Twitter, @ShahanaFromBK

This Woman Is NYC’s 1st Muslim Woman Councilmember

Despite being one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, New York City has never had a Muslim woman serve on City Council until now. We at Muslim Girl are proud to say that on November 2nd, from Brooklyn’s 39th district, Shahana Hanif has made history in NYC by becoming the first Muslim woman and first Bangladeshi person elected to its city council. 

During her campaign, because she came from such a unique background with no prior representation in government to look to for examples, Hanif “had to chart [her] own non-traditional path leaning on activists and organizers from throughout [her] life, push to do outreach to [the] Bangladeshi constituency, and organize women to do that work”.

Hanif won on this progressive, activism-centered platform, focusing on criminal justice reform, housing improvements, COVID-19 relief, domestic abuse victim protection, disability rights healthcare, and more. Some of her past work includes creating Muslim women’s self-defense workshops, starting a free immigration law clinic, and funding an algae harvester for some local lakes. 

As a Councilmember, Hanif has a myriad of goals that she is planning on achieving. According to a Time Magazine interview, some tasks at the top of her agenda include shutting down the dysfunctional Rikers Island prison, defunding the invasive police surveillance on Black, Brown, and Muslim communities, and implementing mandatory compositing as a way to combat NYC’s impact on climate change. 

Overall, Hanif is passionate about “building an anti-racist, feminist city” in order to create “a city that protects its most vulnerable, a city that has equitable education, a city invested in climate solutions that are local and driven by communities, a city where our immigrant neighbors feel at home and heard and safe”.

Hanif believes that in a city with a Muslim population of 769 thousand people, her community’s specific concerns and goals for New York are essential to the greater discussion; however, as a Muslim raised in post-9/11 Brooklyn, she recognizes that Muslim voices in power are so scarcely heard.

She will be “connecting with leaders across the city and making sure that the Muslim voice is present in City Hall, alongside the needs of South Asians”. 

As a woman, specifically, Hanif recognizes the difficulties of obtaining such an important leadership position due to misogyny from both outsiders and insiders of her communities, leading her to doubt herself at times.

People close to her from her district encouraging her to run for the open council seat inspired her to “see what others see in [her]”. Hanif wants to use her unique position as a woman in power to continue to “lift up [New York’s] youth-led arts and cultural institutions.”

On top of that, she wants to improve support for women facing domestic violence, two areas she has already begun to work on in the past as a part of New York’s participatory budgeting team.

On behalf of the Muslim Girl team, congratulations, Shahana, and we can’t wait to see some Muslim girl representation in New York with all of your future accomplishments in the City Council!

Mariam Khamaj is a high school senior from Boston, Massachusetts who is particularly passionate about social justice advocacy and the role of the Muslim women community in it.