I Took a Social Media Break

By Waffa Abu-Hajar, Blog Coordinator

It was my last year in high school and I finally had the space in my schedule to take the subjects I always loved the most: Photography and English.

Although high school until then was kind of boring, senior year for me was a time in which I began realizing my passions and who I was as a person. I would post the photos I took for assignments on Instagram, Facebook, and sometimes Twitter. I became very engaged on social media. I loved it.

The next fall came and I was ready to begin my first semester in community college. As a community college student, I was determined to complete all my units, and get good grades so within two years so I will be able to transfer to a university.

I spent a lot of time debating which photos I should post and constantly checking how many likes I got on a status became a habit. Towards the end of fall semester, it became clear to me that social media really takes up a lot of my time. I wanted to take a step back and practice “being present in the moment”, which lead me to take a social media break.

This break was about two weeks, and I have to admit, in the beginning it was really difficult. But by the end of it, I was being more conscious of the environment around me, noticing things I hadn’t before, and it made me a happier person. Sharing, liking, and posting weren’t as important for me anymore and I decided it was more important to be more present to enjoy the company of the people actually around me.

But being a community college student, many people may not know, this interaction can be less than frequent and hard to come by. Between attending class, studying at libraries and coffee shops, while juggling other responsibilities, having time for friends can be difficult.

Now, I’m not saying spending a great deal of time on social media is good for you, but when you post a status or a photo and your friends like or comment, it is gratifying, and can also be a comforting feeling. It’s hard for a lot of people to admit, but it is a place where people are able to connect. I love being able to keep up with my friends, follow creatives on Instagram, and stay in touch with people from all over the world.

While it is crucial that we, as a society, don’t get too caught up with constant feeds refreshing every few minutes, it’s also nice to have a touch of community at our fingertips.

Follow Waffa on Instagram and Twitter at @waffabuhajar

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One for the Brothers: Part II

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

You thought I was done with the brothers, didn’t you?

Please, they’re not getting off that easily.

In my last post, I was feeling extremely sentimental. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brothers. But our community is far from flawless. And unfortunately, misogyny runs rampant in Muslim communities around the world.

Correction: Misogyny runs rampant in ALL communities around the world. But I can only speak to what I know well.

Brothers, listen up. While I appreciate your every effort to be good role models and valuable contributions to society, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Brothers, here is where you can start:

  1. Be inclusive: If you’re putting together an event, bringing a speaker or planning a panel, your first thought should always be where are the sisters? It’s incredible the difference this simple thought can make. Obviously it’s important that inclusivity is practiced in our mosques and communities in every way possible. But with the majority of our speakers and scholars being male, not only are women missing out on valuable public speaking opportunities, female participants are often discouraged or uncomfortable asking questions or discussion their problems with said speaker. We’re obstructing young women in their attempts to grow, as young Muslimahs and as  young women.

This is so important; brothers, if you’re on a panel and you look left and right and see no women, say something. If an important speaker is coming to your community and you’re planning an intimate meet and greet, invite the sisters. If you’re planning a conference and all the speakers are men, rethink your line up. We have so much to offer and when given opportunities, we will only get better.

2. Stop policing what women wear: while this is hardly specific to the Muslim community, because of the hijab, our communities are particularly obsessed with policing what women wear. Let’s get one thing straight. There is no one way to wear the hijab. And whatever decision a woman makes is hers to make for herself. It’s completely absurd to make assumptions about a person’s spirituality or morality based on how they dress. True story: a friend of mine was once warned to stay away from me because I “wear pants.” And the person who warned her? A guy from our community who probably spoke two sentences to me before coming to the conclusion that me and my jeans would be a terrible influence on all other Muslim women on campus. If you don’t think this is even a little crazy, you need to seriously reconsider how you understand your religion.

The hijab is merely one of the signs of faith you can see. A woman doesn’t wear how much money she donates to charity around her head. You can’t see how many verses of the Quran she knows or how well she takes care of her parents. How a woman dresses is really none of your business, and making judgements on her spirituality based on how she dresses speaks more to your spirituality than hers. Let it go.

