Muslim women are superheroes. We uplift one another, and the communities that surround us. We put ourselves on the line for justice and peace. We create love, light, and beauty in a world where war and hate cast shadows everywhere. Through our sisterhood and our activism, we are spreading that light and that power throughout our community, and out into the world. If you don’t believe me, check out these ten reasons which make Muslim women real superheroes.
- We are bulletproof.
(Malala Yousafzai in Financial Times)
Many are familiar with Malala Yousafzai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. An advocate for girls’ and women’s education in her home in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala was nearly killed after having gained attention for her efforts promoting education. A man entered her school bus and asked for her by name. She stood tall, stood firm for women’s rights, took a bullet, and lived. As Malala fought for her life in a hospital in England, people in Pakistan, still unsure of her fate, Pakistan overwhelmingly came out in support of women’s rights and the fight for girls’ education. Protests erupted throughout the country, and over 2 million people signed a petition that led the National Assembly creating Pakistan’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
Even unsure of their champion’s destiny, the people of Pakistan realized that Malala had taught them that even if she were to die, girl power and the fight for knowledge would never die. Malala emboldened and empowered an entire nation to fight for women against the forces of terrorism. Though her extensive injuries nearly killed her, Malala continued to fight for women’s education. Today, she runs the Malala Fund, and champions education for girls worldwide.
- We use our strength to uplift our communities. EVERYONE in our communities.
Linda Sarsour is the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and founder of MPower Change, as well as one of the co-organizers of the Women’s March. Before being recognized as a badass activist, Linda fought with other moms in her community to ensure that school children observing non-Christian religious holidays would not miss mandatory testing, and would be able to observe their religious holiday without facing severe academic consequences. As a mother and an activist, Sarsour seeks to empower and uplift everyone in the communities she reaches. While marching for Black Lives, while fighting for Palestinian freedom, while marching for women, while protesting 45, Linda strives to be inclusive and intersectional, always. While speaking at the Women’s March on Washington D.C. on January 21st, Sarsour said: “Sisters and brothers, if you have come here today as your first time at a march I welcome you. I ask you to stand and continue to keep your voices loud for black women, for native women, for undocumented women, for our LGBTQIA communities, for people with disabilities. You can count on me, your Palestinian muslim sister, to keep her voice loud, keep her feet on the street, keep her head held high, because I am not afraid.”
- We heal people.
Alaa Murabit is the badass healer in your Overwatch team who saves everyone’s ass because without her you would all be dead before you even reached the damn payload. (You probably didn’t even know where the payload was, she had to tell you!)
As a medical doctor and UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment & Economic Growth, Murabit advises governments on children and women’s health issues, strives to involve women in peace processes, creates national and international initiatives to further protections for women and children, and is just generally so awesome if your parents are reading this they’re disowning you and adopting her right now. In an incredible TED talk she gave in 2015, Murabit stated: “Every day I work to amplify the voices of women, and to highlight their experiences and their participation in peace processes and conflict resolution. And because of my work, I recognize that the only way to ensure the full participation of women globally is by reclaiming religion.”
Murabit’s power and success, her drive to ensure the health of the world, runs counter to the mainstream media narrative on Islam, Muslims, and Muslim women. It also runs counter to the hijacking of our truly feminist religion by patriarchal structures within Muslim communities. Murabit is not only a healer in the medical and political sense, Alaa Murabit is a cultural and religious healer, bringing Islam and Muslim women back to the power and grace of our first leaders, our first healers, like Khadija (RA).
- We face oppression head-on.
(Photo by Aramis Alexander, from BlairImani.com)
Activist (and probably superhuman cyborg) Blair Imani is goals: hijab goals, squad goals, activism goals, even eyebrow goals.
Imani is the founder and executive director at Equality for Her, and press officer for Planned Parenthood (because for a total badass one full-time job is just child’s play). When she isn’t protecting and promoting women and feminism at either of her two day jobs, she’s marching for Black Lives, using the internet to spread awareness, and growing a following of fellow Millenials who Imani has helped to engage in grass-roots activism.
Imani is, like many of the women in this list, unafraid of putting her beliefs and her body on the line for truth and for equality. Imani was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after the murder of Alton Sterling by police, who shot him in the back while he was lying face-down on the ground.
The arrest only seemed to embolden Imani’s convictions and her pursuit of justice for Muslims, women, and Black people. Ever busy, Imani is always hosting feminist-positive events that center around the narratives of marginalized communities, or speaking on diversity and adversity at colleges across the nation. (And when she isn’t doing that, she’s shutting down bullshit and spreading real activist fire on one of the most savage feeds Twitter has to offer.)
(Photo from The Advocate, Blair Imani being arrested in Baton Rouge after the murder of Alton Sterling).
- We strive for justice.
(Photo from the San Jose Mercury News)
Zahra Billoo came to eat ice cream and school you on truth, justice, and the American way….and she’s all out of ice cream.
Heading the all-female San Francisco Bay Area CAIR office, Zahra Billoo works in the trenches, fighting Islamophobia in court rooms and on camera. Whether she’s suing 45, speaking at MSA’s and college lecture halls on the dangers of xenophobia, or teaching seminars on how to preserve and exercise your constitutional rights in the face of FBI or police questioning, Zahra is in deep, utilizing constitutional law to protect justice and democracy. Billoo also spoke at the Women’s March on Washington D.C., saying “I, like you, am proud to work to be among Donald Trump’s worst nightmares.”
