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Saadia Ahmed, Director of Communications & Research

Saadia Ahmed of Freedom and Justice Foundation

Someone once told Saadia Ahmed, 26, Director of Communications & Research for the Freedom and Justice Foundation, that “community service is the rent we pay for our space on this earth”. Those words coupled with her innate drive to want to help the world propelled Saadia to share her intellect, enthusiasm and passion for success in the non-profit world. Her most recent accomplishments can be found with her role at the Freedom and Justice Foundation where she works alongside a staff of hard working men and women to enhance the Texas Muslim community’s public policy voice. Learn more about Saadia, the Freedom and Justice Foundation and the American youth that make this non-profit successful as we feature them in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


The Freedom and Justice Foundation


November 2002




Saadia Ahmed
Director of Communications and Research




Plano, Texas

Current residence

Plano, Texas


BA in International Studies and a Minor in French, 2002

Work Experience

Customer Service Manager/ Executive Assistant/ Office Manager

American Friends Service Committee, Texas Coordinator for ROADP Project

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Campaign Associate

Austin College Student Life, Resident Assistant

Austin College Service Station, Office Manager/Executive Assistant

Freshman Seminar Student Teacher

Texoma Council of Governments, Grant Writer Intern

SAPNO (British Initiative Eight literacy project in Bangladesh), Grant Writer Intern

Proyecto Adelante, Legal Research Internship



About the non-profit

The Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J;) is a statewide educational non-profit working to enhance Centrist Public Policy development and implementation in Texas. We elevate the organized Texas Muslim community’s public policy voice with local, state and federal level government officials. Though we support civil and religious liberties policy advocacy, our focus is in the formulation of Education and Heath Care Policy at the Local and State Levels and National Security Policy in the US-Muslim Relations Sphere at the Federal Level.

The Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J;) was incorporated in November 2002 as the Texas Muslim community’s first statewide organization to elevate the community’s government relations efforts and open new state-level interfaith relations doors. F&J; is a 501c3 tax exempt Texas nonprofit funded by its member organizations and individual donors.

The Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J;) is involved in dozens of events and initiatives every year. Our staff are also prolific in the media, whether print or broadcast, advancing the policy views of the foundation’s membership. We have included here a few of these events, media appearances and Legislative Alerts so that you may gain a sense of our work.

Explanation of the five topic areas:
Public Diplomacy: F&J; staff have voluntarily served as “Citizen Diplomats” in many efforts to promote a more favorable impression of America oversees or to aid National Security Policies such as democracy promotion in Iraq. We have visited with State Department Officials, attended State Functions as well as Democracy Workshops for Iraqi Media Executives and European Muslim Leaders.

Events: F&J; has organized numerous Candidate Forums for Local as well as the Presidential Elections of 2004, Annual Legislative Days with State Legislative Session opening ceremonies, as well as multiple Leadership Forums to guide community development. We helped pass the 1st Muslim focused piece of legislation in Texas, as well as coordinated mass mobilization efforts for better interfaith relations and peace overseas.

Legislative Advocacy: F&J; has sponsored, organized or participated in numerous conferences on topics ranging from Religious and Civil Liberty, Shariah Law and its impact on Women’s Rights to environmentalism and poor children healthcare and social services needs. We have also supported reform efforts in the Texas electoral system to lessen the impact of corruption on the state legislative process. And finally at the federal level we have supported efforts to rebuild the balance of powers between the different branches of government and provide due-process in immigration law.

Print Media: We have written countless print media op-eds and been quoted in various columns. One very powerful OP-ED was on the terminology in the Global War on Terror. We have also tackled tough policy issues such as Darfur and democracy promotion in the Muslim world. We also shared columns we’re quoted in from small towns such as Beaumont on Religious Liberty, mid-sized towns such as Austin on Shia and Baptist leadership changes as well as newswire pieces from Reuters on FBI interviews in the Muslim community as well as the president’s use of terminology such as “Islamic Fascists” in the Global War on Terror. We have also written an Op-Ed most recently on the 2006 Washington DC State Department Iftar Dinner.