  1. We are not your manic pixie dream Muslimahs: I can’t stress this enough. This is for all my brothers still looking for that perfect woman. I don’t know how many times I’ve met a guy who seems to have an impossible checklist for the woman he wants to marry. Must be an incredible cook, wears the hijab, eyebrows on fleek but can also read and understand the Quran. Will get along with his parents, never had a boyfriend, fluent in arabic but doesn’t have an accent, and her outfit always matches with her glowing halo. Brothers, we are not here to save you. We are not looking to take on any projects. Unless you hold yourself to the same standards, I don’t want to hear it. So many times, I’ve seen guys be more interested in the idea of a girl rather than the girl herself. And when they’re faced with reality, the relationship falls apart. Brothers, see us for what we are. Sounds logical, but you’d be surprised how rarely that happens.
  1. Respect our differences; yes, my last post was about how hard it is to be a Muslim man these days, and I don’t want to take away from that. But it’s important that our Muslim brothers understand that our experiences differ and, especially when it comes to women wearing the hijab, there are some experiences they will never understand.

I was once approached by a stranger on campus and asked outright if I was oppressed. Now, this happens more frequently than I’d like, and I usually try to answer with grace and poise. Unfortunately, on this day, I was a little emotionally drained and was completely out of patience. In moments like this, it feels like every effort to speak for myself and be a positive example completely evaporate. You can write columns, go on TV, do volunteer work, get academic honours, it doesn’t matter. People will still see your covered head and assume you have no voice, no power. It crushes you. So when this total stranger asked me if I was oppressed, I’ll admit, I was a tad snarky. After which, I went home and ranted to my siblings, my older sister and my younger brother, about how frustrating the whole experience was. And my brother, being the rational and cool headed individual he is, said “Sumayya, I hope you were cool. It’s important to set a good example.”

And I started crying.

My poor brother was totally thrown. It’s not like he’d said anything hurtful or new to me. But the thing is, he completely misunderstood why I was sharing my story. I just needed to blow off steam, and instead of being supportive or just letting me rant, he tried to offer criticism.

Brothers, you will never know what it’s like to wear the hijab. You cannot possibly know what it’s like to be a Muslim woman. You will never know what it’s like to be singled out on busses or at the mall, and asked personal and prying questions about your choices and your faith. You don’t know what it’s like to consistently be told that you should be pitied, that you’re powerless and weak. So please, when we’re sharing our experiences with you, don’t criticize or offer advice. Just listen. Listen and let us rant.

Again, this is not to diminish the struggles our brothers do face. Like I’ve said and will continue to say, there is no one more hated in the world today than the Muslim man. And the next time you want to talk about it, I will be here to listen.

These points are the summation of several different conversations I had with my friends and sisters. While they were discussed in the context of our community, they can be applied anywhere. The most important piece of advice is this: talk to each other. Talk to the women in your community, your classmates and friends and ask them what they want.
Because believe me, we want so much.

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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One for the Brothers

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

I can’t help but think I’ve been a little unfair.

The purpose of the BossMuslimah blog is to empower young Muslim women by writing about things we have in common, and creating a space for dialogue, inclusion and ultimately, growth. In our opening post, we discussed how important it was to celebrate the women in our lives, and we continue to stand by this entirely.

I would just like to make a small addition. A post-script, if you will.

In an age where the media is working tirelessly to vilify and demonize our Muslim fathers and brothers, I wanted to pen a short letter of appreciation — a love letter.

My dear Muslim brothers, I feel for you.

I was taught very early in life what the difference is between a boy and a man.  I legitimately thought my father was a superhero until I was maybe ten or eleven. He is generous with his knowledge, a commanding moral force and never wavers from his responsibility. Whenever I would creep around my parent’s closets looking for Eid gifts, I would secretly sift around for a cape.

But I soon learned that these qualities, as admirable as they were, weren’t unique to my father. I see them in my grandfather, who always takes the time to answer our questions with kindness, no matter how basic. I see them in my brother, who puts so much emphasis on doing things as a family and taking the time to make my mother smile.

