Political Rewind: In conversation with Soumaya Khalifa, founder of Islamic Speakers Bureau, Atlanta
Soumaya Khalifa, founder and Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Soumaya Khalifa moved to the United States as a young girl. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in chemistry, moving to Atlanta in 1988. After receiving an MBA in Human Resources at Georgia State University, she created the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta in August of 2001, which would work to promote understanding and fight bigotry after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Khalifa said she was crushed by the news of 9/11. Her organization fielded calls from Georgians curious as to what Muslims in their community were really like. She spoke out against extremism, saying Islamic terrorists weren't acting out of a religious interest, but from some other place. Conversely, she spoke to experiences of Islamophobia, which she claimed peaks around election season, such as during former President Donald Trump's "Muslim ban".
The Islamic Speakers Bureau fields requests to speak at organizations, including churches, synagogues, businesses, political bodies, and more. Among other topics, they answer questions on what it's like to be a Muslim in America, or to be a Muslim woman. Khalifa says the latter question comes up often, as Americans have a perception that all Muslim women are oppressed.