Practical Activism Conference 2017 Keynote Speaker: Zahra Billoo

July 26, 2016


Zahra Billoo

Zahra Billoo: Woman, Muslim, Powerhouse

A civil rights attorney, Zahra Billoo is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that works to uphold civil rights of American Muslims, foster a better understanding of the Islamic faith and its followers, serving the nearly 250,000 Muslims in nine Bay Area counties. Zahra also provides direct legal services for victims of law enforcement targeting and Islamophobia, individuals facing anti-Muslim discrimination, works on community development and empowerment, and works with the media to provide an American Muslim voice.

Zahra says that she is excited by all the energy rising from marginalized communities-- especially after the election-- but that there is a “need for leaders and activists to develop tangible and specific meaningful ways for people to get involved.”

“What we’re seeing right now is amplified Othering of different communities,” Zahra says. “What we need is more conversations and efforts among friends and allies to create a broad-based sense of belonging so that our movements aren’t just about Muslims, African Americans, Jews, Native Americans, or Asian Americans individually. Our country and our community is stronger when we work together. We can’t be free until everyone else is.”

Zahra has joined 15 plaintiffs and 12 other "Jane and John Does" in a 57-page lawsuit suing Donald Trump. They are asking for injunctive and declaratory relief from the "Muslim Exclusion Order,” also known colloquially as “the travel ban” or Executive Order 13769.

"Yes, this is my first time suing a sitting president,” Zahra said to a Bay Area news station. “All the plaintiffs are putting their safety on the line in order to advocate for American values. I am cautious, but I am also so incensed that Trump and his advisers would have the audacity to attempt a Muslim ban."

On Saturday, January 21, 2017 Zahra joined thousands of others for the Women’s March on Washington. “I march because as a Muslim, a woman, and a person of color, the incoming administration has targeted my community in multiple and intersectional ways,” says Billoo. “What we need right now is to send a clear message that women’s rights are human rights and that we will work together across communities to defend and protect each other.”

Zahra is a 2014 recipient of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter's Unsung Hero Award and a 2013 recipient of the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California's Trailblazer Award. As a law student, Zahra was awarded the Peggy Browning Fund Fellowship, and worked with the National Employment Law Project and became involved with the Muslim American Society.

Zahra’s strength, tact, wisdom, and experience make her a great fit for the Practical Activism Conference. To hear Zahra speak, mark your calendars for October 21, 2017.

Watch Zahra Billoo’s powerful D.C. Women’s March address now >>