Growing up, these were the men in my life.

When I started my undergraduate degree, I noticed these qualities in many of the brothers on campus. They were a nation; the kind of loyalty I wish I saw in my sisters. And the best ones always looked out for us. When I was verbally assaulted by a stranger after the Paris attacks, one of my brothers walked me to campus police. And when I was broken over the verdict (or lack thereof) in the Mike Brown case, it was one of the brothers who made me laugh.

Not only do these men — not boys — have to deal with everyday stresses like grades and girls (ladies, we can be stressful), but they have to deal with the unprovoked political wrath that is today’s attitude towards the Muslim Man.

At the age of 18, these men — not boys — had to navigate the most tumultuous period of a person’s life under a white hot magnifying glass. With every headline, we saw swarms of journalists and cameramen on our campuses, asking questions no person at 18 would be ready to handle. Questions about radicalism, terror and hate. Questions with an angle, with a guilt-imposing tone. And these men, at the ages of 18, 19, 20, 21 continue to face these questions head on.

This is not unique to my little campus. Nor is it isolated to those over the age of eighteen. Today’s high school-aged Muslims, both male and female have to handle so much more than I did at their age. Another topic for another post, I suppose.

The Muslim woman’s plight is to be continuously underestimated and undermined by the general public because of her assumed oppression. The Muslim Man, however, has to overcome the trope of the violent, crazy-eyed barbarian. I don’t know which I find more hurtful.

I once spent the day with a non-Muslim colleague working on an assignment. This colleague was a little bit older but I could tell he was making an effort to try to understand my “young and crazy” ways. I took a second to send a Snap to a friend, as we young and crazy twenty-somethings are known to do, and my colleague ducked out of the way, going, “Don’t get me in your snapchats now. Your father will ask you who that dirty infidel is.”

My heart stopped. To think of my father ever referring to another human being as a “dirty infidel” more than just ridiculous; it was one of the most racist things ever said to my face.

This man had never met my father, but he saw a young, hijab-wearing woman in front of him and made an assumption.

For the record, I have never once heard my father say the word “infidel.” He doesn’t have Snapchat either.

Gentlemen, I see you. When you grow your beards out and pronounce your names correctly, I see you. When you defend the hijab alone in a classroom, I see you. When you take care of your mothers and your grandmothers, I see you. When you take the time to support the efforts of your sisters in Islam, I see you. And when you continue to live lives of kindness in the face of such venom and hate, I see you. And I thank you.

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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How to be a Grown Woman

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

I’ll admit, I’ve had a lifelong obsession with Peter Pan. The idea that I could be pulled away from my everyday life and whisked away to an island where I’ll never grow up or worry about grown-up things fascinated me longer than I’d care to admit.

But growing up happens to us all. Whether it creeps up on you through the years or happens overnight, it happens to us all. We all grow up.

I asked my Facebook friends the other day if there was a moment, however fleeting, that they felt like a grown up. I was curious: what does it mean to be a grown-up? What does that look like to different people?

The answers varied, from eating ice cream for breakfast or sleeping all day without accountability, to paying taxes and moving away from home. Other answers included taking care of yourself when you’re sick, paying your own rent and being called “auntie” by a young child. All answers incredibly valid, all lending a piece of perspective to an entirely unique experience.

For me, it was the moment I fixed the toilet.

I was away from home for an internship, and while I was also paying my own bills and doing my own groceries, I cannot describe the sense of pride that came with fixing my own toilet. Keep in mind, I am not a “handy” woman. I once used tape to fix my cracked laptop. I also once used tape to fix a cracked window. I tend to keep a roll of tape in my purse. But being on my own and only having one toilet, I knew what I had to do. No one was going to take care of this for me, I had to figure it out on my own.

When the toilet was flushing properly again, I called my mom. I left my best friend a voice note. This was such a defining moment for me. I fixed my own toilet.

So what is it that makes you a grown up?

