed to be alive. I received a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding in my brain, nerve damage in my right arm, and a complete spinal cord injury. I spent a few weeks in an unconscious and semi-conscious state. I do not recall anything from this time period and I do not even remember getting into an accident.
I came consciously aware of things a few weeks later. At the time, I was in the traumatic brain injury unit of the Shepherd Center because my brain injury was so severe that the doctors all predicted that I would be permanently inflicted with mental deficits on top of my physical handicaps. I spent a few weeks in that unit before I was transferred to the spinal cord injury unit. I spent three months as an inpatient at the Shepherd Center and continued to come there for therapy for several months after I was discharged and living at home.
MH: How have friends and family helped you overcome some of the challenge you’ve faced?
I had and still have a very strong support system consisting of my family and friends. They have always supported any and all goals I have had. They have been there in my darkest of times, when I have been let down, when I have fallen and when I have failed. Thanks to my family and friends, it has been much easier adjusting to this new life and new circumstances. I was never really allowed to consider myself different from anyone else and I was never really given the time for any self-pity.
My parents and friends never let me feel that I was any different. I knew that I was placed in that situation for a reason. In fact, I was thankful to be the one lying in the hospital bed and not any of my family members or friends.
MH: Did faith play a role in overcoming your challenges, if so, how?
It’s very easy to blame and be angry at God or other people when we are in disadvantageous circumstances. It would have been way too easy to ask, “Why me? Why was I chosen for this?” Instead, I have been thankful. No one else who was in vehicle at the time was seriously injured like me. None of my friends have been injured like this. Thank God. I would never want to see any of them in this situation. I believe there is a reason for everything and that we are given only as much as we can handle. Therefore, I am thankful that I have been put in this situation and not anyone else. I know that this is all part of a plan that none us can foresee and that in the end, things will be alright.
MH: What inspired you to pursue medical school?
I have always wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. After my accident, though, I knew I wanted this even more. It became even more apparent to me that my true calling was in the relief of the suffering of others. I have suffered a lot and I do not want anyone else to suffer like I have or suffer in their own circumstances, whatever those may be. Medical school was also a big challenge. I knew that people doubted me with many things so I wanted to prove to them—and to myself—that I could do it.
MH: What challenges did you face and have you faced on your road to medical school?
The first challenges in medical school included just adapting to living completely alone. I was stubborn and I somehow convinced my family to allow me to move away to a different city and live by myself, without any roommates or helpers. This was only a year after my accident and I was still adapting to my disabilities. Doing everything in a wheelchair for the first time took longer than I expected.
On top of adapting myself both physically and mentally to these new circumstances, I also found myself struggling in medical school. I was quite timid and had a significant inferiority complex. I felt like everyone was smarter than me. I was afraid to speak up during our discussions. I also found myself studying harder I ever had before and harder than anyone else in my class, but I was barely getting by. This was extremely frustrating and I was very upset about this. But I adapted. I knew I could do this, one way or another, so I adjusted by study habits to study both smarter and harder than ever before.
MH: You certainly have remained active in the Atlanta Muslim community. Tell us more about your work and what motivates you to serve others?
The first year after my accident before I started medical school, I knew I had to do something productive. I knew that it would be selfish of me to try and work hard only for the benefit of myself. So, I decided to immerse myself in different volunteer activities, especially since I wasn’t doing much at home. I knew that doing things in the service of others would in turn benefit me more than anyone else, in both the short and long term.
MH: What advice would you give to others facing the same challenges you’ve faced on pursuing their dreams and goals in life?
First off, I wish and pray that no one faces the same challenges I have faced. That being said, many people face their own challenges in their pursuit for accomplishing the tasks that they plan or of which they dream. As I stated earlier, it is too easy to blame our circumstances on God or on other people. It is too easy to simply accept our circumstances as “just the way God wants them to be”. Instead, I feel like people should not look at different situations as something from God and that must simply be accepted, but these situations should be looked upon as challenges. It is these challenges and the way we react to them—or fail to react to them—that define us.
MH: What advice would you give to those seeking to pursue medical school?
I hear all the time about people who have plans to go to medical school. To these people, I propose that they do some self reflection and contemplate upon why they want to purse this profession. Are they doing this because their parents have been telling them their whole lives that this is a good idea? Are they doing this because they feel like it’s a noble profession? Are they doing this for the job security?
I knew that this was my calling and I knew the disabilities that I had been given would only help me and help others in the long run. Therefore, I was willing to work harder than anyone else I knew.
