When asked what kind of attorney she is, Janaan Hashim has a sharp reply.
“A good one,” Hashim said with a laugh.
She is one of six attorneys in a new, all-female, all-Muslim, all-working-mother law firm in Palos Heights. The women named their venture Amal Law Group.
“Amal,” which is Arabic for “hope,” is what these attorneys hope to bring to their clients.
Ranging in age from 27 to 40, the women practice a variety of specialties. Their law firm will offer general litigation, family law, immigration and civil rights law and more.
Family law and real estate attorney Maryam Khan said the firm’s makeup will seem a little unusual to some clients.
“I think we’re breaking quite a few stereotypes,” Khan said.
Despite the characteristics they share as Muslim American women, the lawyers have many differences – beginning with appearance.
Rima Kapitan, an employment and estate planning attorney, and Majdel Musa, a business and real estate lawyer, do not wear the traditional hijab that adorns the heads of some Muslim women. They also don’t look like what many might expect.
Kapitan – who has short, strawberry-blond hair and freckles -is a bi-racial Palestinian-American. Musa, who has a Belgian mother and Palestinian father, also doesn’t have what many might consider typical features. Musa believes that’s why she hasn’t experienced much prejudice.
“I haven’t experienced a lot of discrimination because I don’t necessarily look Arab,” Musa said.
Hashim said she has been pleasantly surprised to find many people have a positive reaction to her as a Muslim attorney.
Nikia Bilal, who practices general litigation and family law, said not every experience is negative and, at times, individuals try to overcompensate.
“There is that instantaneous ‘who are you, and what’s your purpose here?'” Bilal said. “(Sometimes) people try to prove how open-minded they are.”
Heena Musabji, who practices immigration law, hasn’t encountered much discrimination because of her faith. More often, Musabji said, it’s because of her gender.
At her former job, she said, clients expected her to work twice as hard as male counterparts to prove herself – particularly with male clients.
Many reacted as if they were thinking, “Oh, you’re the women taking my case,” Musabji said.
Khan, who wears a hijab, said some clients judge her based on appearance.
“The only difference between me and the next attorney is the cloth on my head,” she said. “Which makes everyone else think that my IQ is lower, which it is not.” (MORE)