Daisy Khan

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Daisy Khan
Known forExecutive Director of Women's Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE)

Daisy Khan is a Muslim campaigner and reformer[1] who is the Executive Director of the Women's Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE),[2] a women-led organization committed to peacebuilding, equality, and justice for Muslims around the world. Khan is a frequent media commentator on topics such as Muslim women's rights, Islam in America, Islamophobia, and violent extremism. Khan's memoir Born With Wings will be published in April 2018 by Random House.

Early life[edit]

Daisy Khan was born in the foothills of the Himalayas in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Khan was raised in a Muslim household that was both traditional and forward-looking, where education was highly valued.

Khan attended a Christian missionary school, St. Patrick’s Presentation Convent School.[3] In an environment with an amalgam of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims – harmony, tolerance and unity of religious believers was the primary mantra of her Kashmiri childhood.

Khan’s grandfather, Ghulam Hassan Khan, was a powerful influence in her life. The chief engineer for the state of Kashmir, he studied civil engineering at Harvard in the 1920s and he encouraged his children and grandchildren to pursue the best education available regardless of locale.

Transition to America[edit]

At the age of 16 with the support of her parents, Khan left for the United States to pursue an education in art and design. She arrived on Long Island, and lived in Jericho with an aunt and uncle.

After high school, she earned a degree from the New York School of Interior Design. In her early 20s, she decamped to Manhattan and embraced the professional life, pulling 80-hour weeks as an architectural designer.

Through this period, Khan continued wrestling with Islam: she was forced to juxtapose the peaceful Islam of her childhood memories with the violent struggles portrayed by the media during the rise of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. She found solace in Sufism.[4][5]


Career Beginnings[edit]

In what Khan recalls as an odd coincidence, her first large projects involved religious architecture. Khan’s first big project was helping design the Islamic Center of Long Island, now one of the New York area’s most prominent mosques and cofounded by her uncle. For her next project, Khan reached across religious lines and worked on designing a Hindu temple. Through her work with religious architecture and local devotees, Khan recognized how immigrants yearned to recreate their homelands in America.

Khan went on to work as project manager for what was then Shearson Lehman Brothers on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center. She remembers the lasting effect of the first foiled bombing in 1993. After Shearson she worked for the publishing company Primedia, where she oversaw the design of Seventeen magazine’s offices, and then later joined a telecommunications firm. She also volunteered with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, in community development.

Community Service[edit]

In order to promote their vision of a harmonious and forward thinking Islam, in 1997 the couple established the non-profit group that is now called the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) where Khan served as an Executive Director for 17 years. At ASMA, Khan dedicated herself to strengthening an expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony through interfaith collaboration, cultivating the next generation of leaders, promoting women's rights and building bridges through culture and arts.[6]

Flagship Programs Founded[edit]

In an effort to emphasize commonalities among the Abrahamic faith traditions, Khan created groundbreaking interfaith theatrical productions "Same Difference" and "Cordoba Bread Fest."

To prioritize the advancement of Muslim women and the empowerment of youth globally, Khan launched two cutting edge programs to create a platform which maximized the collective impact of these social change agents.

In 2004, Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) was founded in order to cultivate and empower a global network of young Muslim leaders. It is the largest network of young Muslim leaders around the globe.

In 2006, Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) was founded to build a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women in order to promote women's rights and enable women to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies.

Khan grew increasingly disturbed by the mistreatment (stonings, honor killings, forced marriages) of Muslim women around the world. In 2008, WISE launched the first global Muslim women’s Shura Council to provide religiously-grounded opinions on controversial issues of particular relevance to Muslim women. Drawing upon its members' expertise in both Islamic jurisprudence and fields such as History, Political Science, Theology and Sociology, the Shura Council issued its first statement in 2009 "Jihad Against Violence," a condemnation of Violent Extremism.

The Global Muslim Women's Shura Council makes statements on domestic violence, violent extremism, female genital cutting, and adoption. The Council's statements were used to train Imams in Afghanistan to champion women's rights and combat Violent Extremism.

In 2009, Khan launched the first educational website dedicated to profiling the contributions of exemplary Muslim women as well as the challenges they face around the globe.

In 2015, Khan established WISE as an organization with the aim to bolster faith-based leadership of women and youth in order to foster a more peaceful and equitable Islam.

Activism for Religious Freedom and Pluralism[edit]

Amidst growing Islamophobia in the United States, Khan published an article in the Guardian, “Islamophobia is America’s Greatest Enemy.”[7]

Khan also sat down for a Council on Foreign Relations Panel Discussion in June 2011 to discuss "Islam in America." [8]

In March 2011, Daisy Khan spoke against Peter King’s hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. Khan further organized a Rally against Peter King’s hearings titled “I am a Muslim, Too” on March 6, 2011 in Times Square, NYC.[9]

In the realm of civil liberties, Daisy Khan addressed the question of, “Is the NYPD Really Against Muslims?” in the Huffington Post.[10]

In 2011, Khan brought together 300 people of all religions for a night of remembrance. The event, entitled In Good Faith: Stories of Hope and Resilience,[11] highlighted hundreds of bridgebuilding projects undertaken since September 11, while also paying tribute to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim families of 9/11 victims.

