In what may be the nation's only law firm composed solely of Muslim women, the attorneys represent the ethnic and religious diversity within the Islamic faith: Some cover their hair, some don't. Some are Sunni; others are Shiite, and at least one is happy to be secular.
The six women hope that by founding Amal Law Group, they are helping to dispel common stereotypes held about Muslim women.
"People think that somehow we're weak and not able to express opinions," said Janaan Hashim, the firm's 41-year-old founder, who has mixed Iraqi and Scottish-Irish heritage.
"Or ," said Heena Musabji, 29, of Indian heritage, who tucks her headscarf inside a cute chiffon blouse and prefers a well-heeled shoe.
Maryam Khan, 28, of Hickory Hills, said some people—even clients at times—are surprised that she is competent.
"People think that we are prohibited from getting an education and being engaged in society," said Khan, who says she always knew she wanted to be a lawyer.
The firm, which opened quietly last year but hosted a grand open house this spring, offers the Muslim community legal services on issues from civil rights and employment regulations to criminal, family, real estate and Immigration law.
With a large Arab community located a short drive away, the Palos Heights firm has already begun seminars for Muslims on drafting prenuptial agreements and helping teens avoid traffic tickets. It's an opportunity not only to teach Muslims about their rights but also to familiarize some with the laws that govern their country.
"They are defeating stereotypes on multiple levels," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, an Islamic advocacy group. "On the one hand you have Muslims standing up for justice and due process, and on the other hand you also see Muslim women succeeding in the professional world, leading the community in more ways than one."
In the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington, Muslims have been subjected to increased FBI scrutiny of mosque-goers, racial profiling at airports and large-scale detention and deportation of Muslim men following the Justice Department's Special Registration program.
It was within that climate that many Muslims decided to pursue law and "defend" their communities, Rehab said. Some of Amal's principals—those who weren't already in law school—decided around this time to become attorneys. (MORE)