Every year, we ask our readers to nominate the Muslim women that have defined our moment and set the bar for the year to come. We’ve seen the last several months bring war, adversity and even controversy, but also an unrelenting commitment from Muslim women around the world to bring light to every corner from which they were denied.
This year’s theme is “Securing Our Space” to celebrate Muslim Women’s Day around the world. We received tons of nominations of Muslim women who are making a phenomenal impact in the world with different backgrounds, expertise and identities. And we couldn’t be prouder to highlight these 10 changemakers that are breaking open their spaces for Muslim women in ways there’s no turning back from.
In honor of Muslim Women’s Day, we present to you the Muslim Women to Watch in 2022.
1. huma abedin
Huma Abedin is an American politician who was the vice chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President of the United States. Born in Michigan and of Indian and Pakistani descent, Huma was raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in political science from George Washington University and interned at the White House in1996 for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
She has also written a memoir titled Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds, published in late 2021, where she discusses life growing up in Saudi Arabia, her faith as a Muslim, and her time with Hillary Clinton, as well as her relationship with former Democratic Representative and ex-husband Anthony Weiner. Huma has achieved tremendous success in the political world, and has helped cement the image of Muslim women in American politics.
2. Nusrat Jahan Choudhury
The first Muslim woman to be nominated by President Biden on January 19 to become United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, Choudhury is a role model for all Muslim women and girls who want to pursue a career in law.
Choudhury has been serving as the Roger Pascal Legal Director at the ACLU of Illinois since 2020. Her work is of remarkable significance in the judicial sphere, as she has litigated to protect immigrants from the dehumanizing conditions that they face in detention.
“Nusrat Choudhury’s nomination to the federal bench is historic — as the first Bangladeshi American and first Muslim woman to serve on the federal bench and the second Muslim American,” said ACLU of Illinois Executive Director Colleen Connell in his official statement.
3. muna el-kurd
Muna El-Kurd is a 23-year-old Palestinian activist. Born and raised in Sheikh Jarrah, she and her family, amongst dozens of other families, experienced brutal threats of eviction from the Israeli military and authorities. And in 2009, the Israeli authorities took over half of her family’s home. For the next decade, dozens of families in Sheikh Jarrah fought against the possibility of being completely evicted from their homes by Israeli settlers.
In June 2021, Muna and her brother were both arrested by Israeli police for “participating in riots.” The twins were questioned and later released. Muna has often taken to Instagram to share her thoughts and livestream the unfair treatment of the Palestinian people in Sheikh Jarrah.
She was one of the first to break the cycle of silence on social media and has done several viral interviews, where she became the voice of the civilians of Sheikh Jarrah being forcefully evicted and silenced. The courage and bravery shown by Muna and her brother Mohammed inspired people around the world to begin protesting the grotesque and inhumane treatment of Palestinians on their own land. In September 2021, she and her brother were both named on Time’s list of 100 most influential people in the world.
4. bella hadid
The sensational supermodel, Bella Hadid, has also been an active voice for Muslims during the last year. Being half Palestinian, Bella has shared her father’s struggles as a Palestinian refugee and often reiterated her statement of being a proud Palestinian. She took to Instagram to share her support for Palestine last year, and even participated in a protest, joined by actor Indya Moore. She was criticized by the official Israeli Twitter account, but didn’t let that stop her for standing up for what she believes in. She has constantly tried to educate her fans and followers regarding the occupation, and hasn’t shied away from being blunt and truthful. But Bella hasn’t just been standing up for Palestine.
She also raised awareness regarding the hypocrisy of certain governments and their laws around the hijab. Bella is very vocal about her support for Muslim hijabis and shared three long posts on her Instagram speaking about the current discrimination facing hijabis and their ability to attend school and go about their daily lives. It’s quite amazing to see a model with her level of following, influence, and fame supporting and speaking up for hijabi women and the Palestinian people.
5. Ala hamdan
Ala is a filmmaker, photographer, and visual storyteller. This New York Film Academy graduate has been creating films and telling stories for the better part of her life. She believes in giving a voice to the voiceless, and has focused on humanitarian causes such as child labour, domestic violence, and women’s rights. Ala has racked up an amazing one million followers on her social media platforms. She is an active member in the humanitarian field, working on several projects in Nigeria, Turkey, and Jordan.
She has documented her experiences and the people she has met, and co-created a book titled Muslims of the World, which became an Amazon best-selling book in 2018. Her work has garnered attention from all over the world, and she’s been the recipient of numerous film awards and nominations. She’s also the co-founder of At Films, a Jordan-based film company.
6. Imaan Hammam
Imaan Hamman is a Dutch model of Moroccan and Egyptian descent taking the fashion world by storm as she continues to smash barriers in the industry for young girls like herself. At age 16, Hammam rose to fame when she opened Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy SS14 show, an unheard of accomplishment for a relatively unknown model. She continued to turn heads as she graced the cover of American Vogue, another honor rarely bestowed upon new models.