I suggest others really “get their hands dirty” in terms of learning about this profession. Learn about the ups and downs. Learn about life. Perhaps more importantly, learn about death. I have faced my own mortality and it has given me a completely new perspective on life. It was only after I had almost everything taken away from me that I was able to think clearly.
You can follow Hammad here on his blog: http://mindofhammad.blogspot.com/
Sakeena Abdulraheem is one of the founding members of the Falling Walls Initative. She holds an BA in Spanish and International Studies from Meredith College, and an MA in Islamic Studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her MA in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma and crisis intervention. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant. Sakeena currently counsels victims of domestic violence as an interning therapist at the House of Ruth MD.
MH: Tell us more about your academic path that led you to pursue counseling.
My background was actually not in counseling. In undergrad I double majored in Spanish and International studies. By my senior year in college I was fluent in Spanish and I knew I wanted to make a positive impact on a global level but I was still exploring career options at that point. By the end of my senior year in 2002 I was hired by the defense department was waiting for my security clearance to go through and so I began substitute teaching and got involved in education before I eventually made my move to the Washington, DC area from the Raleigh-Durham, NC area. After working for two years in government I decided that it was time to explore other fields with my skillet where I could see the impact of my contributions more immediately and directly. I had gotten my MA in social studies with a concentration in Islamic Studies from The Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences and I began entertaining the idea of becoming a teacher. I worked for about 4 years in the educational system working with elementary school aged youth that had aspergers, autism, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. I saw the various ways in which emotional well being, and mental disorders not only had an impact on the environment of the classroom, teachers struggled through curriculum working with children with complex behavioral problems that quite frankly they were not trained to deal with in an educational setting. As a result, I immediately began applying to counseling graduate school programs because I saw mental health being the way in which I would be able to contribute towards and give back overall to the community.
MH: Tell us more about what got you interested in counseling and specifically in domestic violence?
While I was teaching full time in before and after school programs I started my graduate program part time in counseling psychology. At the beginning of the program I was planning to concentrate and specialize in children and adolescents because of my work history of seeing mental illness in elementary school age children. However, it was my study abroad trip at the beginning of my graduate program to Kigali, Rwanda, to study and learn about programs and non-profits working towards addressing trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the context of genocide that influenced my decision to change my specialization. During my trip I had the opportunity to meet survivors that were working as educators and heads of non-profit organizations and professors in the department of psychology that spoke first hand of their personal experiences during the genocide in 1994. I was also exposed to the cases of gender-based violence that were used as weapons against the tribe that was being killed at that time. Rape, sexual assault, various parts of the female anatomy were being cut off during the genocide in an effort to terrorize and instill fear in the population and specifically the female population. After the genocide many women were dealing with various psychological problems that would go untreated and many had to undergo abortions because they were victims of rape during the genocide. Looking at all of these factors, I realized that I wanted to continue learning about Post traumatic Disorder under various context and I also realized that is was this particular type of population that I wanted to work with and that this was the area of counseling that I wanted to continue to pursue. After returning from the trip I immediately changed my concentration from children and adolescents to trauma and crisis intervention. Trauma and crisis intervention is inclusive of various population and victims of domestic violence are a part of this population. I began interning as a therapists since last year for a non-profit organization, The House of Ruth MD that works specifically with domestic violence victims at their counseling center.
MH: Tell us more about the Falling Walls Initiative. What was the idea behind it? What do you plan to do?
Falling Walls is an initiative that was inspired by a research project led by one of the founding members Darakshan Raja. The study looked at crime victimization in the American Muslim Community. This study in particular highlights that denial is a major problem in the American Muslim community when it comes to addressing abuse, domestic violence, and victimization overall. One of the main goals of the Falling Walls Initiative is to break barriers such as denial with the Muslim community by educating based off of experience from direct services, applied research, and through the dissemination of research. The second goal is to bring awareness through various forms of social media.
MH: Do you feel there’s a stigma in the Muslim American community in regards to seeking counseling and/or help when someone is in need?
Yes. I believe there is a HUGE stigma for individuals that seek counseling or treatment whether it is from a social worker, counselor, therapist, psychologist, or a psychiatrist. A lot of this has to do with the lack of knowledge about mental health in general in the Muslim community. If you ask some individuals what takes place during a counseling session many individuals in the Muslim community may give you a blank stare, some statement full of misinformation, or say that they do not know. When the truth is counseling is for everyone, whether they are experiencing grief, need someone to talk to as they make a major transition in life, their family is currently experience a crisis, an individual is suffering from a mental disorder, or a couple would just like to work on ways they can improve their relationship. As you can see I gave multiple examples of why some individuals decide to go for counseling which is a clear indication that counseling is something that everyone can benefit from, including the therapists themselves, and is very much a part of personal growth.
