NAML began in 1996 as Muslim JD, an e-mail discussion list for Muslim attorneys sponsored by KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights as a networking service to the Muslim legal community in the United States. The idea gained support at a KARAMAH event at the United States Supreme Court featuring Justice Antonin Scalia. Drawing upon the list of attendees to that event, Asifa Quraishi-Landes, then-President of KARAMAH, created an email discussion list called “MuslimJD,” which grew at a rapid pace, from an initial 20 members to over 200 in its first few years.
In December 1998, Asifa Quraishi-Landes invited several MuslimJD members to participate in a Fordham University School of Law Conference (“Rediscovering The Role of Religion in the Lives of Lawyers and Those They Represent”).
The conference organizers facilitated a gathering of the Muslim participants, where they wrote a Mission Statement and began planning a national conference. (Drafters of the Mission Statement included Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Ahmed Taha, Sadiq Reza, Moushumi Khan, Kamran Memon, Mohammad Fadel, and Azizah Al-Hibri.)
On October 2, 1999, “Law and Muslims: The First Annual MuslimJD Conference for Muslim Lawyers,” was held at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, with the support of local Muslim law students. Its success led to formal incorporation of the “Muslim Lawyers Guild” as a nonprofit professional organization in 2000.
Soon after, our name was changed to the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML). The acronym (which means “ants” in Arabic) was chosen for the idea that great things can be accomplished when individuals work together, symbolizing that NAML strives to gather American Muslim lawyers together to form a sum greater than their parts. (NAML’s initial Board members were Mohammad Fadel (President), Aasma Khan, Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Awais Sufi, and Ahmed Taha. Mohamed Yusuf Mohamed served as Treasurer and Naima Said was Secretary.)
National NAML Conferences in 2001 and 2002, a lawyer directory, mentoring program, and continued online discussion continued to build the NAML community over the next few years.
The new counter-terrorism-charged legal landscape in the early 2000s changed the priorities demanded of NAML’s leaders. In 2005, the NAML Board of Directors launched a sister charitable organization, entitled Muslim Advocates, to pursue advocacy and policy work arising in the new counter-terrorism-charged legal landscape. To lead this effort, NAML hired Farhana Khera (then serving as Counsel to the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights), to serve as Executive Director for both NAML and Muslim Advocates.
Muslim Advocates and NAML were co-directed by Farhana Khera and her growing staff until 2014. Muslim Advocates began work on impact litigation, delivered statements at congressional hearings, and organized public “Know Your Rights” campaigns.
The coordinated leadership of NAML and Muslim Advocates organized two more well-attended conferences, in 2006 (Washington, D.C.) and 2007 (San Francisco).
In 2012, the Boards of Directors of NAML and Muslim Advocates mutually decided that NAML would benefit from a new leadership model. In a way that was not possible seventeen years earlier, NAML could now be the coordinated voice of the many regional and local Muslim bar associations that had appeared in cities across the country over the last two decades. Asifa Quraishi-Landes agreed to lead this transition, eventually recruiting Asaad Siddiqui, Jabeen Reza Adawi, Asad Ba-Yunus, Abbas Ravjani, Ghazaly Imam and Safia Hussain, to draft new bylaws and facilitate the transition to the new NAML leadership structure.
In 2016, a new NAML was launched, with a new Board of Directors comprised of representatives of eleven Muslim lawyer associations from San Francisco to New York City as well as the National Muslim Law Students Association. Now led by this nationally-networked team, NAML is again the premiere meeting place for the diverse and impressive American Muslim legal community.