I chose to write about this because I have yet to fully figure it out. Despite having graduated and being a part of the “grown-up world” for some time now, I still don’t know.

Here’s what I always thought: being a grown-up means putting someone else first, but also knowing when to put yourself first. It means knowing when to compromise, but also knowing when and how to stand up for yourself. Always be honest, except for that little white lie. Eat healthily, but don’t forget to treat yourself. And the golden rule: keep it all together.

This sounds a little bit like the ramblings of a crazy person. How can all this be possible? There must be some kind of secret formula to attaining this “adult” status that our parents and colleagues seem to have figured out.

Ultimately, like anything, being a grown-up is about achieving balance. But I now see it a little differently than I used to.

Instead of seeing adulthood has having to maintain balance in my qualities, I now see it as a state in which I have to maintain balance in my moments. For every moment you have to pay your own bill or fix your own toilet, be sure to have a few moments where you eat ice cream for breakfast or spend the whole day in bed. For every stressed-out Thursday at the office in a necktie or heels, be sure to spend a Sunday in your PJs, eating pizza and watching bad TV.

Being a grown-up means balancing the perks and the obstacles. It’s about knowing when you can act like a kid.


But again, I’m still waiting for Peter Pan. What could I possibly know?

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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#BOSSMUSLIMAH GIVEAWAY- What Does it Mean to be a Boss Muslimah?

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor 

I’m going to be upfront about this from the start — there is no one way to be a Boss Muslimah.

She doesn’t come from a specific global region. Muslim women from all over the world are doing amazing things, no matter where they’re from, where they grew up or where they’re living now. Whether you’re a little bit of a nomad (like me) and those are all different places, or you’re a hometown girl and been in one place your whole life, you can still be a boss.

She doesn’t have a look. Although many do wear the hijab, an equal fraction choose not to. And the Boss Muslimah does not buy into society’s obsession with what women wear. Hijab, no hijab, niqab, shorts, bikinis; society is obsessed with policing, discussing and analyzing the exterior of Muslim women the world over. Not only is this incredibly annoying and tiresome, but it causes us to forget about the real issues and concerns of Muslim women. The Boss Muslimah knows this. She supports the choices of her sisters and fights those who pressure them otherwise.

She doesn’t have a set level of religiosity. Part of the beauty of Islam is that it allows for a range of opinions and interpretations. And as human beings, our spirituality is fluid; it fluctuates and moves freely, and the boss Muslimah allows her sisters (and brothers) the freedom of living without judgement and is in constant remembrance of her own humanity and imperfections.

She’s totally allowed to feel flawless every once in a while though.

She doesn’t have to be outgoing, or quiet. She doesn’t have to be a social media star, or a total hermit. She can be all kinds of wonderful, brilliant, ambitious, wholesome, outrageous, sensational and free.

She just has to be.

I have met boss Muslimahs with hands rough from working all day. They have sturdy bodies and stubborn minds. I have met boss Muslimahs with aching back from carrying their children. They work, pray and breathe for their families. I have met boss Muslimahs with tired eyes, eyes dry from classrooms, board rooms, courtrooms and operating rooms. They are our professors, teachers, doctors and mentors. We all know them. They inspire us;  the more we recognize them and celebrate their qualities, the more we can embody those qualities and become an example to the next generation of Muslim women.

With this blog, we hope to recognize not only the numerous boss Muslimahs in our lives, but also the little quirks and qualities that make us total bosses.

#BOSSMULIMAH GIVEAWAY

What makes you a Boss Muslimah? Share a picture, on Instagram,  of yourself or of someone in your life and tell us why you (or they) are a #BossMuslimah. You will be entered into the Boss Muslimah Giveaway to have a chance to win a collection of Cotton Wool Scarves!

Remember to: 

-Post a photo of yourself or someone you know with the explanation.

-Use the hashtags #bossmuslimahs #ahfifgiveaway!

Follow @bossmuslimahs on Instagram 

-Enter by August 5th for a chance to win!

