The conversation surrounding women who appear visibly Muslim is often based on perceptions which may not be grounded in reality. If we meet Muslim women who are currently walking the face of the earth, this conversation can change. Allow me to introduce you to a few of them.
1. Linda Sarsour
She’s in the news for all the right reasons. Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-born New Yorker, is on a mission to take on hate one headline at a time. Called “A Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab” by the The New York Times, Sarsour has been rallying Muslims of her community to speak up about #BlackLivesMatter, surveillance of mosques, and Islamophobia.
2. Amal Kassir
She first made airwaves with her slam poetry on Syria where her lyrical verses spoke of a time when “we can eat together”, “build homes out of abandoned tanks”, and “sip from the cups made of old grenades.” As head of “Project More than Metaphors”, the Denver-based Amal Kassir is travelling the world to educate people about the conflict in Syria, help them stay connected with the stories of people there, and to keep reminding us to never forget.
3. Deena Mohamed
Creator of the web-comic “Qahera“, Deena Mohamed is an Egyptian graphic design student who took the internet by storm back in 2013. Her art has strong statements about sexual harassment in the streets of Egypt, stereotypes about Muslim women, misogyny in gender roles, and female revolutionaries whom she termed “the real superheroes”. With Qahera, audiences now have a female Muslim superhero who tackles real life issues in public spaces.
4. Noor Tagouri
Broadcast journalist Noor Tagouri is aiming to be the first hijabi news anchor on U.S. television. Tagouri has stated publicly that she doesn’t want to be forced to choose between her identity and her job. Having grown up on a steady diet of Oprah shows, Tagouri always wanted to be a journalist. She does not understand why a scarf on her head should prevent her from being one. And that’s why she’s speaking up about it.
5. Amina Elshafei
Dubbed as “the smiling chef”, Amina El Shafei is a pediatrics nurse who also happens to have won over audiences of Masterchef Australia. Her professional training as a nurse helped her remain calm in the stressful environment of the cooking competition. But rather like the recently crowned Great British Bakeoff winner, Nadiyah Hussain, El Shafei was not in the competition to represent Muslims or hijabis. When she was lugging a suitcase full of cooking books, she was just hoping to show the diversity of Korean and Egyptian cuisine, which is where the foodie in her is rooted.
6. Zainab bint Younus
“Don’t speak for Muslim women. Speak to us,” says Zainab bint Younis. Self-identifying as The Salafi Feminist, Younis is a Canadian writer who threads her religious and political identity through her activism. Younis has penned a number of articles on issues surrounding marriage, divorce, youth, gender roles, and honour.
7. Maryam Amirebrahimi
Having memorised the Qur’an and studied the effects of mentorship in high school students of colour, Maryam Amirebrahimi is on a roll. When it comes to religion and race, Amirebrahimi is actively seeking to break the cultural stigma surrounding difficult conversations within the Muslim community. Her study of Islam has led her to write compelling pieces on gender relations, misogyny, and what the Qur’an has to say about it.
8. Asmaa Hussein
When her husband was shot and killed at a protest in Egypt, Asmaa Hussein was not silenced. The social worker took to the Internet to channel her grief, loss, and shock which had happened on a deeply personal level. By sharing what she is living through, Hussein is helping Muslim women see her loss as more than that of a widow. Now, Hussein is maintaining “Ruqaya’s Bookshelf”, a digital attempt to provide Muslim mothers with Islamic resources on parenting. She has authored a number of books meant for children, like her daughter Ruqaya.
9. Sara Filali
A taekwondo student, Sara Filali aspires to create an international platform where, regardless of their gender, Muslims can participate in sports. Filali was most recently awarded a gold medal at the International Martial Arts Festival. She was also crowned as Homecoming Queen at her high school.
10. Nadiya Jamir Hussain
When the stay-at-home-mom showcased her baking at talent at the Great British Bakeoff, she was surprised to see the commentary surrounding her religion. But the show itself did not consider her faith as an obstacle. “It’s nice to be on a show where your skin colour or religion is incidental,” said Hussain in an interview with The Guardian. “For me, it’s important to instil in my children that they can do whatever they like, that no matter what their religion and colour, they can achieve what they want through hard work. And it’s nice to be able to do the same for a wider audience. If I have – amazing.”
I hear you, Nadiya.