It’s impossible to summarize the magnitude of impactful Muslim women that have defined the last decade, and that’s not what this list intends to do. Instead, we want to shine a light on the Muslim women that absolutely should be on your radar, who have probably had an impact on the world as you know it whether you know their names or not. If we were to try to extract them and their influence from the last ten years, we think it would have been a totally different picture for all of us.
As the founder and editor-in-chief, I am mind blown that 2020 will see us reach a full ten years of MuslimGirl.com. Over the course of this decade, we’ve chronicled in realtime one of the most tumultuous eras for the Muslim community-at-large in modern history. I’m so proud that it has undoubtedly been Muslim women leading the way and charting our course for the collective, even in the face of increased targeting as one of the most visible religious minorities on the planet. The 10’s saw our reclamation of our narratives on the global stage and our transformation into making it impossible for anyone to generalize that all Muslim women are silent or oppressed ever again.
It is the honor of my life to not only work alongside a generation of #MuslimGirlArmy writers and creators in blogging, tweeting, empowering and upholding a platform for our voices in these historic times, but also to live in the age of these brave and revolutionary women, and even more so to call many of them my friends.
It’s easy to look back at and celebrate individual moments, but we would be doing our legacy an injustice were we not to zoom out and gaze upon the beautiful mosaic of how these influences piece together the new world we are entering in 2020. If it truly takes a village, then I couldn’t be more confident in saying that the world of our future daughters is secured if the women on this list have anything to do with it.
If you haven’t heard of Linda, I want to know which rock you’ve been living under (just kidding, but not really). This activist and author cemented her place amongst the greats when she co-founded the infamous Women’s March, weaving together a powerful network of women from every walk of life who come together year after year to elevate the issues of utmost importance. Whilst Linda is no longer involved with the Women’s March because of false claims of anti-semitism due to her criticism of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people, let it always be known that it was through the efforts of a Muslim woman that the largest protest in modern times made global waves. Also, say it with me now: critiquing Israel for its blatant human rights violations isn’t anti-semitic. Here’s why.
We couldn’t have a list like this without featuring Ibtihaj Muhammad. As the first Muslim-American athlete to compete and win a medal for Team USA in a headscarf, Ibtihaj was a visual re-imaging of what it means to be an American. She made us all proud, and did so without compromising her faith or individuality.
Sharmeen Shinoy Obaid
We celebrated far and wide when this Pakistani journalist and documentary-maker won two Academy Awards and no less than 6 Emmys for her impactful documentaries. In 2010, her documentary, “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation” won her her first Emmy, with 2012 and bringing an Academy Award for her widely-lauded short film, “Saving Face.” 2013 brought her even more Emmys for “Saving Face,” a harrowing looks at acid attacks on women in Pakistan. Although she was attacked by certain factions who would rather continue to abuse their female population, Sharmeen is a celebrated beacon for her relentless dedication to surface the narratives that often stay in the shadows.
If you haven’t heard her name, you have definitely seen her image. Artwork of Alaa Salah went viral earlier this year when a powerful image of her, cloaked in white whilst surrounded by a rapt audience hanging on her every word, gained traction and became the identifier for the Sudanese revolution. Long have Sudanese women put their lives on the line to demand equity for all in Sudan. As recounted to Muslim Girl by a guest contributor, the voices of Sudanese women could be heard for miles singing traditional Sudanese songs of hope and freedom: “they still have the commanding grace and presence as their Nubian ancestors.”
And for those reasons, we choose to highlight Alaa Salah as an impactful Muslim woman of the decade. Because Alaa once again showed us the great impact a strong, relentlessly dedicated Muslim woman can have on a society.
For all the hate Malala has received, she hasn’t spent even a day of the past decade slowing down. After being shot point-blank by Taliban gunmen at the age of 15 for advocating for her right to an education, Malala opted to show us what dedication and courage really look like. She thumbed her nose at her cowardly attackers by continuing her crusade for education by founding the Malala Fund, a foundation dedicated to breaking down global barriers that prevent girls and women from receiving an education. From creating safe spaces for girls in northern Nigeria, to training young Pakistani women as activists and providing STEM education to Syrian refugees, the Malala Fund offers support at the grassroots level. For her efforts, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, at the time becoming the youngest Nobel Laureate in history.
