Around the world, the hijab has been the subject of harsh criticism and controversy. We cannot possibly remain ignorant to the plight of those against whom the hijab is being used as a tool of oppression. However, for many women and young girls the hijab is a choice, and they cannot be excluded from our modern progressive narrative either.
Fundamentally, clothing is a form of self-expression. For many, the hijab is a representation of their freedom and agency. Adorning the scarf makes them feel they are being true to themselves and the ideals they aspire to reflect. When wider society embraces this form of self-expression, these women feel included and respected, in the sense that their comfort in expressing themselves is being acknowledged. Everyone deserves to feel that inclusion and respect.
As we celebrate World Hijab Day, let us appreciate few of the many women who have persevered against their personal struggles to pursue their dreams. Indeed, we have a lot to learn from them. They are showing us everyday that our passions can coexist with our faith, without contradiction. They are pushing boundaries, fighting for their space and are commendable in their fields.
In activism and politics
made history when she was elected as the first Muslim US State representative. She is an experienced Twin Cities (Minneapolis) policy analyst, legislator, public speaker and advocate.
was one of the few young women who were at the helm of organising the Women’s March, and she has long been a voice for Muslim Americans in New York. As a Palestinian-American civil rights activist, she has helped partly dismantle the NYPD’s spying program on Muslims and helped close schools for Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
is a Somali politician, who was the first woman to run for President in the November 2016 election. Previously a refugee and asylum seeker, she persevered in the face of adversity. She is now an expert in public health and an award-winning activist. Her courage and determination has inspired the masses.
Nobel Peace Laureate, Tawakkol Karman
is a human rights activist, politician and journalist. She was the first Yemeni, first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. She was awarded as such in recognition for her work for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work in Yemen.
made headlines when she competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and won bronze as a sabre fencer. When she embraced what made her stand out, she became an inspiration to countless girls who had previously never seen themselves represented on this scale.
challenged stereotypes when she won gold at the Taekwondo World Championships in Lima, Peru. Dagli, from Istanbul, Turkey was only 20 years old at the time, and her huge accomplishment was overshadowed by her clothing choices. Her fighting spirit is beautiful, and we can only hope she continues to inspire as she fights the ‘stay at home’ message common to Muslim women.
Dr Jamillah Karim
is an award-winning author and lecturer. She holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from Duke University. She was an associate professor at Spelman College, where she taught courses on the study of Islam for six years.
In fashion and media
Perhaps this is the most exponentially flourishing area for Muslim women, where they are rapidly emerging as influencers.
Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor,
a Malaysian actress, television presenter, commercial model and entrepreneur made it to “Forbes 30 under 30”, last year. She is the founder and director of NH Prima International Sdn Bhd, and is involved in several businesses.
is a fashion blogger who runs her own boutique - The Basma K collection - selling mainly scarves and floral prints. Noor Tagouri, NuriAfia and Halima Aden make it a point as models to represent Muslim women in the fashion industry. Moreover, we have stylish fashionistas such as Saufeeya Goodson, Habiba da Silva, Manal Jalil, Imane Asry and many more. They are conquering the blogosphere and pioneering as content creators, influencers and designers.
Of course, this article doesn’t do justice to the expansive, growing number of Muslim women who are thriving and striving for success. There are so many amazing, accomplished women that aren’t mentioned here, but their existence and aspirations are both admirable and inspiring.