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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#CanYouHearUsNow

Featured photo taken from TheDailyDot.com

“Time to get in formation ladies! Donald Trump says the reason Ghazala Khan didn’t speak at the Democratic National Convention is because she wasn’t allowed to. Let’s lift our voices together to enlighten him about the true nature of our voices!” -Edina Lekovic

Muslim women have been tweeting and posting using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow.

We have compiled multiple articles you can read from to learn more about this campaign, and how Boss Muslimahs all over the world are denying Donald Trump’s perception of Muslim women.

  1. http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/08/01/canyouhearusnow-muslim-group-urges-women-to-speak-out-against-trump/
  2. http://thetempest.co/2016/08/01/life-love/40-badass-times-donald-trump-asked-canyouhearusnow/
  3. http://www.mediaite.com/online/canyouhearusnow-muslim-women-respond-to-trumps-slams-on-ghazala-khan/
  4. http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/donald-trump-the-target-of-muslim-women-s-canyouhearusnow-trend-on-twitter-1.12118773
  5. http://www.dailydot.com/irl/can-you-hear-us-now-muslim-women/

 

Get involved-share a little bit about who you are and how you speak out using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow!

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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8 Quotes for a BossMuslimah

By Waffa Abu-Hajar, Blog Coordinator

If you’re like me, you’re pushing yourself and are determined to get to your goal. But sometimes you have those days where you just feel like giving up.

As a student who has been taking classes all summer, here are a few quotes I like to read, analyze, and apply to my life to help me reach my goals and also to be my best self.

  • “Be patient. For what was written for you was written by the greatest of writers.”-Unknown

    • This is a perfect reminder when something doesn’t go the way you planned. You learn from your mistakes, take what you’ve learned, and apply it to what is to come.
  • “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.”-Unknown

    • In my opinion, it’s okay to be going through tough times because if you keep going at it, it will get better. Believe me.
  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”-Ernest Hemingway

    • Today, people like to be confident, which is how we should be, but confidence isn’t thinking higher of yourself over others.
  • “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”-C.S. Lewis

    • I think this one speaks for itself.
  • “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”-Mahatma Gandhi

    • I have had a lot of experience with being hurt by others. Anger is a strong emotion that most people cannot let go. People may tell you not to forgive someone because they keep hurting you, but forgiving others shows how mature you can be.
  • “If there is one recipe for unhappiness it is that: expectations.”-Yasmin Mogahed

    • I have learned that expecting an outcome, and holding on to it so tight, may end up hurting or upsetting you. To not have expectations will help you be happier.
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”-Winston Churchill

    • When you get that grade on a test you studied really hard for, and you feel like it is over. It’s NOT. Trust me, I have been through failures that taught me so many lessons.
  • “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”-Malcolm X

    • Education, not just going to school and getting a degree, but learning from experience. Don’t let an opportunity go, for you may end up learning and gaining a lot from it.

Follow Waffa on Instagram and Twitter at @waffabuhajar

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The Lesson that Changed My Life

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

I was twelve years old when I learned what was arguably the most important lesson of my young adult life.

At that age, I had three very close friends. When you’re twelve, you’re not just friends, you’re sisters. There is no time period in my life that I look back at as romantically as I do when I think about that age. We were infinite.

I remember confiding in one of my sisters about something I had wanted at the time — a role in the play, getting an article published, I can’t quite remember. What mattered was that she wanted the same thing. But instead of undermining me, making me feel small, or ultimately tearing me down, she looked me in the eye and asked me two questions:

“Is this what you want?”

“Will it make you happy?”

When I confirmed both with all the conviction a twelve year old can muster, she said, “Then it doesn’t matter what I want. I support you.”

And that was that. It didn’t matter that we were both going after the same thing, she had my back. For the record, I am still extremely close with the friends I made at that age. When a friendship is built with unconditional love and without judgement, it thrives and survives.

Ladies. This world is going to tear us down. It is going to tear us down and tear us apart.

