Newly revived Michigan Muslim Bar Association to focus on networking

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

When the Michigan Muslim Bar Association was first formed in 2006, the original members were idealistic young attorneys brimming with energy and plans. Then those young dynamos faced the increasing pressures of new legal careers and starting new families. At some point, the organization went dormant.

Now a new batch of recent law school grads is picking up the torch and the MMBA has come back to life. It will hold its Iftar Dinner fundraiser Aug. 15 to raise money for law school scholarships.

''The original members formulated the group around 2006. They did it for a few years, but were unable to generate enough members for the core group to step aside and let new members step up,'' says new MMBA President Dewnya Bazzi.

One of the three cofounders of the original group, attorney Serene Zeni, believes that Bazzi may be the perfect candidate for restarting the organization.

''When I hoped to restart the organization this year, Dewnya's name came up and she turned out to be the perfect person to contact,'' Says Zeni.

Zeni says that as recently as 2003 there was no solid support system for young Muslims going into law.

''At the time, there weren't that many Muslims in the area involved in the law. It was just starting to become a field that it was more common for Muslims to go into,'' she says. ''There wasn't much of a support system when I went to law school (in 2003) and not many people to reach out to or to discuss with the challenges that Muslims were facing in the legal profession. Now there's a whole list of Muslim attorneys you can seek guidance from.''

Now that the group is back up and running, the leadership hopes to focus on the multiple missions of networking, mentoring and education.

''Mentoring is one of our core missions,'' Bazzi says. ''We're linking new lawyers and senior attorneys. A lot of new attorneys are struggling to find jobs. Having an experienced attorney to go to with questions and for help with connections is valuable.''

And Zeni points out that the education component of the group continued even while its other functions were temporarily suspended.

''There's definitely an educational push in the organization,'' she says.

Bazzi stresses that the membership is not exclusive to Muslims and she hopes that many non-Muslims will choose to become members.

''We're open to everyone,'' she says. ''If a non-Muslim has never met a Muslim and they meet a Muslim attorney, just that one relationship can dispel misperceptions they may have.''

That open membership policy has two discrete goals: Build bridges and increase clout.

''People who don't know Muslims or who haven't read accurate books have an image that's distorted. That's our biggest barrier,'' Bazzi says.

The rejuvenated organization's leadership team hopes that upcoming events and a higher profile will take care of that issue.

The Iftar Dinner will be held Wednesday, Aug. 15, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Byblos Banquet Hall in Dearborn. For more information, contact Bazzi at 313-570-4390 or e-mail mimuslimbar@gmail.com.

Published: Thu, Jul 26, 2012

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