Broadcast Media: We have been a part of numerous tv and radio recordings. In the “Muslim Hour”, there was a 90 minute debate on the local FOX Channel Talk Radio Darrell Ankarlo Show on all issues controversial dealing with Muslims post 9/11. There has also been a debate on American Policy around the 2006 War in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel with the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress SW Region and former AIPAC Director, IDF Ret. Lt. Col. Gil Élan. Mr. Élan and Mr. Elibiary. They were also matched up once more in a video debate before 1,000 College Students at East Texas Baptist University. We were also on the local ABC News before the Iraq War where F&J;’s President argued against the Iraq War invasion. He also did an NPR interview where Mr. Elibiary shared his personal perspective on why he was voting for President Bush’s re-election in 2004. On local CBS TV, F&J;’s President has also challenged the President’s use of terms such as “Islamic Fascists” in the Global War on Terror.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

  • Coordinate youth leadership development programs; recruited, interviewed, selected, and supervised interns
  • Conduct training workshops on topics such as how to lobby elected officials on a bill
  • Build and maintain governmental and interfaith relations as well as finds methods of fundraising
  • Conduct research on public policy hot topics to create policy briefs to educate the public
  • Event planning for educational programs such as Presidential Candidate Campaign Forum, City Council Candidate Forums, and Annual Legislative Day in Austin and coordinating the media at events
  • Create member newsletters and press releases using Microsoft Office
  • Most notable milestones

    Passing Texas’s 1st Muslim Legislation.
    F&J; also led and coordinated the state-wide efforts to pass the Texas Halal Food Law in 2003. This Islamic dietary law (HB-470) was modeled after our state’s Kosher Food Statute. By coordinating the lobbying efforts of dozens of activists from around the state, HB-470 passed with 100% bi-partisan support in both the State House and Senate. HB-470 is a consumer protection law which makes it a misdemeanor to mislabel a food product as Halal and amounts to the Texas Muslim community’s first legislative victory. The state does not define what is Halal, but producers are encouraged to obtain private certification from many available sources for their slaughtering practices.

    Annual Texas Muslim Legislative Day
    F&J; institutionalized an Annual Texas Muslim Legislative Day at the State Capitol in Austin, TX. In 2003 we mobilized hundreds around the 1st Imam to open the Texas House with a Prayer. In 2004, we mobilized an overflow audience to witness the first Jumma (congregational) prayer in the State Capitol around the theme of Homeland Security and our duties as American Muslims. We’ve also sponsored conferences on Education Policy and its impact on TX Muslims (Dallas), Civil Liberties Post 9/11 and Islamic Shariah Law’s Impact on Women (UT Law School).

    Broadcast Media
    There was a 90 minute debate on the local FOX Channel Talk Radio Darrell Ankarlo Show on all issues controversial dealing with Muslims post 9/11. There was also a debate on American Policy around the 2006 War in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel with the Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress SW Region and former AIPAC Director, IDF Ret. Lt. Col. Gil Élan. Mr. Élan and Mr. Elibiary before 1,000 College Students at East Texas Baptist University.

    What’s the niche?

    F&J; performs a Governmental Relations function for the Texas Muslim community as well as the state-level interfaith coordinator role with other faith based communities. We are the first state-level organization of this type. In addition, we are funded by members who are strictly residents of Texas. In addition, we are a predominantly Muslim organization that is run by Muslim American youth who grew up in Texas.

    Also, the Texas Islamic Council (TIC) is a project of the Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J;), that brings the Texas Muslim Congregational Voice to the fore front on issues of social public policy. It is the first organization of its type. This state-level representative body allows Muslim congregations in Texas to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the Mainline Protestant (Texas Conference of Churches), Catholic (Texas Catholic Conference) and Baptist (Baptist General Convention of Texas) communities. The members of the TIC are Muslim Congregations (Mosques) and full-time Islamic Schools from around the Lone Star State. The current membership of the TIC gives it a representative strength of more than 75,000 Texas Muslims, thereby making it the largest single representative body for Muslims in Texas.