We are taught to compete, and if you’ve studied your Beyonce and Adiche as well as I have, you know the lines by heart. We are taught to compete for boys, looks and success. Who has the best job or makes the most money. And it doesn’t stop once you get married or have kids: who has the biggest engagement ring, who’s husband makes the most money, who’s kid is the cutest or has the best grades. God forbid you get frustrated as a mother. God forbid you show signs of any kind of failure. We are distrustful of each other, unable to show any kind of real vulnerability as we perfect and polish our perfect social media personas.

We see it all around us. It’s Taylor versus Kim. It’s Angelina versus Jen. Can you think of two male celebrities that have been pitted against each other in such a vicious way? No, but Beyonce and “Becky with the good hair” are still getting those clicks.

And I can’t help but feel that with all the elements of the universe teaching us that we’re not meant to support one another, the ultimate act of rebellion is unconditional love and support.

I was never a competitive person. I don’t fight for attention, I’m not thirsty to be first and I’m secure enough to know when a moment isn’t about me. I spend time with those who love, support and don’t push me to be something I’m not. And because of this, many women don’t believe I’m genuine. They’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here it is, ladies. Here’s the secret.

It took me a long time to learn this, and sometimes I have to remind myself; my sisters, I am not in competition with you. I’m not here to beat you, or step on you to succeed. Your successes are mine. Your failures are mine. If I can do something to make your life a touch easier, I will. And if someone is stopping you from fulfilling your full potential, I will do what I can to help you reach your goals.

Here are the only things that matter: Are you happy? Is this what you want?

I am the result of so many strong women. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you already know I have an embarrassing amount of love for my mother. But the line of strong women only ends there. I am very aware of the lineage of warrior women who fought to get me where I am today.

Even more impressive perhaps is the tribe of women who shaped me outside the home. The teachers, the friends, classmates and mentors who showed me that two women can want the same things and still support one another.

We have to stop buying into the idea that we’re here to compete with each other. One woman’s successes does not make me a failure.

This is a friendly reminder: I am on your team.

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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Nine Muslimahs To Inspire You This Ramadan

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

As much as I love Ramadan, I can’t help but notice our somewhat crippling pattern as a Muslim Ummah to glorify the past. Yes, Islamic history is rich with figures like Umar Al Khattab or Usama ibn Zayd (RAA) who can inspire and motivate us, but there are so many great and motivational speakers living today that we can draw inspiration from.

We are especially prone to this pattern when it comes to women; while I congratulate our speakers and scholars for attempting to be more inclusive and combatant against the “Islam is oppressive” trope, I cannot read one more article about Khadija, Aisha, or Sumayyah (RAA). Believe me, I love these women: they were the bedtime stories I was told as a child. While other girls wanted to be Britney or Christina, I wanted to be Fatima, daughter of the Prophet (PBUH) or Nusaiba, the woman infamous for going to battle by the Prophet’s side. But as I grew older, these stories left something wanting. I found myself craving more.

There are so many phenomenal Muslim women making strides in the world as it exists today. These women are fearless in the fight against Islamophobia, hate and racism, giving the modern Muslim woman (and men, quite frankly) a voice they can rely on.

In an attempt to single out and credit just a few of the voices who have helped keep me strong and focused, here are the some boss Muslimahs you should read up on this Ramadan:

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: Founder of MuslimGirl.net., Amani recently spoke at the United State of Women Summit in Washington D.C. When introducing herself on a panel that included Billy Jean King and Shonda Rhimes, Al-Khatahtbeh said, “It’s not lost on me, that if I were a Muslim woman in another part of the world, I might have been restricted from getting [an] education or my headscarf would have been regulated by laws that would have either imposed it on me or forced me to take it off or my voice would have been silenced by a drone sent in large part by the misrepresentation of Muslim women today.”

So. Much. Fire. Not only is Amani totally unapologetic about the realities facing Muslim women today, but she’s using her platform to raise these issues in a calm, cool and collected manner. I was in the audience during this panel, and I almost literally felt my jaw drop to the floor. What a boss.