MH: What role does culture and tradition, if at all, play in preventing individuals from seeking counseling or help when they’re going through troubling times?
Culture has a tremendous impact in terms of looking at the way shame is used to maintain the cultural norms of the group and discourage individual member from stepping out of that norm in order to avoid bringing shame upon the family.
MH: A lot of Muslims in America and the world are suffering silently and are faced with a lot of psychological, emotional and even physical abuse. What can the Muslim community do to prevent abuse in our communities?
The Muslim community can start by actively supporting organizations that are already established and currently in the processed of being established whether it is through volunteering, sharing resources, sharing information, networking, and connecting others so that we can work more collaboratively to bring an end to these issues. Supporting the local domestic violence shelters, Muslim, non-Muslim whether it be economically, sharing informations, or sharing resources. I also think that men are in a very good position to address the issue of domestic violence in their own way. Men speaking out to address the overall problem of the culture of violence and the various ways in which violence against women is accepted and expressed. Educating men more on the issues of violence against women and the dynamics of the way in which unhealthy patterns of relationships and learn behavior play a role in abuse of women and all victims.
MH: Are more Muslim Americans becoming comfortable with the concept of counseling?
I believe that as more programs and platforms like Fallings Walls and other established organizations are supported that are regular initiatives, addressing the issues of denial and shame, it will make it clear that counseling is just another area of one’s health that we all have room to work on and improve. When a person learns poor eating habits over the course of their childhood they go to a dietician. When someone learns maladaptive behaviors and unhealthy ways of interacting with their spouse from family and childhood experiences they go to a Marriage and Family Therapist.
MH: A lot of Muslim say that Islam is not compatible with Islam and that private family matters should remain within the family. Is counseling compatible with Islam?
Counseling is an Islamic tradition. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a great source of knowledge and people frequently came to him for consultation for a variety of matters whether it was for major life decisions, mediation in settling marital and family disputes, etc. Also counseling is a form of bringing about the process of emotional, psychological, and in many cases spiritual healing, helping others in a way that brings healing for any community is a purification for the soul and a form of ibadah.
MH: In recent times we’ve seen growing pressure and demand on imams to counsel individuals in their community. In your opinion, should imams be trained to counsel? What are the pros and cons?
I believe Imams are already conducting a form of pastoral counseling which is different from the counseling that an individual will receive from a mental health practitioner who is trained in how to conduct psychotherapy, diagnosis, assessment, therapeutic approaches, etc. I think that imams should definitely be trained on how to identify when the issue and complexity of what may be happening with an individual is beyond the skills that they have as pastoral counselors. Imams can gain this training through basic skills workshops that help them to become more thoroughly aware of issues related to marriage counseling, domestic violence, and how to appropriately protect the rights of the woman and not put her in danger in cases of domestic violence.
MH: Is pastoral counseling a growing field? Is there a demand for Muslim counselors in the Muslim American community?
I believe that Muslims can benefit from the various forms of counseling that are already available whether the counselor is Muslim or non-Muslim. A key component that families should look for when searching for a great counselor are similar when searching for a doctor or dentist they like; do they make you feel comfortable, are they culturally competent and aware of the significance culture may or may not play in your life; do you find their adopted therapeutic approach helpful; how many years of experience do they have in the field; do they speak your language or multiple language; what is their expertise; do they have experience working with the population of the group you are a part of?….etc…
MH: In your opinion, how can Muslims learn more about how to create peaceful environments at home and learn about relationship-building, conflict resolution, communication and parenting?
Looking up local Muslim and non-Muslim counseling resources in their prospective areas and shopping around to find the best practitioner that they feel comfortable with, understands their concerns, and that they find helpful.
MH: What resources are available for people going through traumatic events in their lives?
There are various resources available for individuals experiencing a traumatic event which include hotlines, suicide hotlines, online counselors, crisis counselors, domestic violence counselors, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and practitioners trained in conducting psychological first aid, etc. such as the following:
MH: What resources are there to learn more about Islam and counseling?