Hamman’s success only continued when, in 2017, she became the first Black Arab model to become the face of Chanel Beauty. Since then, Hamman has also graced the cover of Vogue Arabia’s first anniversary issue.
Hamman has also used her platform as an international fashion icon to advocate for animal rights through her participation in the Knot On My Planet Campaign, her criticism on social media over the violent war in Syria, and through her limited edition ready-to-wear-campaign with Frame. The Frame campaign represented “her quest for freedom and diversity” by channeling youth empowerment.
Perhaps, Hamman described herself and her goals best, “I’m Muslim, and I’m super proud of my heritage and of my roots. I want to be a role model for young girls who are struggling with racism or struggling with their looks or with their skin color. […] there aren’t many Arabic models, and being an African-Arabic model, I’m trying to open doors for more Arabic girls.”
7. zahra hashimee
Zahra Hashimee rose to fame through TikTok. The young Muslim American –then a teenager, and now 22-year-old — has become a social media star. With over 3 million followers on TikTok and 500k on Instagram, showing the world what it’s like to be a young Muslim. Her videos range from relatable rants and talks to pranking her brothers and aesthetic short vlogs where she documents her travels. She uses her platform to educate her followers about the hijab, being a hijabi herself, about Ramadan, and Islam. Her content is mostly just about being herself…which is something that can be quite rare for a social media influencer, who is usually trying to put only their best foot forward.
Zahra doesn’t shy away from her religion and background, and proudly showcases it in almost all her videos. A recent graduate from the University at Albany, where she studied computer science and business, Zahra has been invited to several high-end fashion shows and events. She’s shown the world the beauty behind being a “regular” young Muslim American, and we hope she continues to do so!
Jamad hails from Boston, Massachusetts, where she was a guard for Emmanuel College’s women’s basketball team. She first rose to internet fame when her cousin posted a video of her playing basketball on Twitter. It quickly went viral and then continued to trend when she shared it on her Instagram account.
In an interview with NBC Sports Boston, Jamad reflected on how a lot of Muslim girls she grew up with stopped playing basketball after college. She felt like “if they see [her] playing on the college level [then] they’ll understand, ‘yeah, I can do it too’.”
Since college, Jamad has gone on to found Jamad Basketball Camps, a non-profit organization designed to empower all girls through basketball and “by teaching them how to be better people on and off the court.”
9. Rawdah Mohammed
Rawdah Mohammed is a model, activist, fashion editor, and a former behavioral analyst challenging the perceived notion that hijabi women are oppressed, timid, and restricted. The 29-year-old was born in Somalia, but spent several years of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp due to civil war. At age nine, Mohammed and her family were granted asylum in Norway.
They relocated to a small town where she was “constant[ly] bull[ied]” for wearing hijab. Mohammed told the Daily Mail that her classmates believed the hijab was “oppressive.” Her peers even went as far as trying to remove her hijab and her teachers also tried to confiscate it. However, this did not deter her from wearing it, nor did it diminish her strong Muslim identity.
When Mohammed’s family relocated to Oslo, the larger, more diverse city allowed her life to become a bit easier. In 2016, as a teenager, she began posting her modest fashion-inspired looks on Instagram and quickly acquired a large following. Despite years of ridicule from teachers and peers alike, Mohammed continued to exude confidence in her decision to wear hijab, sharing her modest fashion looks with an international audience.
In 2019, while working as a mental health specialist, Mohammed signed with a modeling agency and worked for Cartier and Maxmara. She was on her way to becoming a global icon for modest fashion and inspiration for Muslim girls worldwide.
In 2021, a now infamous selfie of Mohammed made rounds online in response to France’s proposed ban on women under 18 wearing hijabs. She made her intent to stay true and committed to her Muslim faith loud and clear to the fashion industry. The hashtag #handsoffmyhijab went viral, sending a clear and resounding message to social media users that she would not be silenced, nor would she allow others to take control over her own narrative as a hijabi.
Mohammed continues to fight for the inclusivity of modest fashion and Muslim women in the fashion industry in her role as a fashion editor for Vogue Scandinavia.
10. Iman Vellani
When Marvel Studios announced their new Kamala Khan character, excitement spread over the internet about Iman Vellani. The young Pakistani-Canadian actress will also star as Kamala Khan in the 2023 movie The Marvels.
In an interview with Variety, Vellani expressed relief over not having to “go out of [her] way” to discuss being a Muslim and being Pakistani. The fact that she identifies as both naturally unfolds in the movie as viewers learn more about her character. She went on to say, “People seeing a person like me involved in a project as big as this, I think, is inspiring enough.”
Muslim Women Making a Change
With every passing year, we see Muslim women and their many accomplishments becoming more visible and represented for who they are and what they are capable of becoming. Nothing feels better than witnessing Muslim women securing their space and leading in every career path they passionately take on, whether it’s politics, fashion, entertainment, sports — or beyond. Congratulations to all the inspiring women of 2022. Mashallah!
Who are the Muslim women doing amazing work in your community? We’d love to hear about them. DM us on Twitter and Instagram and be sure to honor them today on Muslim Women’s Day.