We are honored to return with our annual Muslim Women to Watch list spotlighting the Muslim women doing the work shaping our communities.
We asked you to nominate the Muslim women inspiring your world in 2021. From your feedback, the Muslim Girl editors selected 12 powerhouses who have uplifted all of us through their hard work and dedication to their fields. These are the women blazing a trail for our generation and many more to come.
Introducing our 2021 honorees!
Tahanie Aboushi is a 35-year-old Palestinian-American civil rights attorney. She is currently running for Manhattan District Attorney. Tahanie Aboushi’s work focuses on ending mass incarceration, and investing in her local community. Her career has been dedicated to the fight against racism, discrimination, and the abuse of power. Tahanie Aboushi’s goal is to transform the American justice system to free people of color from suffering from social inequities. “I still remember rushing to JFK Airport shortly after the Muslim Ban was announced, to co-lead a group of lawyers as we fought to get our Muslim brothers and sisters out of detention,” she said in an interview with Muslim Girl. She is also a social advocate, and served as the president of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, where she started her political education and found purpose in engaging Muslims in civic participation. She co-led the legal team at JFK airport to fight back against Trump’s Muslim ban, and protected protestors in their right to assembly and dissent. Tahanie’s dedication, skills, and personal experiences inspire Muslims to become social change-makers themselves. She is definitely someone to watch for 2021 and beyond.
—Written by Tasnim Broud
These two women aren’t your ordinary twins. Meet @straingth and @wixdumb, the uber-cool Black rap artists who have managed to carve out a special place of their own in the music industry as hijabi Muslims. Their music is revolutionary, and their verses reflect the likes of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers movement. Be it speaking up against racism or rapping about their intersectionality, the duo is upending stereotypes left, right, and center. When not making awesome music, the sisters can be found involved in several social work programs. They are leading efforts to build a school in Gambia, and are motivated to provide free education to young local girls. Not only are they challenging narratives by speaking up, but they’re changing them on the ground level as well. And this is why they made our 2021 Muslim Women to Watch List!
—Written by Atika Qasim
Amirah Ahmed is one of the Fredericksburg Muslim Youth co-founders, where she works to educate non-Muslims and challenge them to break stereotypes about Muslim women. Young women like Amirah are among the Muslim women to watch in our community. Her ideas are bright, and represent the future of our activism space. “Often we are the face of this religion, I think we are often the scapegoats, especially women that cover but even women that don’t cover, we’re painted as oppressed, or — either it’s one or the other — it’s either radical, you know, terrorist or oppressed and has no control over her own life,” Amirah said on a virtual Muslim Women’s Day panel. Thanks to women like Amirah, Muslim women are empowered have the space in their local communities to use their voice to be their authentic selves — regardless of how they define it.
—Written by Rokia Hassanein
Sarah Al Amiri
Sarah Al Amiri was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, where she majored in computer science at the American University in Sharjah. Today, Sarah is making history as the first Muslim women to act as the science lead on a space mission as she navigates the building, launching, and landing of the Emirati “Hope Mars Mission,” in addition to acting as the Emirati Minister of State for Advanced Sciences. In both roles, she has sought to advance the scientific practices of the Arab world while simultaneously increasing the frequency of scientific collaboration internationally. She has been named to both BBC’s list of “100 Women” and Time’s 2021 list of “100 Most Influential People.” Sarah continues to be a motivating inspiration to Muslim women in STEM everywhere, pioneering the not so readily accepted vision of a Muslim woman being immensely successful as both a scientist and leader.
—Written by Noha Algahimi
Rana Elmir not only sets the stage; she captivates it. Rana was a journalist turned Communications Director turned American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan Acting Executive Director. Advocacy isn’t new to Rana. It was seeded within her at an early age. When she was a child, Rana was exposed to anti-Muslim rhetoric, and instead of this being a detractor of conflict or barrier to success, she used it as fuel to channel her ambitions and counteract the false discourse that surrounded Muslims living in America. As the ACLU Acting Executive Director, Rana manages legislation that protects individual rights and civil liberties. She aims to use her platform to carry marginalized communities away from the racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and so many more behaviors directed toward them. With her background in journalism, she has the innate ability to reach her audience through storytelling, inspiring her audience to take action against injustice, while her passion for advocacy lights the fire in her to work for the people of Michigan and beyond. Rana is an unapologetic Muslim woman who we admire and respect. Just look at her go!
—Written by Munna Hazmine
Indian-American economist Sameera Fazili is as fierce as they come. She was appointed by U.S. President Joe Biden as the Deputy Director for the National Economic Council at the White House in 2021. Before tackling this role, Sameera Fazili served as a senior policy advisor on the White House’s National Economic Council and as a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Treasury Department in both Domestic Finance and International Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration. Prior to her work with the White House, Sameera worked with Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, where she testified before Congress on the religious freedom of Muslims in Western Europe. She has also worked with the World Health Organization, and United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Her career has taken her to places such as Palestine, Pakistan, and her birthplace, Kashmir. Sameera graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 2000 with a BA in social studies, and was the recipient of Harvard’s Women’s Leadership Award. She went on to earn a degree from Yale Law School and began working tirelessly as a lawyer, activist for religious freedom and international human rights, and economist.
