Our Staff

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Basim Elkarra

Executive Director

Basim leads CAIR’s efforts in the Sacramento Valley area to serve as a voice to its diverse and vibrant Muslim community. Elkarra has been instrumental in building coalitions with Ethnic, Interfaith communities, and law enforcement. Basim’s hard work and dedication to defending civil rights and building bridges between interfaith communities and law enforcement has brought him an array of public recognition.  He was honored by former Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante for his “Outstanding Community Service.” The Sacramento Bee named Elkarra “Devout and Dynamic” in an in-depth profile of the young Executive Director. He has received awards from the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Harry Truman Democratic Club, California State Controller John Chiang, and received California State Legislature Resolution #52064 for his work in California.

During the last ten years at CAIR, Elkarra worked with law enforcement, schools, and health care providers to ensure they receive diversity training about Islam and the Muslim community. Elkarra appears regularly in the media as a commentator on issues of civil rights, the Muslim community, and foreign affairs. Elkarra currently serves on the Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Transition Team, American Civil Liberties Union-Sacramento Chapter Board, Sacramento Police Advisory Committee, Sacramento Public Library Multicultural Council, Sacramento State University Community Council, Natomas Unified School District Multicultural Advisory Committee, and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association’s (APAPA) Outreach Committee. Elkarra also served on the Sacramento Police Chief Selection committee and the City and County of San Francisco Human Rights Commission, Youth and Education Committee. Elkarra, a San Francisco native and a leader in the Muslim American community, holds a B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. In his spare time Basim loves to read and fish! Basim can be reached at belkarra@cair.com.



Saad Sweilem

Civil Rights Attorney

Saad Sweilem is the Civil Rights Attorney of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV). Saad graduated with an English degree from UC Davis. He went to law school and received his J.D. from UC Hasting. Saad served as a Public Defender in the Bay Area before joining the CAIR-SV team. Saad can be reached at ssweilem@cair.com




Cynthia Spencer

Operations Manager

Cynthia Spencer is the Operations Manager of the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV). Cynthia is a graduate of CSU Sacramento and has an extensive background in non-profit operations. She has spent many years as a community activist in Northern California. Cynthia manages the operations of our CAIR-SV Chapter, which includes managing Human Resources, Accounting, Budgeting and Contracts. She can be reached at cspencer@cair.com



Yannina Casillas

Legislative and Government Affairs Coordinator

Yannina Casillas serves as CAIR California's Statewide Legislative and Government Affairs Coordinator. Yannina is a graduate of UC Hastings College of the Law where she received a concentration on social justice lawyering and was a the Acquisitions Editor of the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, She grew up in the small city of Moreno Valley as the daughter of Mexican immigrants.  As a UCLA student, she was the Vice President of the Muslim Student Association, Vice-Chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee, volunteered with the Incarcerated Youth Tutorial Project, and helped develop BruINTENT the nation’s first program to bring scholarships to homeless UCLA students.  As a 2012 Coro alumnus she was part of the nation’s oldest leadership training organization.  The Coro Fellowship in public affairs is a nine month graduate program focused on experiential learning in the major sectors of public affairs; Business , Government , Non-Profit, and Labor. Yannina can be reached at ycasillas@cair.com

Muhammad Saifullah

Outreach & Communications Coordinator

Muhammad Saifullah is the Outreach & Communications Coordinator for CAIR-SV. Muhammad is a Lexington, Kentucky native where he recently graduated from The University of Kentucky. There he earned a major in Kinesiology-Exercise Science coupled with a minor in Islamic Studies under the tutelage of Dr. Ihsan Bagby and Dr. Aiyub Palmer. Muhammad is also a former University of Kentucky student athlete who played football in the Southeastern Conference, arguably the top conference in division one collegiate football. Saifullah is well known for utilizing social media as a platform to speak about controversial topics such as Islam, racism, and injustice. Muhammad can be reached at msaifullah@cair.com

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Maheen Ahmed

Programs Consultant

Maheen Ahmed is the Programs Consultant at the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV). Maheen is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Development at the University of California at Davis. An MYLP 2009 alumna, Maheen joined CAIR in 2011 and has worked in multiple capacities at CAIR-SV. She also serves as a Student Director with MSA National, and has previously served as Vice President of MSA West and President of MSA at UC Davis. Maheen can be reached at mahmed@sacval.cair.com