Peaceful Families Project, Muslimaat Al Nisaa, Project Sakinah are among some of the stronger programs that have been discussing the misinterpretation of the verses from the Quran and the way in which the religion is misinterpreted and used as a form of spiritual abuse. They also have great resources listed on their website as well.
MH: What advice would you give to someone seeking to pursue your career path?
Research and explore the various areas of psychology and really investigate and visit various programs that you feel are tailored to meet the needs of your professional goals and interest. This type of profession is not made for everyone so visiting various programs and getting work experience before starting graduate school will also contribute in helping you to make your decision.
MH:How can we learn more about your work and support your work?
You can learn more about the work we do by going to our blog:
(www.fallingwallsinitiative.wordpress.com) and staying tuned for the launching of our website that we hope to have completed and launched by April.
Sakeena Abdulraheem is one of the Founding Members of Falling Walls Initiative. Falling Walls Initiative was founded by Darakshan Raja, Maha Hilal, and Mawish Raza.
“Falling Walls was born out of a research project led by one of the founders on the state of responses to crime victimization in the American Muslim community. As one of the first research studies in the field, the study found that the number one challenge identified within the American Muslim community on addressing abuse and victimization was denial from within the community. With rates of abuse in the Muslim community of one in two persons, a team of skilled professionals from fields such as criminal justice, psychology, counseling, human rights, journalism and media, initiated Falling Walls with the express purpose of breaking the barriers to addressing victimization within the Muslim community. Our work is based on direct services, applied research and the dissemination of research and practice through social media.”
Sakeena holds an BA in Spanish and International Studies from Meredith College, and an MA in Islamic Studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her MA in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma and crisis intervention. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant. Sakeena currently counsels victims of domestic violence as an interning therapist at the House of Ruth MD. She also consults as an online counselor for OnIslam English. Her expertise and interests include cultural competency, post traumatic stress disorder, working with bicultural and multicultural families in transition, refugees, and orphans, survivors of violent crimes, women’s issues, gender based violence, sexual, and domestic violence. Sakeena has an assertive and directive therapeutic approach and believes in addressing conditions in a holistic manner. Sakeena is currently a founding member of Falling Walls.
Khadijah Abdullah founded Reaching All HIV+ Muslims In America (RAHMA) in 2012 while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Horton’s Kids in Washington, DC. During her service she worked with families in Ward 8 and helped empower them through building partnerships with local organizations. With this she was able to offer families parenting classes, workforce development classes, case management, legal aid and other services. She also set up biweekly HIV testing on site and coordinated HIV education workshops.
Khadijah became very passionate about HIV/AIDS during her senior year of college. At this time, she was working in a hospital and learned that a friend who was a patient had HIV. He was only 19 years old. After this experience, Khadijah started advocating and educating on her college campus. She realized that there were no programs on campus that targeted HIV. Khadijah reached out to various student organizations and the local community to organize the first AIDS Awareness Week on campus. Due to her efforts, Khadijah was recognized by the State of Connecticut for her involvement in Community Service and by her University as well. Khadijah continued on to volunteer at AIDS Project New Haven and organized a team to walk in AIDS Walk New Haven.
After graduating in 2009, Khadijah relocated to Washington, DC and interned at the National Minority AIDS Council. After her internship, she began volunteering in the community. She received the President Obama award for Volunteerism. Khadijah later began work at Islamic Relief USA. During this time, she realized her passion was not sitting behind a desk, but being directly out there in the community serving others.
Khadijah holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Southern Connecticut State University and has dedicated her life to ensuring the well being of others. She resides in the DC area with her family.
Dr. Sarah Kureshi is a graduate of University of Central Florida (B.S., Biology), Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (M.D.) and Harvard School of Public Health (M.P.H, International Health). She completed her residency in Family Medicine at UCSF in 2010 where she was a global health clinical scholar and provided care to a multicultural, urban, underserved population.
Dr. Kureshi has been passionate about community health since college and has a special interest in gender-based violence, health & human rights, and empowerment, especially pertaining to refugee/immigrant populations and survivors of trauma. Being a former NCAA college athlete and the first US female athlete to compete in Iran since the 1979 revolution, she has a strong passion for using sports as a tool for development, peace, violence prevetion, and health education.
She has previously worked with girls rescued from sex trafficking in New Delhi, lady health workers in earthquake-affected Kashmir, and the Somali refugee community in Minnesota. This has been informed by her interest and work within the Muslim communuity addressing health-related issues. Dr. Kureshi currently serves as a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Aslym Network Provider.