Asmaa Hussein: After her husband Amr was killed in the protests that took place in Egypt during the summer of 2013, Asmaa used her writing to cope, collect, heal and inspire. Her book, titled, “A Temporary Gift” had me in tears with almost every page. Her reflections on the short time she spent with her husband, as well as the time that came immediately afterwards, are beautiful, deep and so relatable, a reminder of the fragility of life and the mercy of our Creator. In it, she writes, “You don’t have infinite opportunities to do the right thing. The timer in your chest that is your heart is not just pumping blood through your body; with every beat it is counting down to the day you will return to the One to Whom you belong.”

When we’re young, we tend to feel infinite. I am guilty of this more than most; I put off what I know I should do today and assume I’ll have years to get it right. The fact of the matter is I might not. And you might not either. This reminder is so important, especially as we go through the years of our youth and become the people we will be (inshaAllah) for many years to come.

Ibtihaj Muhammad: Though her list of attributes is long and impressive (mashaAllah!) Muhammad is best known for being the first Muslim American Olympian to compete with the hijab. In a time where Islamophobia runs rampant, especially in the United States, Muhammad understands the condescension many hijabis face as a result of wearing the religious garb. “I’ve flown to domestic competitions, and T.S.A. agents at airports have spoken to me in demeaning ways, as if I’m foreign, because I wear hijab: ‘Do—you—speak—English?’ Muhammad recently told The New Yorker.  “How do people like this exist?” she asked, more in disbelief than in anger. “I’m productive, educated, and representing my country at the Olympics, but they question where I belong.”

This is a struggle faced by young professional Muslim women on the daily. Please make no mistake ladies, you are right where you belong.

Dalia Mogahed: Not going to lie, Dalia Mogahed has always been a little bit of a girl crush of mine. Not only is she the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, D.C., but she was also selected as an advisor by current United States President Barack Obama on the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. MashaAllah. Her list of appearances is staggering, from TED Talks, to The Daily Show.

In her impressive TED Talk titled, “What do you think when you look at me?” Mogahed says, “Now, is closing down mosques going to make America safer? It might free up some parking spots, but it will not end terrorism. Going to a mosque regularly is actually linked to having more tolerant views of people of other faiths and greater civic engagement. And as one police chief in the Washington, DC area recently told me, people don’t actually get radicalized at mosques. They get radicalized in their basement or bedroom, in front of a computer. And what you find about the radicalization process is it starts online, but the first thing that happens is the person gets cut off from their community, from even their family, so that the extremist group can brainwash them into believing that they, the terrorists, are the true Muslims, and everyone else who abhors their behavior and ideology are sellouts or apostates. So if we want to prevent radicalization, we have to keep people going to the mosque.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Dalia when she had an appearance on Aljazeera’s show The Stream (shout out to my Streamers!) where I fangirled so hard, I could barely string together a comprehensive sentence. Dalia, if you’re reading this, keep doing you. And I’m so sorry.

Maryam Monsef: The word “refugee” seems to be thrown around so casually these days. Ripples of impact hit Europe and North America last summer as the realities of the “refugee crisis” just began to make headlines. There was a lot of fearmongering, talk of what “these people” will bring to our countries, with anti-immigration sentiments and protests at an all time high. In the midst of all this turmoil and tragedy, and perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of North Americans, newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed his cabinet — which included a young Muslim woman who came to Canada as a refugee.

Maryam Monsef moved to Canada in 1996 from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and is now the Canadian Minister of Democratic Institutions. She was appointed along with nine other Muslim members of Parliament, the largest in the country’s history. It was hard to not get a little teary watching her get sworn in during the ceremony in November 2015, juxtaposing her position now with the struggle she had to overcome to get this far. Especially in the Islamophobic, sexist playing field that is today’s political landscape, her story is no small feat.

Rania Khalek: If you haven’t heard of the Electronic Intifada, you best pay attention. As an “online news publication and educational resource focusing on Palestine, its people, politics, culture and place in the world,” EI kept me sane during my formative years, flipping through the newspaper screaming, “Where is the news about what happened in Gaza last night!!??”