In 2009, Khan and her husband proposed building a community center, the Cordoba House at Park51, two blocks from the World Trade Center,[12] which precipitated a national dialogue in the US media about the right to worship and religious freedom.


Khan regularly lectures in the United States and internationally. She has appeared on numerous media outlets, such as CNN, Al Jazeera, and BBC World's Doha Debates. She has served as an advisor and contributor to a variety of documentaries, including PBS's Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, National Geographic's Inside Mecca, and the Hallmark Channel's Listening to Islam. Khan is a contributor to the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog and is frequently quoted in print publications, such as Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Saudi Gazette, and the Khaleej Times.

In 2006, Khan participated in a debate hosted by NPR's Intelligence Squared U.S. on "Weighing the Limits of Freedom of Expression", where her team argued against the notion that the "proposition of the freedom of expression includes the right to offend", and eventually lost by audience vote, to the opposition team led by Christopher Hitchens.[13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Community Service Award, Bronx Community Council, 2017
  • Service to Humanity Award, One Spirit Learning Alliance 2016
  • Honoring Muslim Women in Our Community, Islamic Center of Long Island, 2015
  • Faith in Action Award, International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, 2014
  • Voices That Challenge Award, The Interfaith Alliance of NYS, 2013
  • @DaisyKhan named one of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012 [14]
  • First recipient of the Charles Ansbacher Award, Hunt Alternatives Fund, 2012
  • Named one of the "10 Muslim Women Every Person Should Know," Huffington Post Religion Blog, 2012 [15]
  • @DaisyKhan named in "7 Women You Must Follow on Twitter," Glamour Magazine, 2012 [16]
  • Inspiring commitment to Inter-faith work. Common Ground, 2012
  • Building Bridges Through Interfaith Dialogue, IQRA International Educational Foundation, 2011 [17]
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, Unitarian Service Committee, 2011[18]
  • The Edinburgh Peace Award - City of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Interfaith Association, Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and Conference of Edinburgh's Religious Leaders, 2011 [19]
  • Prophetic Voice Award, The Shalom Center, 2011 [20]
  • Commitment to Action, Clinton Global Initiative, 2010 [21]
  • Women Who Empower and Inspire Award, The Arab American Family Support Center, 2010 [22]
  • Daisy Khan named in 21 Leaders for the 21st Century: Seven Who Topple Tyrannies, Women's E-News, 2008 [23]
  • Daisy Khan named a “Prime Mover”, Hunt Alternatives Fund, 2007
  • James Parks Morton Interfaith Award, The Interfaith Center of New York, 2006 [24]
  • Lives of Commitment Award, Auburn Theological Seminary, 2005 [25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The smashers of Mary's images are acting more against statues than against her". The Economist. 30 Nov 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  2. ^ "Combating Extremism and Islamophobia in the United States". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  3. ^ "Presentation Convent Higher Secondary School". Retrieved 2012-04-16.
  4. ^ AZMAT KHAN (27 Sep 2011). "Imam Feisal Adbul Rauf and Daisy Khan: "We Are Simply People Caught in the Middle"". FRONTLINE. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  5. ^ ADELA SULIMAN (23 Sep 2016). "Sufi Sect of Islam Draws 'Spiritual Vagabonds' in New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  6. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (November 10, 2010). "Daisy Khan, an Eloquent Face of Islam". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  7. ^ Khan, Daisy (2012-02-09). "Islamophobia is America's real enemy". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2012-04-16.
  8. ^ http://www.cfr.org/religion/islam-america-video/p25188
  9. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7l7oYS0AP0
  10. ^ Khan, Daisy (January 27, 2012). "Is the NYPD Really Against Muslims?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  11. ^ http://www.asmasociety.org/emails/asma/2011sept16_02.html
  12. ^ el-Ghobashy, Tamer (Aug 2, 2010). "Ground Zero Mosque Founder: 'We Want to Repair the Breach'" (Metropolis). Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  13. ^ https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/freedom-expression-must-include-license-offend
  14. ^ "The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012". Time. Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  15. ^ "10 Muslim Women Every Person Should Know". Huffington Post Religion Blog. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  16. ^ "#FollowFriday: 7 Women You Must Follow for LOLs, OOOHs and AHHs". Glamour. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  17. ^ "IQRA Annual Dinner 2011 Highlights". IQRA Foundation. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  18. ^ "Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf". ASMA Society. Archived from the original on August 9, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  19. ^ "ASMA Update". ASMA Society. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  20. ^ "Rabbi Arthur Waskow Presents Daisy Khan with Prophetic Voice Award". The Shalom Center. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  21. ^ "The 2010 Clinton Global Initiative recognizes ASMA's commitment to action "Training Imams on Women's Rights in Afghanistan"". ASMA Society. Archived from the original on June 24, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  22. ^ "Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement to Visit LIM College". LIM College. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  23. ^ "21 Leaders for the 21st Century: Seven Who Topple Tyrannies". Women's eNews. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  24. ^ "The James Parks Morton Interfaith Award". Interfaith Center of New York. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  25. ^ "Lives of Commitment". Auburn Seminary. Archived from the original on July 3, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.

External links[edit]