Through decades of work with CAIR, Billoo has represented and protected Muslims targeted by persecution, also leading interfaith efforts and speaking out on Black Lives Matter and the continuing genocide of Native Americans. When she isn’t kicking ass and taking names in court, Zahra Billoo is also known as Bake Against the Machine. Billoo makes incredible cakes and cupcakes, and is an ace ice cream aficionado, because Justice should always be served with dessert.
- We alter reality and defy gravity.
(Photo from news.clarku.edu)
MuslimGirl.com founder and wunderkind Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is all about shifting paradigms and challenging the reality set forth by mainstream media regarding Muslim women. Named to Forbes “30 Under 30,” she’s rung the Nasdaq bell, sparred with Bill Clinton, been invited to the White House by Michelle Obama, written a book, and created a growing multimedia platform where “Muslim women talk back.”
Al-Khatahtbeh travels at light speed, in only one direction: up. Islamophobia, misogyny, media bias, and wallah bros beware: Al-Khatahtbeh isn’t coming down. This Muslim Girl defies gravity, and aims to pull all her sisters up to the top with her.
- We create change by combining strong ethics and unique beauty.
(Photo from EmanIdil.com)
Eman Idil Bare (far right) is the fashion artist we need: one with a conscience and an iron will.
While fast fashion remains at the top of environmentally destructive industries and is responsible for exploiting millions of laborers the world around, Eman proves that fashion can be beautiful, ethical, and environmentally sound. With her second full collection fast approaching (now including hand-crafted leather shoes and bags) Eman is already running out of presale options. Drawing inspiration from her East African heritage and modern vogue fashion, Bare at once honors her ancestors and future generations of women who are empowered by the modest clothing line’s firm ethical stance. Bare researches her suppliers and manufacturers obsessively, creating employment opportunities for women in various countries, and ensuring her manufacturers are credited, respected, and valued for their craftsmanship and their humanity.
THIS is fashion forward redefined; forward into environmental consciousness, forward into wage equality for women, forward into fashion that is art, femininity, and culture, curated.
- We continue a legacy of Islamic-knowledge-based Warrior-Queendom.
(Ieasha Prime speaks at the Women’s March in Washington D.C.)
Ustadha Ieasha Prime converted to Islam over twenty years ago, and immediately immersed herself in a pursuit of Islamic knowledge. After following her faith through Egypt and Yemen, studying the Quran, Hadith, and Islamic history, Prime returned to the United States with an aim to share her passion for Islamic studies. Much like her namesake, Aisha (RA), Sister Ieasha’s mission has been to empower Muslim women through a knowledge of fiqh and aqeedah (studies of Islamic jurisprudence and faith).
Through her work as an educator and the founder of Barakah Inc., which aims to educate women and youth through Islamic education, Sister Ieasha continues a tradition of education and activism that began with the mothers of Islam. Traveling in their footsteps, Sister Ieasha exemplifies the superhuman strength, grace, intelligence, and faith we think of when we hear her name.
- We are creative geniuses.
(Photo from Kontrol Magazine)
Malaysia’s own ridiculously talented singer/songwriter Yuna is only going to get bigger and better. The fashion icon, musician, photographer, and girl-you-wish-was-your-sister recently put out her album Chapters, featuring a collaboration with Usher, and knocked everyone’s socks off with her flawless, soulful vocals and videos to match. Yuna will be touring late spring and summer with shows in Istanbul, the UK, and at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Want a pick-me-up during the day? Follow Yuna on Instagram for a steady stream of photos that look like every day is a rainbow-filled Vogue cover shoot. Also shop November Culture, a collection curated by Yuna. The motto of this modest, gorgeous, high-fashion-meets-comfort line? “Look cozy, stay cozy.” Could she be any more perfect?
- We are raising the next generations of Muslim Women Warriors, together.
The Women’s Mosque of America opened in Los Angeles in 2015, creating a safe and sacred space in which Muslim women could worship. Despite cries that this move would divide the community, that mosques and khutbahs MUST be led by men (cough cough, not true) M. Hasna Maznavi, founder and president, persisted in cultivating a space not only centered around Islamic study and worship, but around celebrating Muslim sisterhood. With a diverse lineup of knowledgeable and influential khateebas, The Women’s Mosque addresses elements of the Mosque experience and the experience of Muslim women that many find are ignored in male-centric masajid. In creating a safe space for Muslim women to congregate, heal, and engage with their faith, Maznavi essentially created a space in which the next generation of Muslim women can flourish. With a center that promotes sisterhood, provides sacred knowledge, encourages worship and activism, and removes patriarchy from the Mosque experience, Muslim women are encouraged to turn to Islam, and to each other, for strength.
Now, I must say, it’s not a real CineSister post without an X-Men reference, so here it is: The Women’s Mosque of America is “Professor Charles Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters,” for Muslim women. This is where our superheroes are being trained, where strength is being passed from one woman to the next, being multiplied in the process. In the years to come, as the world darkens, the Women’s Mosque of America is a beacon of hope.