The son of Syrian immigrants, Mazen Asbahi was raised in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan. In 1996 he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and Islamic studies from the University of Michigan, where he served a stint as president of the campus Muslim Students Association. In 2000 he graduated from Northwestern University Law School and then took a job as an attorney with the Chicago-based law firm of Schiff Hardin LLP. He became president of the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago.
In 2000, Asbahi served briefly on the board of the Allied Assets Advisors Fund (AAAF), a Saudi-financed subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust. Another AAAF board member at that time was Jamal Said, Imam at the fundamentalist Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois. Said was named in the 2007 racketeering trial of several alleged Hamas fundraisers; news reports dating back as far as 1993 identify Said as a member of Hamas.
In December 2004 Asbahi emceed a dinner for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), which is part of a large Chicago Wahabist network with close ties to the aforementioned Mosque Foundation. CIOGC spokesman Rafeeq Jaber was president of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) from 1996-1998, and again from 1999 until the organization was shut down (for its terrorist connections) by the U.S. government in 2005. Another CIOGC spokesman, Oussama Jammal, claimed that Muslims were not involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Today Asbahi serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). A noteworthy ISPU fellow is the prominent Islamist Muktedar Khan, who has claimed that Hamas “is struggling for independence” rather than engaging in unprovoked terrorism, and that Hezbollah’s activities are similarly “motivated by geopolitics.”
Asbahi is also the director of publications for the Nawawi Foundation, an organization that views all of geopolitical history from an Islamist perspective and seeks to win converts to Islam. A notable Nawawi board member is Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).
A member of the Auxiliary Board of the Chicago Legal Clinic, Asbahi also serves on the Charities Advisory Committee of Muslim Advocates, the sister organization to the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML). NAML, which aims to install Islamic elements into the American legal system, has close ties to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). NAML petitioned the U.S. Attorney General to remove both CAIR and ISNA from the list of co-conspirators named in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism case that went to trial in 2007.
Asbahi is on the speakers list of the Islamic Society of North America. He was a featured speaker at the 44th ISNA national convention in 2007. Fellow guest speakers at that event included Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Zaid Shakir, David Cole, Siraj Wahhaj, Ebrahim Moosa, Muzammil Siddiqi, Ibrahim Hooper, Sayyid M. Syeed, Salam Al-Marayati, Ingrid Mattson, Hamza Yusuf, Keith Ellison, Abdullah Idris Ali, Ihsan Bagby, and Jamal Badawi.
On July 26, 2008, the Barack Obama presidential campaign designated Asbahi as its National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs. Asbahi’s appointment to this post, where he would function as a “liaison” to the Arab and Muslim community, was praised by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. But on August 4, 2008, after Asbahi’s ties to the aforementioned Islamist organizations had been made public, he resigned.