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Executive Director

Jaylani Hussein is currently the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). Hussein worked as the Community Liaison Officer at Metro State University and as a Planner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. In 2013, he created Zeila Consultants to develop and offer cross-cultural training workshops on East African cultures. Hussein has presented on the Somali Culture to diverse public and private organizations across the US. He specializes in the areas of urban planning, community development, youth development (with over 8 years experience working in juvenile treatment centers for court adjudicated youth), legal and civil rights.

Hussein has been active with various community organizations in Minnesota, including the Islamic Cultural Center of Minnesota Board of Directors, Wilder Foundation Advisory Board, Muslim Youth of Minnesota Advisory Board, Islamic Resource Group Speakers Bureau, and ARAHA Board of Directors. He has traveled to the Horn of Africa twice on behalf of ARAHA, to open a regional field office and oversee large-scale humanitarian projects during the Somali Famine of 2011. Hussein received the 2015 the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) annual "Visionary Leader” Award.  Hussein appears regularly on Minnesota's local television and radio stations. He has also appeared on national and international outlets including ABC News, CNN, FOX BUSINESS, NPR, BBC among other outlets. 

Hussein's family emigrated from Somalia to Minnesota in 1993 and he is trilingual (English, Somali, Arabic). Hussein holds degrees in Community Development and City Planning from St. Cloud State University and Political Science from North Dakota State University.





Civil Rights Attorney

Ellen is an attorney with over 25 years of legal experience. She has assisted low income people in need of legal services through a variety of ways. She worked at free legal clinics in Ramsey and Hennepin Counties for the nonprofit organization Civil Society, Ramsey County Law Library, and Minnesota Legal Corps. Recently, she has also worked as an advocate for crime victims and elders at the Council on Crime and Justice and the ElderCare Rights Alliance. She serves as a hearing officer for a suburban city. Ellen is a trainer for the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies on legal and ethical issues. She worked for the League of Minnesota Cities for over 20 years defending cities in civil litigation and as Loss Control Attorney provided advice on how cities could avoid and minimize claims. She has extensive experience providing training on such topics as harassment, records retention, employment issues, and general liability issues.






 Patti HeadshotPATTI WALSH
 Development Director

Following a 25+ year career as a legal administrative assistant, Patti became certified as a Public Relations Specialist at Takoda Institute in 2013 and has taken her vocation into the nonprofit sector. She has been a grant writer and administrator with the nonprofit organization Isuroon, which supports women in the Somali community. She also worked as the Contract Communications Director for the African Development Center and the M2 Foundation. Patti has volunteered at nonprofit community radio station, KFAI 90.3 FM, for over 28 years, has hosted 3 radio shows and has served as the station's board president. She is currently an artist-member at the collectively-run nonprofit Vine Arts Center in Minneapolis. She is also currently serving on the board of directors for Community Shares of Minnesota.






Chapter Coordinator 

Balkis Hassan, comes to CAIR by way of the private sector where she has years of administrative experience at companies including but not limited to Wells Fargo and Medtronic. Hassan, who immigrated to the United States at age 18, is tri-lingual in Somali, Arabic, and English. Hassan is currently pursuing her liberal arts degree and perfecting her famously good sambusas. 









Community Engagement Coordinator (AmeriCorps Vista)



What They Say About CAIR

Here are some of the things people we talk to say about us:


"Ellen,  THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR EXTRAORDINARY DEDICATION ON THIS CASE!  At the beginning of this case, the odds of winning weren't great - in fact it was a little guys vs. an established institution. It took a belief and a dedication to stand up for the oppressed.   In the end the truth prevailed.  Thank you for standing for what is right. Please THANK your colleagues at CAIR as well. It is an honor working with you!" - A client


"I must reiterate that the CLE session ["Understanding Your Muslim Clients"] was one of the best I have ever had in local areas since I started law practice in 1982. Hats off to your team." –September 2011 CLE Attendee


"Mashallah, praise be to Allah, alhamdulilaah, I read the agreement [EEOC-mediated agreement allowing Muslim employees right to break Ramadan fast at Electrolux plant] and it is wonderful and excellent. Tears of joy are rolling down my cheeks now." –Muslim employee at Electrolux


