My Miss World Australia journey has been one of the best experiences of my life! I had always felt that I would be part of something very large, but I never knew when. 2019 showed me.
Before I graduate at the end of this year with a Bachelor’s degree in Primary Education from the Queensland University of Technology, I chose to come into this process (pageant) to amplify my voice as a Muslim woman, and express my future aspirations to make a change, to be a role model, and to inspire girls. I want to empower girls of different cultures, religions, and nationalities to be nothing but themselves, no matter what environment they are in. I am satisfied if I have done that for even one girl out there.
I want to empower girls of different cultures, religions, and nationalities to be nothing but themselves, no matter what environment they are in. tweet
My journey in the pageant wasn’t all sparkly, as I experienced some serious challenges. As can be expected, I was faced with a number of people who were not in favor of a Muslim girl competing in a pageant, particularly (sigh!) men and aunties. I did get a barrel of negative comments from them, with people saying the most outrageous things such as, “Muslim girls should not be competing, as your beauty is for your husband,” and, “You are giving yourself a bad name.”
No doubt, hearing some of that was discouraging, but I thought to myself that if I gave up my journey in the pageant, then not only would I be letting myself down, but I’d be letting down other girls in my community, too. So, I ignored the unsupportive people, and focused on the positives as I reminded myself of the purpose of my journey in Miss World Australia—to empower girls of different cultures, religions, and nationalities to be authentic to themselves and what they want out of life, and for them to always honor and fulfill their dreams. I consider myself lucky, because it was so easy for me to ignore the unsupportive people. You see, I had my number one fan by my side throughout the whole journey, supporting me. That number one fan was my mother. Thank you, Mummy Jan!
To the undoubtably countless Muslim girls who wish to pursue paths that are not considered “Islamic” because of some twisted, patriarchal interpretations of Islam, my advice to you is to stand firm in your religious beliefs whilst also pursuing your dreams in public.
I believe that it is very important for the public to visibly see Muslim women in a variety of fields that you might not expect to find us in. tweet
By this, I don’t mean that you should remove your hijab, stop practicing your religion, or be dressed to fit in with the majority. I mean that you should bring a little bit of what makes you into the mix! For example, in each round of Miss World Australia, I wore my hijab and dressed modestly. I also stood on the stage and shared proudly to the wider audience that my cultural identity is Afghan, my religious identity is Islam, and that my national identity is Australian.
My experience in the pageant gave me a platform to use my voice as an empowered Muslim woman. I believe that we shouldn’t let anyone dictate what we can or can’t do. I am so proud to have been standing on that stage as an empowered Muslim woman, and of what I have achieved in my personal life. This experience has shown me that no dream is ever too big or too small. If it is what you want to do, and it makes you happy, then do it! But of course, do it in a good manner, because you are not only representing yourself, but those who identify with the identity that you present! In my case, I was proudly representing Muslim girls who are so often misunderstood in the mainstream media.
I believe that it is very important for the public to visibly see Muslim women in a variety of fields that you might not expect to find us in. This helps battle antiquated notions of the “unassuming little Muslim woman.” I pray and hope that in the future, more Muslim women have a chance to use their voices to empower others, and be seen in industries across the board.
In addition, I have met some of the most beautiful, kind-hearted, and smart girls from all over Australia! Beauty pageants seem to have a stigma of selfishness and arrogance, but I can tell you, from my own experience, that this is not true. On this journey, I experienced sisterhood, friendship, and support in all my differences.
Now, for me it is only onward and upward. Exciting things are coming!
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