co-founder islawmix, Oakland, California
Challenge: To reimagine how we identify and tell the many untold stories about our legal system, especially stories about our civil rights and civil liberties.
As a civil rights lawyer at the ACLU, Umbreen Bhatti sued police departments, prisons and, once, a movie theater. She quickly learned that fighting her cases in court wasn’t the same as fighting them in the court of public opinion, however, and that news media played a critical role in advancing public understanding of her clients’ causes and our legal system more generally. In 2010, she co-founded islawmix to add context and nuance to the (surprisingly) large number of stories about Islamic law in the news. Under her leadership, islawmix’s editorial team produced accessible, engaging content that demystified Islamic law as it appeared in the American media landscape, ranging from fake fatwas about bananas to the meaning of the terms “shari’a” and “jihad” (spoiler: it’s not exactly “holy war”). Bhatti came to California by way of upstate New York, Barnard College and University of Michigan Law School and now delights in the sun every day.