"The Senate District 34 DFL Central Committee wishes to thank CAIR-MN for Kashif Saroya's outstanding presentation last night at the Chanhassen Library. We had a great turnout for Kashif's presentation, he answered even the most controversial questions directly and informatively and he helped immensely in bridging the gaps of understanding between the non-Muslim and Muslim members of our community." –Affirmative Action Officer, SD34 DFL


"I congratulate the Council on American-Islamic Relations on a successful year of encouraging dialogue, protecting civil liberties and building coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding." -Rep. Betty McCollum, D-MN


"Many thanks for taking time to meet with me and the team to discuss the recent issue at the Southdale store. We believe that we have developed a good approach towards developing understanding and a long term relationship...You do great work and I continue to sing your praises." – Ed Goldberg, Senior Vice-President of Consumer Affairs, Macy's


"I was able to experience a taste of the great work CAIR is doing [3rd Annual CAIR-MN Banquet]. Minnesota has benefited greatly from your work, and that of your CAIR colleagues. Thanks for permitting me to be a part of it." –Peter Erlinder, William Mitchell College of Law


"We are truly blessed to have an organization like CAIR in our state! What would we do when faced with discrimination without thousands of dollars to a lawyer who may or may not really care. I can honestly not think of a better or more needed cause in our country right now." – Community Member


"I thank you [for] coming to Owatonna and staying with my community. You gave us very good support [in DOJ investigation of discrimination against Somalis in Owatonna School District]. May God give you a big reward for the job that you doing with Muslim community around the area." – Owatonna Muslim Community Leader


"As a blind Christian, I am so very pleased to hear of successes as this [Muslim cab drivers provide free rides at blind convention]. We come from all over to enjoy the benefits this country offers and it is little gestures as your honorable cab drivers have given and/or displayed. On my behalf, please thank your drivers, for I truly believe it is examples, as this, that truly brings a smile to the face of God." – Convention Attendee


"We realized it then [prior to CAIR-MN's establishment] and we realize it even more now just how important CAIR-MN is and will be to this community." -Twin Cities Imam


"CAIR-MN's support to our community during this troubling time has been tremendous. Their visits and presence in our community was uplifting for us all." -St. Cloud Muslim


"We, as a community, cannot take CAIR's work for granted because if we don't support organizations that are brave enough to counter such stereotypes and racism (and so creatively!), we've failed ourselves and we risk being complacent and indirect contributors to our very own oppression." – University of Minnesota Muslim Student Leader


"We stand with CAIR and the good work they do for the Muslim community in Minnesota." -Hassan Mahamud, Minnesota Dawah Institute


"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you, and the entire CAIR Board, for the gracious invitation to speak and attend the first CAIR MN banquet last week. I don't mind telling you I was a little nervous about being there and worried about the negative potential impact I might have on the attendees but my worries were for nothing. I was most absolutely treated as if I were an honored guest and was treated with the highest amount of respect. I felt more like a friend than a stranger. As a matter of fact, I believe I even made a few very wonderful new friends! I am excited at the prospect of your future positive impact within your own community, but even more importantly, I am thrilled at the positive impact you will have on the greater Minnesota community!" –Ken Rodgers, Former President, American Council on the Blind of Minnesota


"I very much enjoyed the [CAIR-MN] banquet and I was touched by the warm reception extended to me by many of the attendees. The presentations later in the evening further sensitized me to the current concerns of Minnesota's substantial Muslim community. I passed those concerns along to my senior staff." – Ralph Boelter, Special Agent in Charge, FBI-Minneapolis.


"The townhall meeting was one of the most well organized and smoothly run events. There were representatives from Blaine Police Department, the Minnesota FBI, Blaine City Council, ICM, MAS-MN, AMCC, IRG, Al-Amal, Anoka Tech. College Student Council, Building Blocks, MinnesotaCouncil of Churches, EngageMN, and a host of other organizations. Br. Chris Schumacher of CAIR-MN did a remarkable job of running the meeting.. It was remarkable for CAIR-MN to bring together various organizations for a common cause. I came out of the meeting feeling positive about the fact that despite the challenges ahead, the goodwill and passion for those who care will win the day finally. In'shaAllah."–Zafar Siddiqui, Community Leader


"I commend CAIR-MN on its leadership on this issue [African American Muslims and the Civil Rights Movement]. We look forward to working together in the future. May Allah reward you for your efforts." –Makram Elamin, Imam of Masjid An Nur, Minneapolis