    What’s the biggest challenge?

    Our biggest challenge is staying stable financially. We do not do the typical non-profit fundraiser but rather run on membership dues. Also, we do not have enough years under our belt to apply for grant money. It is said that if a start-up can support itself for the first five years then it will be on a stable foot and make it. We are at four years, so we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    What’s in store for the future?

    Triumph Over Terror (TOT): The Texas Islamic Council (TIC), an independent statewide coalition of Islamic Centers (Mosques) across the Lone Star State coordinated by the Freedom and Justice Foundation (F&J;), voted in June 2006 to build expansive interfaith partnerships that include all of civic and political society in order to clarify the language used in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) in order to accurately define our enemy. The purpose of the TIC membership making that decision was to bring more support to efforts by F&J; and other groups already working to clarify the use of such controversial language.

    Muslim Scholarship Fund (MSF): This project is not yet launched publicly, but its purpose is to create an endowment fund that would be able to grant annual scholarships to Muslim students studying in Texas in under-represented fields such as Journalism and Law.

    Who would you like to be contacted by?

    Anyone interested in becoming a member and any American who wants to help us by funding our projects or help achieve our mission.

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    Best way to keep a competitive edge

    I don’t think we ever really think about how to have the upper hand compared to other non-profits. Rather, our motto is to “Connect the Dots!” It is our job to help different organizations and interfaith communities get connected with each other to reach common goals rather than just duplicate efforts. I think that is precisely what sets us apart from others. We are working to build a team to unite work together to accomplish similar goals.

    Guiding principle in life

    I am truly a believer in JFK’s message, “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather, what you can do for your country.” I have taken this to mean that it is each person’s duty to help humanity in any way that he/she can. We must each do our part to make this world better. One should not ask what they will get in return for helping another but be content that they were able to help, especially if it is someone who is weak and cannot help themselves. I am not sure who said it, but someone wise once said that community service (or helping others) is the rent we pay for our space on this earth. Imagine the world we would have if everyone lived by this principle!

    Yardstick of success

    At the end of the day, if I can think of one way that I have made someone’s life better or easier, even for a second, then I have had a successful day.

    When I die, I want to be remembered as someone who represented what is just and true in this world. I want to make my mark as someone whose life made this world a better place.

    Goal yet to be achieved

    I am waiting for the day when F&J; is stable enough that we do not have to worry about the day to day operations. I would like to at that point gain more education and possibly receive a Master’s in Nonprofit Management.

    Best practical advice

    I think the biggest thing I had to learn is to only worry about the things that I can control. I used to stress about every little thing. Stress is really the root of all disease. I had to learn that the hard way. I was always getting sick because I was always stressed. Then, after a conversation with my husband, I realized all I can do is put 100% of my effort into making sure F&J; stays true to its mission and in accomplishing its vision and the rest is out of my hands.

    Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

    My husband told me once that it does not matter if F&J; succeeds in the eyes of everyone else. All that matters is that I give 100% to accomplish my dreams for F&J; because that all that is in my control. The rest is up to God.


    The President and CEO of our organization definitely serves as a mentor for me. He has a lot of experience and helps me by passing down all his tricks of the trade and also his knowledge of the all the dynamics involved in establishing a nonprofit in Texas as well as within the American Muslim community.

    My grandmother is definitely my mentor in spirit. She dedicated her life to working to better the lives of women in Bangladesh in a time when women had no rights or value in society. She founded schools for females and established trade associations to teach battered and abused women how to do embroidery, so they could use this skill to earn money to support themselves and free themselves and their children from abusive relationships. She was awarded a gold medal from Queen Elizabeth for her social work. Although she passed away when I young, I believe my need to help others runs in my blood.

