MAHA ELKOLALLI, ESQ.
OUTREACH COMMITTEE CHAIR
SOUTH FLORIDA MUSLIM FEDERATION
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in African American Studies and Education from the State University of New York at Albany. I went on to obtain my Juris Doctorate Degree from Nova Southeastern Shepard Broad Law Center and have been a practicing attorney since 2010. I am a solo practitioner mostly in the area of Family Law; however, I have years of experience in litigating personal injury systemic reform cases on behalf of children injured while in the foster care system. I am an Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center and the Community Outreach Chair for the SFL Muslim Federation.
Prior to attending law school, I worked for the Florida Department of Children and Families and ChildNet as a Child Protection Supervisor, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as a Government Analyst auditing juvenile facilities in the southern region of Florida, and at the YMCA as an Area Director.
What sort of community service work have you participated in/ undertaken. What inspired you the most and why do you think there is a need to give back to the community?
Community service has always been an integral part of my life and I try to instill that in my children as I am aware of how it molds our character. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” My community service work includes: conducting community Legal Talks to educate people on their legal rights; Interfaith panels at Universities, Colleges, and other public locations; Public Speaking on issues related to Muslim women and the Muslim Community; Assisting children in the foster care system; Empowering survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence; Assisting in developing the legal team to address the issue of freeing Imam Jamil Al-Amin; Facilitating community discussions related to racism and colorism in the community; Conducting trainings pertaining to Mandatory Reporting of abuse and sexual violence; Acting as Guardian Ad Litem for children in contentious divorce cases; Identifying Muslim Families interested in becoming certified foster parents.
Which aspect(s) of the local Muslim community do you feel has the maximum potential to grow and develop? How can SFMF help achieve it?
The Muslim community has been isolated from the community at large for so long. Over 29 years, I have seen significant changes and improvement in our community; However, there must be a better understanding of race relations in America and of the influence of African Muslims in American History. Muslims laid the foundation of this nation. We must continue to work towards knowing our value and the ability to influence change in this country. Rather than trying to assimilate, there is value in bringing our teachings to the table and not being afraid of holding on to the principles of Islam while still being heavily involved with the community at large, whether it is in politics, social services, interfaith dialogue, etc.
How can a person who is not a federation member or part of any other organization, contribute to betterment of community?
I am a firm believer that dawah is through example rather than through word of mouth. In following the teachings of Islam by conducting ourselves with honesty, integrity, respect, kindness, and day-to-day good deeds, we speak volumes of what being Muslim means. Often the key to fighting bigotry is exposure. Hatred is often derived through lack of understanding. It is shocking how many people in America can say that they don’t know any Muslims.