"I appreciated very much being able to participate in the CAIR meeting. Realizing that I would never have known about it without your invitation, I want to thank you. I particularly appreciated the recitation from the Qur'an. The musical flow of the words has no equal in any of the various denominations of Christian Churches I have participated in and the sound (I know little Arabic) sounded like poetry." –Dick Johnson, Lake Harriet United Methodist Church


"Thank you for providing the informational sheet [Public Defenders Guide to Working with Somali Community]. I have provided a copy to all of the attorneys on staff and will provide a copy to our conflict panel attorneys whenever they receive an appointment to represent an individual related to the Government investigation." –Office of the Federal Defender


"CAIR was there. CAIR is the only organization that I know of that has helped with civil rights for Muslim community/for the Somali community. We are here to support CAIR because they have done a tremendous job for the Somali community.....We appreciate you for being there for us. We appreciate you. And we can never appreciate you enough." –Zuhur Ahmed, KFAI Somali Community Link Host


"CAIR has helped a lot the Somali American Community. CAIR speaks for us. CAIR educated us as American citizens....we are the Somali American community and CAIR educated our people." –Mohamed Cali, Somali American Community Executive Director

Does CAIR qualify to receive Zakat?

Yes. Numerous Muslim scholars have confirmed that Zakat is payable to organizations that exist to serve the Muslim community by protecting their rights. This is because the work done by CAIR (and other such organizations) can be classified as fi-sabilillah, which is one of the eight categories of Zakat recipients detailed in the Quran (Chapter 9, Verse 60).

Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Kutty a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

“I think it is not only permissible, rather it is also imperative that we do give our zakah to organizations like CAIR and CAIR-CAN, since they are fulfilling a most timely and essential service for the healthy survival of the community. Supporting such institutions clearly falls under the legitimate objectives of zakah as expounded by authentic scholars and jurists of Islam, both of the past and the present.

The categories of recipients of zakah are stated in the following verse: “Charities are (meant) only for the poor and the needy, and those who are charged with collecting them, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and (for) those who are overburdened with debts, and (for those who strive) in Allah’s cause (fi sabili-llah), and (for) the way-farer: (this is) an ordinance from Allah—and Allah is All-Knowing and All-Wise” (At-Tawbah: 60).

As is clear from the above verse, one of the categories is fi sabili-llah. … among the commentators of the Qur’an (mufassirun) as well as the jurists (fuqaha’), who have used the term fi sabili-llah in a far wider sense, thus extending it to include all beneficial works and projects that are of common benefit to the Ummah. They have thus included in this category such services as funeral arrangements, building and taking care of schools and mosques, establishing hospitals, building bridges, etc. In short, they definitely include institutions that provide educational or social services under this category and thus eligible to receive funds from zakah.

A principle of jurisprudence states: if a thing which has been considered as obligatory cannot be fulfilled without fulfilling another, then fulfilling the latter also becomes obligatory. Thus since protecting the rights of Muslims and empowering Muslims cannot be achieved without such institutions, it is imperative that Muslims support and maintain such institutions.

Muslims should have no hesitation in giving part of their Zakah to CAIR, which is providing a most timely and essential service for the cause of Islam and Muslims. They both have a reputation for professionalism, efficiency, commitment, and integrity, which in my mind are the most valuable assets of any Islamic organization worthy of the name.

May Allah give us all the honor of serving His cause efficiently and professionally, and may He also accept our humble efforts in His cause. Ameen.”

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty is a well known Islamic Scholar, a regular commentator on Islamic issues and makes fatwas on issues of importance to Muslims.

Shiekh Ahmad Kutty’s Biography: Born in Kerala State, India (1946) Nationality: Canadian


  • 1975-1980: McGill University, Montreal: Doctoral Studies; Specialized in Shari’ah Thought.
  • 1972-1973: University of Toronto: Masters in Islamic Studies.
  • 1968-1972: Islamic University of Madinah, Saudi Arabia: Licentiate in Usul al-Ddeen (first rank).
  • 1957-1967: Islamiyya College: Graduated in the Traditional Islamic Sciences and received the ‘Ijazah (title) of al-Faqih fi al-ddeen (first rank).


