Written by Iman Abid.
With 2016 winding down to its final days, we have seen a wide variety of stories unfold.
On one day, President Obama dismantles NSEERs — and on another day, we are hearing a Muslim Registry will be created as soon as President-elect Trump takes office next year.
Then, just when we think all things are lost, we hear about anti-discrimination policies and proposals made to make sure that all Americans feel safe — but to make sure we still don’t know or expect anything good to remain status quo, we are still faced with women having their hijabs ripped off as they are going grocery shopping.
If there is something inspiring we could take away from all of this chaos, despite all the disruptions made to society’s progress, we may examine how these events have created discourse in matters that are relevant to our lives. We’ve begun the discussion on how to place our ideas of inclusivity and safety into action. In fact, more conversations are being had on the protection of civil liberties and rights for underrepresented communities.
What many of us have witnessed this past year is not a new set of issues, rather, we have seen a spike in focus on the issues that have gone under the cover for too long. Who would have thought that in 2016 we would still be talking about voting restrictions of African American, or how the LGBTQ+ community still faces restrictions on ID laws and bathroom laws? Haven’t we progressed as a nation?
On a positive note, we have seen a rise in activism and interest in strengthening the most vulnerable of citizens worldwide. In fact, it was this very year that has brought and continues to bring attention to the many challenges so many citizens of the world still face such as oppression, racism, lack of civil rights, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, women’s rights, and homophobia — to name a few.
For Muslims, 2016 brought on violations of the First Amendment repeatedly as members of our faith have witnessed limitations made on their religious freedom — mosques being burnt down or women victimized in hate crimes for wearing hijab.
One thing is for sure, Muslim women did not stay silent this year. They’ve encouraged us to stand for the underrepresented and have ensured us through their actions that they will continue working to help those who have not found their voices yet.
The portrayal of Muslim women in the media continues to perpetuate the idea that they are both oppressed and inferior — but despite their portrayal, we continue to take the lead and reclaim our narrative through every medium available. And when we do not have a door open, we build one — like the founder of Muslimgirl.com has for the voices of Muslim girls everywhere.
We have seen many firsts in this past year:
The first Somali woman was elected into the United States Congress.
The first Muslim female fencer made it into the Rio Olympics, while doing it all in hijab.
The first woman in hijab made it in as a model for CoverGirl.
The first female Muslim hip hop group took the world by storm with their interest in breaking all stereotypes behind women who choose to wear niqab, and so much more.
Despite 2016’s attempt to suppress the voices the marginalized, we Muslim girls have remained steadfast in our resilience. While the narrative was constructed by those who were not truly familiar with the community of women, the women mentioned above took the world by storm and showed us all what they are capable of in times of challenge.
Don’t think we are done yet, though. Time and effort are still working overtime, as women continue to organize communities, educate the masses on vital information needed to fight against discrimination in public service/accommodation, education, law enforcement, and housing.
New startup companies and initiatives are being led by Muslim women. Students are taking the lead in conversations happening at their schools to deconstruct any misconceptions being shared around their respective communities. Women in our community are running for office, social justice advocates, and taking over the roles of policy makers and changers.
While we have known this all along, Muslim women have shown many skeptics that with each challenge, we continue to rise above. And let me tell you, this year has not been easy to accomplish all the things we have – but we still did – and expect more from us, because we aren’t even close to being finished.
As the year comes to an end, may 2017 continue to open the doors for so many others and continue strengthening those seeking to create change, Insha’Allah.