Easily one of our favorite voices of the decade, Dalia Mogahed features on this list for a critical reason: fortifying the revolution with numbers. Acting as the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), Dalia leads the go-to source for statistical information about Muslims in America and issues that impact us, making the case for change that’s impossible to argue. By funding solution-driven research, the ISPU works towards framing policies and education that is effective in combatting ignorance.
Baroness Sayeda Hussain Warsi
The first female Muslim in government in Britain, Baroness Warsi was appointed to the Cabinet in May 2010. Arguably, she paved the way for more Muslim women to enter politics in the U.K., an arena that is predominantly dominated by men. Baroness Warsi made waves when she wore a traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez to her first meeting at Downing Street, and we love her for it.
One of the most visible faces in the fashion world, Bella Hadid is a publicly identifies as a Muslim woman, and a proud Palestinian one at that! The beauty has consistently used her unmatched platform to not only raise awareness on issues impacting Muslims around the world, but has also redefined the game simply with her successful presence in it. She’s made us so proud to watch her career ascend to astronomical heights and proves once and for all that our identities don’t have to be our barriers.
The vlog that launched a revolution came from Asmaa Mahfouz, an Egyptian activist. She is widely credited as a catalyst that sparked a mass uprising which culminated in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. In 2011, her dedication to justice was rewarded by a legislative branch of the European Union when she was awarded the “Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought” for contributions to “historic changes.”
Once again, we see a woman with the determination to confront injustice as the catalyst for positive change, and for that reason, Asmaa was a no-brainer for the impact she has had.
Despite being one of the less widely-known women on our list, Sabeen Mahmud is no less deserving of her place amongst these giants. A Pakistani human rights advocate and social worker, Sabeen founded “The Second Floor,” a creative space based in Karachi, and a hub for open dialogue. Sabeen was also a vocal critic of some of the more extreme religious leaders present in Pakistan, organizing protests and speaking out against growing sectarianism and religious intolerance. To those who were familiar with her work, the cowardly assassination of Sabeen was felt deeply in the communities she so valiantly fought for. Despite this, her legacy lives on through those who supported her in her efforts.
Inna lillahe wa inna ilayhi raa’jioon.
Ahed Tamimi has been one of the most photographed faces of Palestinian resistance since she was a little girl. Known for her lioness mane of curly blonde locks and fearless defiance in the face of armed Israeli soldiers twice and three times her size, this little giant has grown into a force. Her slap of occupation forces was heard around the world and resulted in her arrest in an Israeli military prison at only 16 years old. She might be small, yet her activism has been a thorn in the side of one of the self-proclaimed strongest militaries on Earth, reminding us that size and age don’t matter. Teenage girls will save the world.
The first Somali-American to ever serve in Congress, and one of the first Muslim-Americans in Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s meteoric rise has been inspirational! From literal day one, Rep. Omar has been affecting positive change, being the catalyst for Congress to change its rules and allow her to wear a headscarf on the floor. Her interview with Muslim Girl made international waves and blew the doors wide open in American politics to discuss Palestinian human rights in ways we’ve never seen before in our lifetimes. If nothing else, this one-time refugee’s election brought Congress a step closer towards an accurate reflection of the population of the United States, and we are so here for it.
Along with her colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rashida gets bragging rights as one of the first Muslim women to be sworn into Congress. Since she was sworn in (in her Palestinian thobe, no less!), Rashida has been going from strength to strength, speaking truth to power and making sure that the concerns of millions of American Muslims are heard, loud and clear. Oh yeah, and don’t forget she was the first one to call on us to “impeach the m*therf*cker!”
The former captain of Pakistan’s women’s cricket team, Sana Mir gave a fitting response to the then-male team captain, Shahid Afridi. Afridi’s commentary that a woman’s skills are most useful in the kitchen kicked up quite a firestorm in 2014. Sana Mir and her team, however, put their money where their mouths were by winning gold at the Asian Games. Shahid Afridi and his team? Not so much. Yikes. Whilst this may not seem impactful to many, the pride Pakistani women felt seeing Sana Mir celebrated on billboards beside Shahid Afridi — particularly in light of his toxic comments — was indescribable. Women may be talented in the kitchen, Afridi, but they can dominate the cricket field when they need to as well. What about you?