  • Shah Waliullah’s Concept of Harmony (tatbiq) of Reason, Revelation and Intuition in the Light of Hujjat Allah al-Balighah (Under Preparation).
  • Human Rights: The Western & Islamic Perspectives (Work in progress)
  • Translation of al-‘aqeedah al-tahawiyyah (2002)
  • An analytical study of Ibn Taymiyyah’s al-‘Aqidat al-Wasitiyyah (1978)
  • Translation of al-Insaf fi bayan asbab al-ikhtilaf (1981)
  • An analytical study of Ibn Khaldun’s Shifa’ al-sa’il fi tahdhib al-masaail (1976)
  • Al-Nass wa al-ikhtiyaar fi al-khilafah: A Comparative Study of the Sunni and the Shi’ah Theories of Khilafah/Imamah (1982)
  • Kitab al-Tawhid of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 944): A report on his work with reference to his role in the development of Kalam (1978)
  • Abolition of Khilafah and the reaction of the Muslim world (1976)
  • Muhammad b. Abd al-Wahhab: His life & Reformist Ideas (1976)
  • Shah Waliullah’s Concept of Shari’ah (1979)
  • Ibn Taymiyyah’s Attitude towards Sufism (1979)
  • Ramadan: Blessings and Rules (1990)
  • 14 Islamic Funeral Rites (1991)
  • Social Justice in Islam: A translation of Sayyid Qutb’s al-adalatul ijtima’iyyah fi al-islam into Malayalam (4th edition, 1987)
  • Miscellaneous articles published in various newspapers/magazines


  • Evolution of Fiqh and the Emergence of the Schools of Jurisprudence
  • Fiqh al-Hadith: A Study of Bulugh al-Maraam
  • Readings in Sahih al-Bukhari
  • Islamic Ethics: Readings in Riyad al-Saliheen
  • Fiqh of Priorities
  • Islamic Ethics and Morals
  • Studies in Islamic Spirituality based on Imam Ghazzali’s Ihya ulum al-Ddeen
  • Islamic ‘Aqeedah Level One
  • Islamic ‘Aqeedah Level Two
  • Marriage and Family in Islam
  • Comparative Religions
  • Sects and Sectarianism in Islam
  • Fiqh al-Zzakah
  • Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh)


  • Presently: Senior Lecturer/Imam at the Islamic Institute of Toronto & and a non-resident Imam/Khatib (orator) at the following centers/mosques in Toronto: Islamic Center of Canada, Islamic Center of Canada, Bosnian Islamic Center, and Ansar Mosque
  • 1984-1994: Director/Imam Islamic Foundation of Toronto
  • 1979-1982: Director/Imam: Islamic Center of Toronto
  • 1973-1975: Assistant Director: Islamic Center of Toronto


  • Participated as a presenter in numerous seminars, conferences, and symposiums (from 1975 onwards).
  • Participated on a regular basis in the ISNA conferences as a speaker & as a participant in Fiqh Sessions (1975 onwards).
  • Presentations on Islam in various churches/ inter-faith gatherings/hospitals, etc.
  • Gave numerous interviews to newspapers/ television (both local and national) on various issues affecting Islam and Muslims.

Mission and Vision

CAIR's vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding.

CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. The demand for our services has grown tremendously. From restrictions placed on Muslims to practice their religion, to profiling and discrimination stemming from a lack of understanding of Islam, the need for CAIR in Minnesota is great. The proof is reflected in the dramatic increase in civil rights cases by 250% from 2007 to 2013. CAIR-Minnesota strives to ensure that Muslims in Minnesota enjoy the same protections that all Americans have.

Enhancing the Understanding of Islam

CAIR-MN actively engages with the media to ensure that a fair and accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims is presented to the American public. This is accomplished through media appearances, press conferences, opinion editorials and letters to the editor. In addition, CAIR-Minnesota provides training to community members, media professionals, and employers. Media professionals are engaged In discussions about working with the Muslim community, with the purpose of helping to create an environment where fair and balanced journalism can thrive. The Muslim community is educated on working with the media to assert their rights and respond with confidence when met with requests for interviews.

Promoting Justice

Protecting the rights of Minnesota Muslims is at the core of CAIR-Minnesota's mission. We work vigorously to educate on behalf of community members experiencing discrimination and remedy cases through in-person negotiations, from filing charges of discrimination, letter writing, and referrals to our attorney referral network. Cases range from employment, public accommodation and school discrimination, to hate crimes and governmental religious/racial profiling.

