In one of our previous articles, we shed light on how the top ten most influenced men have inspired the world with their groundbreaking discoveries as well as their philanthropy. But the Muslim women have contributed just as much to society and deserve to be praised as well. Today’s article would like to highlight a handful of these women working and living in the United States as they continue to prove that they are noteworthy. These strong women have been able to move beyond the belittling stereotypes about Muslims and have used their personal relationships to their faiths in a positive manner.
From a cutting-edge artist and writer to a revolutionary who is upending her community’s and world’s limited notions to a filmmaker specializing in web TV, we countdown 10 most American Muslim women of today.
#1. Ilyasah Shabazz
First on the list is the daughter of influential Muslim American leader Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz. She is an activist, motivational speaker, and author of the critically acclaimed autobiography Growing Up X. She promotes interfaith dialogue, education, and building bridges between cultures for young leaders of the world. Her main goal is to “empower future generations through understanding the world’s diverse cultures and historic civilizations.” “I am proud to be a daughter of Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Malcolm X, and of Hajja Dr. Betty El Shabazz. They were exceptional role models. I do not say this because they are my parents; but because of their love and compassion for humanity. I respect and admire their ability to place value on giving back to society above their pursuit of individual freedom and material gain.”
#2. Farah Pandith
In June 2009, Farah Pandith was appointed to be a Special Representative to Muslim Communities all over the globe. During her time in office, her main obligation was to execute the Secretary of State’s vision for engagement with Muslims from all parts of the world on a people-to-people and organizational level. Her reports were directly delivered to the U.S Secretary of State. Pandith’s main goal is “to see young women who happen to be Muslim … push back against stereotypes, to tell their stories in their real voices, to create alternative narratives in every way possible — because when you flood the marketplace with alternatives, the conversation will begin to change.”
#3. Laleh Bakhtiar
Third on our list of influential Muslim women is a translator, activist and public speaker of Iranian descent. Ms. Bakhtiar is the first woman to translate the Holy book (Quran) into English. She’s also the first woman to present a critical translation of the Qur’an in any language. Laleh has also translated and written a combination of 25 books about Islam.
“The veil is the wrong thing to be stuck on when discussing Muslim women’s rights in Islam. In fact, in many cases, the Quran reinforces a Muslim woman’s self-esteem. And Muslim women worldwide are using the Quran to reassert their rights — rights that have been taken away from them through patriarchal interpretations and laws.” She said
#4. Dalia Mogahed
Dalia Mogahed is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) and has spent many years researching the day-to-day lives of Muslim around the world. The research organization she works for is based in Washington D.C and supports American Muslim community development and amplifies the voices of American Muslims in the public square. United States President, Barack Obama, appointed her to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
“Muslim Americans helped thwart the majority of foiled al-Qaeda inspired terrorist plots in America. Rather than bearing collective guilt for Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism, the Muslim American community is its most formidable adversary.” She says.
#5. Azadeh Moaveni
Azadeh Moaveni is a reporter and writer for Time and has spent 3 years working and covering stories in the Middle East. She later joined Los Angeles Times to cover the war in Iraq. Azedah also co-authored with Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi of Iran Awakening. In February of 2005, she released her first book, a memoir entitled Lipstick Jihad, which details her time in Iran and the quest to discover more about her cultural identity. Ms. Moaveni has managed to cover several stories, including stories on women’s rights, youth culture and Islamic reform for Time.
“I spent the first half of my career totally engaged with this question, how to get the West to understand us better, how to convey our reality, how to prove that we were not all chained to the stove frying onions … Now… I’m much more interested in having a dialogue with and trying to bring about some change within my own community, within the Iranian diaspora and Iranians inside Iran.” -she says.
#6. Alia Hogben’s
Another influential woman is Alia Hogben, who partnered up with a group of Muslim activists in Canada in 1992. The women organization established in the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) with the sole aim of promoting equality, equity and empowering not just Muslim women but women in general.
Alia is the Executive Director of the organization and her message to the public states that “Muslims and non-Muslims is that all of us must take responsibility for the welfare of all, regardless of belief, race, or color. Without that dream we would not be passionate or committed to creating change.”
#7. Maryam Eskandari
Muslim women aren’t just activists or reporters. They’ve continued to prove their dominance in several aspects ranging from education, political affairs, and technology. This woman, however, specializes in architecture. She is the CEO and founder of MIIM Designs, which is a company comprising of architects, researchers, and designers. Most of her employees were trained in Islamic Theological studies and Islamic art and architecture.
“The architecturally designed spaces and socially negotiated places for and of Muslim women in community mosques in the United States emerge as a particularly understudied problem … Often times, these retrofit buildings raise specific questions on the American Muslim identity struggling with the interwoven issues of religion and culture that are brought over from Muslim countries, such as, where do the men stand? How much space is allocated for women, and what about children?” Maryam says.
#8. Maria Ebrahimji
Maria Ebrahimji is the Director and Executive Editorial Producer for Network Booting at CNN worldwide. She is also the co-editor of the anthology I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, a collection of essays written by 40 American-born Muslim women under 40. At CNN, Maria serves as Vice Chair of the CNN Diversity Council and on the Turner Broadcasting Corporate Responsibility Council and Green Task Force.
“While we cannot speak for others, we can certainly speak for ourselves and share our own stories of faith. The more stories people bear witness to, the deeper their knowledge of the ‘unknown.’”- She says.
#9. Hala Alsalman
Hala Alsalman is a photojournalist and a filmmaker specializing in web TV. She’s worked in the Middle East for Time.com, Reuters, and Current TV. Hala wrote, directed, shot and produced quite a number of web series for the CBC and Foot Network’s zany hit show ‘’Bitchin’ Kitchen.’’ She also directed episodes for Investigation Discovery channel’s ‘’Outrageous Final Wishes’’ and ‘’The Will.’’
#10. Tayyibah Taylor
The last but not least on the list is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Azizah Magazine, Tayyibah Taylor, who had always dreamed of providing a vehicle for the voice of Muslim American women — a vehicle that portrays their perspectives and experiences and defeats common stereotypes. This influential woman was part of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Middle Eastern think tank, The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies.
“Don’t put limitations on yourselves. If you have a dream, an ambition, a goal, an aspiration, keep your intention and vision clear and work towards that goal. Understand … that your work and your worship can blend. If you are working with the intention of accomplishing something that reaches beyond yourself and into the world then the work becomes this wonderful form of worship. We have a very talented group of young Muslim women coming up, and I’m really excited to see what they are going to be as they become the new architects of the Muslim American community.” Tayyibah says.
She also added “I couldn’t have said it better myself. I, too, am excited about the future generation of American Muslim women and their contributions to the American community.”
Any person you feel we’ve left out? Please do comment in the box below giving us your thoughts and suggestions.