Zainab Al-Suwaij, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Zainab Al-Suwaij is a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC) and has been its Executive Director since its inception in 2001. In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, Zainab left her teaching position at Yale to launch AIC with the mission of building interfaith and interethnic understanding and to represent the diversity of American Muslim life. Over the past decade, Zainab’s leadership has expanded AIC into an international organization with six bureaus worldwide, including the U.S., Egypt, Iraq, and newest location, Tunisia. Under her direction, AIC has trained hundreds of young Middle Eastern activists in the methods of non-violent protest and social media mobilization, empowering them to challenge regimes during the Arab Spring. In Iraq, she launched a program that disrupts and mediates tribal and sectarian violence as it happens, saving countless lives in both Basra and Baghdad. Zainab’s vision for acceptance and understanding in the U.S. is being realized through AIC’s growing campus initiative, Project Nur, as well as its Interfaith Councils and groundbreaking Witness Series. Zainab is an outspoken advocate for women’s equality, civil rights, and interfaith understanding. She has briefed Congress and the White House and has been invited to speak at numerous panel events, universities, and think tanks. Zainab has published editorials in the three largest American newspapers: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. She has appeared on NPR, BBC, Al-Jazeera, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. Named an “Ambassador of Peace” by the Interreligious and International Peace Council, Zainab has received Dialogue on Diversity’s Liberty Award and was recognized as “2006 International Person of the Year” by the National Liberty Museum. Zainab is on the board of directors of Freedom House and the Child-Friendly Faith Project and serves as an advisory board member for the Cambridge Institute of Religion and Global Affairs. In the past, she also served on the board of George Mason’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. Raised in Basra, Iraq, Zainab fled the country after participating in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein and is now a U.S. citizen living in the Washington, D.C. area.
Zainab’s areas of expertise include:
- The American Muslim Community
- Human rights and civil rights in Muslim-majority countries
- Women’s rights in Muslim-majority countries
- Interfaith dialogue and countering anti-Muslim rhetoric
- The Arab Spring