As an associate editor, Khalek is one of the most prominent female voices on the page. Her coverage on everything, from the American election, the Palestinian struggle, BDS and a range of other issues. She is an integral part of any educated and informed Twitter feed, and she and the Electronic Intifada continue to do tremendous work in bringing both the Palestinian struggle and the American Muslim narrative to the forefront. Give them your attention.

Linda Sarsour: Linda Sarsour is the role model I wish I had in high school. Today’s Muslims seem to be split into two camps: the first being the scary, angry, threatening, “bad”  Muslims we unfortunately see too much of on the news, and the second being the apologetic, assimilated, smoothed-edges, “good” Muslim who is never angry, never too political, and never rocks the boat. I struggled with this (and still do at times) as a politically aware young Muslimah. Where is the narrative for young, empowered Muslim women who are rightfully pissed off about foreign policy? Women’s issues? The plight of the American Muslim? These didn’t exist for me growing up. If you didn’t want to be flagged as a national security threat, you apologized or you stayed quiet.

Sarsour challenges this. As the Executive Director of the Arab American Association, Sarsour has been called every name you can think of, from “Champion of Change” to “Homegirl in a Hijab.” She is a self-described “racial justice and civil rights activist,” and she’s backed this up too. Sarsour was seen at the front lines of a range of political events and protests, from Black Lives Matter to Bernie Sanders.

She recently told Elan Magazine, “In the United States they talk about freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and we’re given mosque opposition laws. People talk about freedom of speech as if they are only western values. If you were to travel the world there would be no one who would tell you, ‘I love to be censored’. Everyone values freedom and democracy and freedom of expression. Everyone, if they could, would want to have those things. But to make them seem like they are western ideas, for me I think they are the values for anyone across the world regardless of their race, religion, national origin but unfortunately that’s not the conversation we’re having.”

Key Ballah: Another Muslimah using her voice in a unique and provocative way, Key Ballah is a writer whose poems may be short, but they hit deep. Her two books, Preparing my Daughter for Rain and Skin & Sun are two of the most bookmarked and frayed in my collection. There have been too many times that I found myself unable to express myself, but found my feelings articulated so beautifully in her pages.

“Mourn the lives,

Grieve the tragedies

But be careful not to lick

The colonizer’s wounds.

His flag

Is too soaked

With the blood

Of your ancestors

To wave so proudly

Over your head.”

— Key Ballah

I remember the exact moment I was when I first read that poem. I remember what was happening around, what I was wearing and of course, how it made me feel. I get chills every time.

My Mama: If you read my earlier post, I fully believe that we can draw inspiration from the Muslim women in our daily lives. Everyone has their own struggle and everyone finds strength in their own way and to me, that’s very inspiring. That being said, my mama is pretty amazing. After completing her Undergraduate degree, she went on to do her Masters while married with two kids (I still don’t know how she did it — I can barely remember to feed myself). And after all her kids were more or less self sufficient, she went back to school to complete a third degree. What a boss, MashaAllah.

Even though she had five kids (all naturally, we’re always reminded when we get snippy) she remained the most informed person I know. It wasn’t until I moved out that I realized the pains it took both my parents to raise us as educated, compassionate, self-loving individuals. Yes, we were raised without Barbies (to avoid warped body image issues) and Disney Princesses (for the most part — because I can save myself) and at the time, little seven year old Sumayya didn’t appreciate that. But hindsight is 20/20 and sometimes I find myself jotting down notes from my childhood, in an attempt to repeat the same steps when faced with my own children (inshaAllah).

My mama raised me and my four siblings in the most tumultuous time to be an American Muslim. We grew up consistently being told by society that our religion was backwards, that our people were stupid, our men were abusive and our women were ugly and oppressed. And through all of this, my mama (and Aby, my dad, of course) made sure we were brought up in a home filled with laughter, safety and love.  And in a world that tries so hard to make us young Muslims hate ourselves, this is no small accomplishment.

 

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

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