Our very first #MuslimWomensDay on March 27 took over the internet and immediately became the top trending hashtag online, creating an internet-wide conversation that was impossible to ignore. Exactly two weeks ago, I was sitting in the Texas home of Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe for a private Women@Forbes roundtable. I was among a group of six incredible women doing incredible things to discuss the realities of being a successful woman entrepreneur, in the audience of dozens of distinguished lady hustlers hoping to benefit from the conversation.
Upon looking around the room, I became unconsciously aware of the fact that I had just climbed into another space where I was the sole veiled Muslim woman. The familiar feelings of imposter syndrome and lack of belonging began to creep up on me again.
I was uncharacteristically quiet during the ensuing discussion, and as it began drawing to close, I started to ask myself, “Did you say what you came here to say?” Before my internalized guilt about biting my tongue began to seep in, Whitney decided to call on one last audience member to ask a question. It was a Black woman, one of the very few who were in the room, and when Whitney passed her the mic, the woman posed the question to our roundtable of how a person like her could break into the industry with no connections and a whole lot of adversity. Another feeling I was all too familiar with.
In that moment, her courage to speak up gave me the courage to speak up, too, and I shared my real, difficult, and unique experience as a Muslim woman navigating this field, much to the support of the women around me. It wasn’t until later that night that I caught up with Deepti Sharma, one of my co-discussants, who told me that she had initially felt just as uncomfortable, but that seeing my courage to be myself in this space gave her the courage to speak up, too.
Muslim Women’s Day had me remembering this moment: how one person’s courage can inspire another person’s courage, and so on, and so on. Sometimes all it takes is getting passed the mic to awaken our voice and help us find the courage to talk back. And when we dig up that courage in ourselves to share our authentic stories with the world, we unknowingly inspire the courage in others to do the same.
We are so lucky to have allies in the work that we do that do not fear passing us the mic, but rather seek opportunities to do so, especially when it matters the most. I am so grateful to work with a team of brave women at MuslimGirl.com who never fail to rise up to the mic when the moment calls for it to share their valuable narratives with the world, in the hope of helping us heal, understand, live, and love a little better. In a society that has been increasingly telling us to shut up, we choose to stand together and talk back even louder.
Representation isn’t just a matter of convenience: it’s allowing us to see a reflection of ourselves in the world around us. We owe it to ourselves and each other to constantly find the courage to speak up. May this be a catalyst for greater diverse representation and many more occasions to pass the mic. Thank you and happy Muslim Women’s Day.