Core Principles

  • CAIR supports free enterprise, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
  • CAIR is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of faith.
  • CAIR supports domestic policies that promote civil rights, diversity and freedom of religion.
  • CAIR opposes domestic policies that limit civil rights, permit racial, ethnic or religious profiling, infringe on due process, or that prevent Muslims and others from participating fully in American civic life.
  • CAIR is a natural ally of groups, religious or secular, that advocate justice and human rights in America and around the world.
  • CAIR supports foreign policies that help create free and equitable trade, encourage human rights and promote representative government based on socio-economic justice.
  • CAIR believes the active practice of Islam strengthens the social and religious fabric of our nation.
  • CAIR condemns all acts of violence against civilians by any individual, group or state.
  • CAIR advocates dialogue between faith communities both in America and worldwide.
  • CAIR supports equal and complementary rights and responsibilities for men and women.

How CAIR Works

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group. CAIR is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, with regional offices nationwide and in Canada. The national headquarters is located on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

Since its establishment in 1994, CAIR has worked to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America. Through media relations, government relations, education and advocacy, CAIR puts forth an Islamic perspective to ensure the Muslim voice is represented. In offering this perspective, CAIR seeks to empower the American Muslim community and encourage their participation in political and social activism.

Civil Rights Work

CAIR's Civil Rights Department counsels, mediates and advocates on behalf of Muslims and others who have experienced religious discrimination, defamation or hate crimes. The department works to protect and defend the constitutional rights of American Muslims, thereby supporting the rights of all Americans.

Government Affairs

CAIR's Governmental Affairs Department conducts and organizes lobbying efforts on issues related to Islam and Muslims. The department is active in monitoring legislation and government activities and then, responding on behalf of the American Muslim community. CAIR representatives have testified before Congress and have sponsored a number of activities designed to bring Muslim concerns to Capitol Hill.

Media Relations

CAIR's Communications Department works in conjunction with local and national media to ensure an accurate portrayal of Islam and Muslims is presented to the American public. CAIR monitors local, national and international media in part, to challenge negative stereotypes, but also to applaud and encourage positive representations of Islam and Muslims. Over the years, CAIR has become a respected and credible source for journalists and other media professionals.

Action Alerts

In an effort to empower the American Muslim community, CAIR issues "Action Alerts" as a means of generating a grassroots response to critical political, social and media-related issues. These alerts have produced overwhelming results and have made a significant impact in bringing about change. CAIR also offers an email list designed to be a source of information and news for the American Muslim community. Subscribers to the CAIR e-mail lists receive news releases and other materials dealing with American Muslim positions on issues of importance.


CAIR's Research Department conducts empirical research studies on subjects relevant to the American Muslim community, including gathering and analyzing data for the annual civil rights report. The North American Muslim Resource Guide: Muslim Community Life in the United States and Canada (Routledge) is a product of the research department.


CAIR offers internships to students or other interested individuals who wish to gain experience in media relations, political activism or civil rights work.

CAIR Publications

CAIR offers a variety of publications that address the needs and rights of American Muslims. These publications include guides for employers, educators, healthcare providers, and law enforcement. CAIR also produces practical handbooks and resource materials for the Muslim community. CAIR's Research Department publishes an annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights, which serves to document hate crimes and discrimination cases reported to CAIR's Civil Rights Department.

Education: Conferences, Seminars and Workshops

CAIR organizes regular conferences and training seminars for government and law enforcement agencies, media professionals and the academic community. These events are designed to present easily accessible and accurate information about Islam and Muslims. CAIR's TeamWorks sensitivity and diversity training workshop is offered to employers, educators and organizations as a proactive approach that highlights relevant Islamic practices and offers suggestions for religious accommodation. CAIR also provides training for the Muslim Community and activists in areas such as media relations, public speaking, lobbying, and civil rights.

Voter Registration

In order to increase Muslim participation in the political arena, CAIR and its chapters regularly sponsor voter registration drives across the country. To register to vote, visit our website.

Outreach and Interfaith Relations

Each year, groups representing people of all faiths visit CAIR offices to learn more about Islam and Muslims in America. Through these visits, as well as other interfaith initiatives, CAIR strives to educate others about Islam while building strong relationships with other faith communities.

Strategic Plan

The Council on American-islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN) completed a strategic planning process in the fall of 2012 and winter of 2013. More than 100 community members provided input through community meetings and written surveys to help shape this plan.

CAIR MN Strategic Plan, 2013-2017

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