The Muslim Protagonist Planning Committee runs the Columbia Muslim Students Association’s annual Muslim Protagonist Symposium and is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia University, as well as alumni.

Contact us at muslimprotagonist (at)


SUMAYA AWAD is a a visiting student at Columbia University from Williams College. She is currently a junior double majoring in History and Religion with a concentration in Jewish Studies. Originally Palestinian, Sumaya grew up between Jordan and the United States. She enjoys writing in her free time and hopes to write a historical novel as her senior thesis project. She has worked closely with refugee and migrant communities in the Middle East, Eastern Asia and South America and hopes to further her interest in these diaspora communities by pursuing a post-graduate degree in law.


YILMA CHOUDRY (Co-Chair) is a senior at Columbia University studying physics. Yilma is a native New Yorker who has always enjoyed the diverse environment the city has to offer. She completed her freshman year at NYU before transferring to Columbia, and her first active enrollment with any organization began with the Muslim Protagonist. According to her, the symposium compelled her to acknowledge the intricate ways in which her faith plays an integral role in shaping who she is. Yilma believes that the Muslim Protagonist will allow people to creatively express their identities while also providing a space for deep introspection into the multitude of layers that make us all unique. She is extremely excited about this year’s theme of “Art as Protest” and is looking forward to hearing the dialogue that results from the symposium!


HARIS A. DURRANI (Co-Founder, Advisor) is a Dominican Pakistani undergrad at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he is an Applied Physics Major and a Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies Minor. He is Co-Founder of The Muslim Protagonist with Mirzya Syed. His published work explores personal narratives arising at the nexus of law, technology, and disenfranchised identities, particularly in Latino and post-9/11 contexts. A Portfolio Gold Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, his fiction, memoirs, and essays have appeared or will appear in Analog Science Fiction and FactaltMuslimah, University of Toronto Undergraduate Journal of Middle East StudiesThe 2014 Campbellian AnthologyThe New York Review of Science Fiction, and The Best Teen Writing of 2012 (Editor), 2011, and 2010. He has appeared multiple times on John Hockenberry’s NPR show The Takeaway on youth, identity, and writing. He is an aspiring academic and novelist. Space law would also be fun. Haris is inspired by Isaac Asimov, Junot Diaz, Edward Said, Ted Chiang, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Kismet the robot. When he grows up, he would like to live on Gliese 581 g, if it exists.

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FATIMA DIALLO is a senior in Columbia College. She is studying Chemistry and Hispanic Studies and is also pre-med. On campus she serves as the current chair of the Student Governing Board and a Senior Advisor for the Muslim Students Association. Her interests include women’s and children’s rights, health disparities in the US and abroad, and the role that entrepreneurship will play in the future of medicine. She was a member of the Muslim Protagonist board last year and is excited to be apart of another awesome year of the Muslim Protagonist. She has always had a passion for reading but before the event two years ago, she had never taken a specific interest in the Muslim narrative here in the U.S. After the event, she found herself yearning for more and that prompted her to join the board last year and continue on this year. She hopes that the event inspires others to take an interest in the Muslim narrative. Overall, she hopes everyone who attends the event leaves  having learned something that challenges them and inspires an interest in minority narratives.  She looks forward to meeting everyone who attends the event and please feel free to reach out to her if you have any questions/concerns/suggestions!


SAULEHA KAMAL is a senior double majoring in Economics & Social History and English (Creative Writing concentration). She has been involved with the Muslim Protagonist since 2013 and is incredibly excited about the upcoming conference which will (insha’Allah) further the conference’s mission to celebrate minority artists and encourage discussion on critical issues in the contemporary world. Sauleha is also a contributing fiction editor at the literary magazine The Missing Slate. At Columbia, she has served as President of the Organization of Pakistani Students, been a member of the Columbia International Relations Council (CIRCA) and written for the Columbia Daily Spectator. She is a recipient of the Alena Wels Hirschorn Prize for Economics and some of her fiction has appeared in the Oxford University Press collection I’ll Find My Way and Protag, the journal of The Muslim Protagonist.


FATIMA WARSAME is a senior in Columbia College majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior. She was born in Nairobi, Kenya but moved to Arizona (of all places!) when she was 10. Her interests include international health policy, access to healthcare among minority populations, and ways to expand high-quality critical care in low-resource areas. In her spare time, she enjoys meandering around NYC, spending too much time in bookstores, and having abstract conversations with anyone who cares to engage in them. This is the second year she has helped plan the symposium and hopes it will continue to showcase and highlight the narratives and creativity of the Muslim community in the U.S. She’s looking forward to the best event of the year!


DAYANA KHATIB is a student of political science and international relations in her first year at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

HABIBA KHOKHAR is a student in the Neuroscience and Education program at Teachers College. She is interested in issues relating to science education, motivation, and identity.She is eagerly awaiting the three-day event this year. As a passionate educator she believes the Muslim Protagonist Symposium provides an essential platform for the exploration of self and facilitates the growth of a community of critical thinkers. She is looking forward to the great conversations ahead.


MIRZYA SYED (Co-Founder, Alumni Advisor) is a graduate of Barnard College who majored in Biology. In 2013 she initiated the Muslim Protagonist symposium and co-chaired the committee. Currently, she is working full-time at a Queens-based non-profit called Forestdale, Inc. which combats childhood poverty and where she is creating and implementing mentoring programs for children in the foster care system. She also regularly volunteers in clinical settings and in Hurricane Sandy relief projects throughout New York City. She has dueling but hopefully complimentary aspirations to provide greater access to healthcare and better nutrition to underserved communities as a pediatrician or an emergency physician but also to be a writer of stories that matter in their own small way. During her downtime at work, she adds a page or two to her novel apparently in progress. It’s going to win all the awards. Obviously, it involves a Muslim protagonist, and he may or may not be played by Zayn Malik in the inevitable Hollywood adaptation.