Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has invited a Muslim attorney and activist as her guest to President Donald Trump’s first State-of-the-Union address Feb. 28, in a bid to send a message about the diversity of the country and the achievements and contributions of immigrants and minorities.
Aneelah Afzali is the founder and executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN), an initiative of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound.
A graduate in psychology from the University of Oregon with a J.D. from Harvard Law School, described herself in 2015 as an “ambitious dreamer,” on her LinkedIn site. After 10 years of practicing law, Afzali said she decided to take a break from her career path to pursue some personal ambitions. “Big things planned, and I’m very excited for this new chapter in my life!” she said at that time. Afzali has since then, become an interfaith leader and an avid supporter of Rep. Jayapal, a lifelong advocate of immigrants’ rights who helped found the “Hate Free Zone” campaign after 9/11.
“Aneelah’s story is the American story,” said Rep. Jayapal. “A Muslim American woman of color, Aneelah has devoted her life to fighting for justice and equality.” The Congresswoman attacked President Trump for allegedly marginalizing and targeting “entire communities” on the basis of their race and religion, an accusation the administration has denied.
“I am honored by the invitation from my representative, a fierce champion for the rights of all people,” Afzali is quoted saying in the press release. “I’m attending the State of the Union to showcase the diversity that truly makes our country great and highlight the positive contributions of American Muslims to our nation, at a time when fearmongering and scapegoating are being used to demonize Muslims along with other minority communities.”
Afzali is a Board Member of the Faith Action Network. As an attorney, she made partner at a law firm and led as General Counsel of a local healthcare IT company. In addition to her legal practice, Afzali cofounded the Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington and served as inaugural president for two years.