    What motivated you to get started?

    Since high school, I noticed a lack of involvement in public policy by minority communities. As the only Muslim at my school, I learned at a young age that people of different faiths, especially the Abrahamic traditions, have a lot more in common then they know. I did not understand why different groups did not unify their efforts to reach common goals rather than work separately for the same things. Also, I instinctively knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit field from the time I was a young child because my need to help others.

    When I graduated I was searching for the right opportunity to get involved in an organization that helped minorities get involved with government and also for faith-based communities to better relations among themselves. I went to an interview for a different organization, and the interviewee actually saw my resume and told me about an organization he was in the process of establishing. It was going to be based on govenmental and interfaith relations. I immediately got hooked!

    Like best about what you do?

    I truly love the feeling that I am making a difference. I have the same opportunities as a young female at F&J; as an older male would have. Many time, someone older or male in public policy offices and at other organizations around the nation have better work conditions than a young woman. That is not the case at F&J.;

    I also truly appreciate the opportunity to speak to key decision-makers at the local, state, and national government level as well as the opportunity to educate the general public about the government and how it works.

    There are moments when it all comes together in my mind about why I do what I do. One of these moments was the First Legislative Day at the Texas State Capitol. Hundreds of people from all around the state bussed into Austin to learn how to lobby legislatures and also to hear the first Muslim cleric start the House of Representatives session with a Muslim prayer. It was amazing to have people come ask us what was going on when they saw such a huge influx of people at the Capitol. It was rare for so many civilians to come to the Capitol to watch a House session.

    Even more amazing was the looks on people’s faces when they realized that their legislatures work for them and have an obligation to listen to their opinions on different bills and topics. They looked SO empowered! It is like seeing the light bulb go off in someone’s head.

    Like least about what you do?

    There are times when I wish that F&J; had more financial resources at our disposal. For example, it would be great if I could join the President at some of the gatherings in other states, like the Iftar dinner at the State Department in DC, but it is just not financially possible for the both of us to go. I know it is only a matter of time, and we will, God willing, be fully developed financially.

    At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    I wanted to be an Ambassador from the US to another country. I thought it would be awesome to get paid to travel the world and go to fancy galas.

    What was your first job?

    I was a cashier at a retail giant during the summer between my junior an senior year of high school. That was a very humbling experience.

    Biggest pastime outside of work

    I love SHOPPING! It used to almost be an addiction for me. When I was stressed, I went shopping. I not only bought things for myself, but I bought things for family and friends. I also had an immense gift closet full of things to give as last minute gifts for forgotten occasions.

    Person most interested in meeting

    I am truly blessed to have met my husband. The first time I talked to him, I felt like I met that person that I had waited my whole life to meet. I know that sounds corny, but I am the happiest I have even been, and it is because of him and God’s grace.

    Interesting facts about yourself

    I will be making my pilgrimmage to Mecca this year, God-willing and I was Homecoming Queen in college.

    Characteristics that describe you

    Responsible and Helpful (maybe a little too much sometimes)

    Greatest passions

    Shopping and Volunteering (helping those who cannot help themselves)

    Favorite book

    I recently read Confessions of a Shopaholic and really related. Thank God I’m not in debt.

    My favorite book used to be The Outsider, which I read in elementary school, and also Blue Eyed Girl by Toni Morrison. I also enjoyed reading Kiterunner.

    Favorite cause

    Orphans in underdeveloped nations who lack the basic necessities of life especially those who have been orphaned my natural disasters.

    I am a big supporter of Islamic Relief’s Orphan Sponsorship program. You just pay a few dollars a month to give an orphan in another country the basic necessities.

    Islamic Relief is an awesome organization as is evident by the projects they choose to do. It is amazing to see the wide range of supporters they have like Prince Charles.

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    Interview by Saba Nasser
    Introduction by Sumaya Kazi

    Also this week

    Aimee SuzaraMary’s CenterJana El-Horr

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