20 Muslim Women to Watch in 2020

Rasha Mubarak

— As told by Amani Salahudeen

A Palestinian American Muslim activist and leader, Rasha Mubarak is truly a force to be reckoned with. She is the founder and president of UNBOUGHT POWER, LLC, an organization that specializes in political consulting and grassroots organizing and advocacy. She has, in the past, worked for the Council on American Islamic Relations of Florida (CAIR-FL) as Central Florida’s Regional Director.

Before she worked for CAIR-FL, Mubarak was a manager for the Arab American Community Center, where she helped to start programs to welcome immigrants, and offer support to victims of domestic violence. Rasha has over 15 years of experience as a bilingual progressive organizer, and a proven and dedicated passion for justice and equity. From her efforts, it is clear that Rasha loves working with the Muslim community, and continues to look for new ways to enrich the lives of those around her.

Rasha identities as Muslim, and actively fights for the rights of Muslims with her head held high. She is making an impact, so much so that haters have taken notice. Even so, Rasha hasn’t quit her day job, and we don’t see that happening anytime soon, either.

Rasha stands firm at a time where Muslims need to be vocal. Her relentless efforts have cemented her place as a powerhouse activist that definitely deserves to be on our radar. Keep advocating, Rasha! We are here to support you.

We sat down with Rasha for a quick chat about what inspires her journey. Read on to find out more:

Muslim Girl: What is your biggest inspiration behind the work that you do?

Rasha Mubarak: After 15 years in this work, whether being in the movement as an organizer or in the political space as an activist, I have seen many times how people and whole communities are left behind for the sake of elevating a single issue or winning a political campaign.

For me, leaving behind one community — or even one person — is far too many. Can we truly achieve liberation under the assumption that freedom for one person comes at the expense of another? Though campaigns can be tempted to compromise on human freedom, operating from a place of solidarity frees us from those temptations.

I am constantly recommitting myself to that solidarity, and why I launched UNBOUGHT POWER. Power can be achieved without sacrificing our principles: we need to consistently place people over profit and reject toxic preservation of the status quo. UNBOUGHT POWER works to train and build people power, advocate for community issues through legislative power, and elect those who share values into power — via the only way that will lead to collective liberation, equality, and freedom for all: UNBOUGHT.

What has been the best lesson you’ve learned along your journey?

Throughout my years in advocacy and grassroots organizing — I have mobilized in the streets, roamed the halls of power, and advocated from the newsrooms to the courtrooms to center our most vulnerable communities. I have moved through these spaces en route to achieving a better world, one that exhibits freedom, justice, and equality.

It can be challenging to navigate this complicated realm of unconditioned activism, and I am continuously learning. But as someone who has herself experienced marginalization as a Woman of Color — even in the most progressive of spaces — for being vocal on my consistent support of human right and inclusive of Palestinian human rights, I have become seasoned in understanding what it means to truly be an unapologetic movement builder. 

As a person of conscience, I understand that it’s dangerous and counterproductive to sacrifice the rights of some as “exceptions”’ to the human rights of all.  I am inspired by Shirley Chisolhm’s call to be “unbossed and unbought.” I am compelled to contribute to the legacies and work of Chisholm, and so many Black and Brown women, both then and now. Like them, I understand that the electoral process alone won’t liberate us, and I believe that power is attainable without forfeiting our values.

What is the most important challenge you choose to overcome as a Muslim woman in your field?

As a Muslim Palestinian woman of color — being deeply rooted in authenticity when centering the most vulnerable, including my own people’s struggles, are often unpopular notions and frequently rejected, even within our own community. As a Muslim woman in this work, like many before me, we are challenged for the many identities we hold. We have to work day in and day out to be in a space. Once in that space, we have to uplift our own voice in order to center the voices of the most vulnerable communities.

Always breathe fire, in the name of justice, no matter how excruciating and lonely it may feel.

The different iterations of obstacles and layers of grievances we come face to face with are immeasurable. However, I do understand that it will never be easy, never be comfortable, and this work will test your body, mind, soul, and even spirituality. But it’s inevitable, and will deeply ground you when working to achieve true collective liberation, and have impactful change when working to center the most disenfranchised.

What’s the one message you hope to deliver to the next generation of Muslim girls?

Everyday when I wake up, I pray Allah (SWT) grants me the wisdom, patience and amaana (promise) as I work to serve Him and bring His creations justice, freedom, and equality. When I go to sleep I pray He is pleased with the words, practices, and actions I chose in my work in bringing justice, freedom and equality.

Always, always refresh your intentions and the impact it can and will bring. Also, we all know and understand the violence, harm, and impact sexism, Islamophobia, racism and all forms of discrimination bring into our lives — call it out, don’t be complicit, and don’t continue to align yourselves with them, no matter who it is.

Lastly, to truly radically love yourself and take care of yourself, for real! The work in this fight for justice and the world’s problems will unfortunately still be here tomorrow. We have one body, one life. Take care of it.

What do you wish you could say to yourself 10 years ago?

Ha! I would have so much to say. But I would start by giving myself a BIG hug (with consent of course, lol) and tell younger Rasha to never question the validity of what she brings to the table. To always honor the space she holds in this world — she was born into this work. To allow herself to constantly grow, and learn about herself and those around her.

I would tell her, there will be moments when those who come to you and your community’s defense will feel unbreakable and large, when it’s easy and viral. And there will be times when those who come to protect you and your community are unexpected and a few, when it’s unpopular and not trending, but like my comrade, Esteban Garces once told me — “Rasha, when they tell you to breathe — breathe FIRE.” Always breathe fire, in the name of justice, no matter how excruciating and lonely it may feel.