—Written by Lyba Mansoor
Isra Hirsi is an 18-year-old environmental justice advocate, Black Lives Matter activist, and the co-founder and co-executive director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She is also the former development director of the Gravel Institute. On top of all this, she’s a student, and is currently a senior in high school. Isra was described by Obama as one of the young climate activists that he hoped everyone would follow their suit. She received the Voice of the Future Award as well as the Brower Youth Award. She was named in Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list.
—Written by Jummanah Abu Samra
In November 2019, Hilal garnered national attention when she designed a line of hospital-grade hijabs for healthcare workers. Many healthcare workers struggled to keep their hijabs clean, with some even throwing theirs out after every shift. In response, Hilal created a line of hospital-grade hijabs made from a lightweight and breathable jersey fabric. She has donated over 700 hijabs to doctors and nurses throughout the state of Minnesota. In addition to her philanthropic pursuits, Hilal is the founder and owner of Henna & Hijabs, an online boutique selling high-quality and organic products. Her boutique seeks to fill a void in the fashion and beauty industries by providing ethically made and organic hijabs and henna. Recently, the boutique made national headlines when Hilal launched a limited edition, luxury hijab-line for Black History Month and World Hijab Day. Throughout her work, Hilal is committed to normalizing Muslim women’s lived experiences and to breaking down barriers in the fashion and beauty industries. Hilal states that it’s not just about providing high-quality hijabs, “[i]t’s also showcasing that the Muslim woman is just like you and me … And so for us, it’s an inner-weaved piece of being authentic to who we are and also creating a high-quality piece and providing that to our customers.”
—Written by Jessica Daqamsseh
Youssra Kamal Kandil
Youssra Kamal Kandil began her career in Egypt on a weekly inspirational show, and now her videos have gone viral, appealing to a global audience of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We are all in need of inspiration, and a motivational speaker whose talks inspire and uplift us is just what we needed. She reminds me of the story of Rabia of Basra, who taught us we shouldn’t focus on fear of hell or longing for Jannah, but on closeness to our Rabb. She clearly deserves her prestigious reputation, and it’s worth watching some of her short videos to get a lift. There’s such a need for encouragement in this time of trouble. We can only hope that Youssra continues to spread the good news of the mercy of Allah to more people with time.
—Written by Sarah Mohr
Believe it or not, this talented filmmaker and director of “The Present” used to work in the corporate world. In 2016, she left that part of her life behind and began working on her true passion: advocacy through filmmaking. Her short film, “Today They Took My Son” was screened at the United Nations and officially selected to screen via top-tier international film festivals. She went on to create many other films before “The Present,” which deals with a father and daughter in Palestine, and their struggles with Israeli checkpoints. According to its website, the film has “premiered at Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival 2020 and won the coveted Audience Award for Best Film. It had its North American premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award for Best Live Action Short, qualifying it for the 2021 Oscars.” The film is projected to win many other awards, and was Oscar-nominated for 2021, making Farah, a Palestinian-British film creator educated in the UK, one Muslim woman you do not want to miss on your radar.
—Written by Maysoon Khatib
Nabela Noor is a Bengali-American lifestyle influencer and entrepreneur who went viral in 2017 in an Instagram clip where she wrote negative words across her face with contour, and then seamlessly deleted them with concealer. She then wrote encouraging words across her face, sending her followers into a frenzy of positivity. From her gorgeous, splashy Instagram page to her new fun and colorful line of cozy sweaters, the visual world she’s created is magnificently aspirational. She is the founder & CEO @zeba + @noorhouse. According to her Instagram page, her motto is “redefining beauty one post at a time.” Her gorgeous smile and reminders of self-care and body positivity makes her someone we could all be best friends with.
—Written by Liz Aziz
Bayadir Mohammed-Osman is a Sudanese-American activist and poet. A graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public health, she spends the majority of her time as a spoken word artist, showing the world what it means to not only be a Muslim, but also showing her identity as an intersectional Black Sudanese-American woman living in modern-day America. She’s used her platform to raise a voice for marginalized communities and her fellow Sudanese citizens. Bayadir has had her powerful messages posted on NowThis’s YouTube channel, racking in a million views. She’s not only participated in numerous poetry slam competitions, but won quite a few as well and has performed on stages around the United States. Her debut novel was released in May of last year, and is a compilation of both poetry and prose, in which she goes in-depth analyzing her inner struggles, battles, and wins as a Black Muslim Sudanese immigrant woman. Bayadir has shown the world already that she’s not going to back down and will continuously speak for fellow Black Americans and Muslims. We can’t wait to see what else she has in store.
—Written by Asiya Bharadia