Law student sees Ramadan as chance to increase awareness


First published: Saturday, September 13, 2008  
Umair Khan: Third-year student at Albany Law School. Worships at the Islamic Center of the Capital District in Colonie and Masjid As-Salam in Albany, and also with a group at Albany Medical Center for Friday prayers.


Background: Khan, 27, was born in Pakistan and grew up in Lubbock, Texas. He moved with his family to New York City when he was in high school. He graduated from Cornell University in 2003, where he majored in government and Near Eastern Studies. Khan served as a legislative assistant in Congress and was co-founder of the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association. He is a judicial intern for the state and lives in Albany.

This month is Ramadan. What is the reaction of your fellow students and co-workers as you observe the monthlong daytime fast?

Albany is different from Washington or New York City where colleagues are more familiar with Islam. Here, you explain a little about Ramadan. The biggest thing is to explain you don’t drink water either. They understand.

The law school is accommodating and inclusive. It is seeking to expand diversity in the legal profession. We have a prayer room and the school funds events for us.

How does Albany Law School further other people’s understanding of your faith tradition?

Educational institutions are places for people to exchange thoughts and ideas. For those who may not be so well informed, there is a lot of misinformation out there. I have an opportunity during discourse to clarify. I don’t think anyone has malice. They may have heard something inaccurate. I have never felt targeted or singled out.

There are 10 Muslim students here. I was president of the Muslim Students Association at the law school in my first and second years. We have built a relationship with Muslim students at the medical school and pharmacy school. We pray together when we can.

We are involved in activities from social to professional: Muslim soup kitchen, lectures about human rights, community outreach. We have had speakers from around the country talk about legal rights. And we have had attorneys Terry Kindlon and Laurie Shanks talk about the Masjid As-Salam case (where the imam and a congregant were convicted of aiding a would-be terror plot).

As Muslim-Americans, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to become more involved and politically active. We have to build networks and educate people who make policies about issues on Islam domestically and international issues.

What kind of law would you like to pursue?

I am thinking about criminal prosecuting or corporate.

You were at the Democratic National Convention last month. How was that experience?

The DNC was an exhilarating and unique experience and gave me another perspective on the needs of the country. We have to be grounded in reality while trying to achieve goals.

— Azra Haqqie

Painting Iran Through American Eyes

What: Visual presentation and talk by Priscilla Fairbanks and Barbara Spring, members of a peace mission to Iran, followed by dinner

When: 6-8 p.m. Monday

Where: Rochester Room, Albany Law School, 80 New Scotland Ave.

Notes: Co-sponsored by the Muslim Law Students Association and Amnesty International in celebration of Ramadan


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