Every March 8, we acknowledge the ordinary and extraordinary women of the world with International Women’s Day. However, we still aren’t adept as a society at giving all women equal recognition.
In light of that failure, we want to emphasize 30 of the spectacular Muslim women whose attitudes, inventions, and services have improved our world for the better.
1. Randa Abdel-Fattah
Starting off our list is Australian-Palestinian author Randa Abdel-Fattah. This award-winning novelist is best known for her 2005 book, Does My Head Look Big in This? This fictional account of a 16-year-old Muslim girl who decides to wear a hijab full-time has since been adapted into a play and continues to teach the struggles of Islamic girls.
2. Aziza Abdel-Halim AM
Aziza Abdel-Halim AM is an Egyptian-born activist for women and Islam. She holds several titles related to her work for women’s rights, including Chairperson of the Women Movement South-East Asia and the Pacific and Vice President of the Regional Islamic Dawah Council of South-East Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP). She also founded, and serves as the President of, the Muslim Women’s National Network Australia (MWNNA).
3. Dr Rim al Turkmani
Dr Rim al Turkmani is a world-renowned Syrian astrophysicist. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Damascus, but her greatest claim to fame came from her tenure at Imperial College London. Her most famous publication in the field of astrophysics is The Arabic Roots of Modern Astronomy.
4. Dr. Anne Azza Aly
The first publicly elected official on our list is Australian House of Representatives member Dr. Anne Azza Aly. Dr. Aly is an avid supporter of human rights worldwide and uses her government position to speak on this support as often as possible. The most recent example is her 8 December 2020 speech advocating against the use of nuclear weapons.
5. Urooj Arshad
Too often, non-Muslims assume that the Islamic religion entirely refutes the existence of LGBTQ+ individuals. Urooj Arshad stands to refute that. This Senior Program Manager of the Dignity for All LGBTI Assistance Program and vocal lesbian openly advocates for the inclusion and representation of queer Muslims around the world.
6. Dr Susan Carland
Dr Susan Carland is another avid advocate for women’s and Muslims’ rights in academia. She is most famous for her repeated public encouragement to ask Muslim women about the experience of Muslim women instead of making false assumptions. At present, she serves as a lecturer for Monash University’s National Centre for Australian Studies.
7. Kübra Dağlı
Kübra Dağlı is one of the first athletes on our list and one of the youngest members. This 25-year-old Turkish Taekwando champion made headlines in 2016 when she won the gold medal in the 10th World Poomsae Championships. Nowadays, she’s more famous as the face of Redbull energy drinks.
8. Sabrina Houssami
Sabrina Houssami, aka Miss World Australia 2006, is proof of the beauty and diversity of Muslim women. This psychology and English scholar nearly earned the title of Miss World. Since then, she has put her skills and studies to use as an entrepreneur.
9. Nadiya Hussain
If you’re a fan of baking or British television, you’ve no doubt heard of Number 9 on our list. Winner of Series 6 of The Great British Bake Off, Nadiya Hussain stole hearts and minds worldwide with her lovely cakes and even lovelier personality. She has gone on to host a variety BBC specials and has authored several cookbooks.
10. Mariah Idrissi
Sabrina Houssami isn’t the only Islamic beauty on our list. Mariah Idrissi, a self-proclaimed Disney princess, made a name for herself as the first hijabi model for clothing retailer H&M in 2015. This role earned her the title as the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to achieve international fame in the modelling industry.
11. Silma Ihram
Not all Muslims are of Middle-Eastern or Indonesian descent. Silma Ihram, a pioneer for higher education for Muslims in Australia, converted to Islam in 1976 after 22 years as a dedicated Anglican.
Since then, Ihram has been an active voice for racial tolerance in Australia. Most notably, she founded and served as the principal of Noor Al Houda Islamic College in Sydney. She is also a vocal supporter of modern interpretations of the Quran, including the concepts of marriage and halal.
12. Seri Wati Iku
Seri Wati Iku is the President of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Shire Council. She is one of very few women, Islamic or otherwise, to serve on this council since its founding in 1992. Throughout her political career, she has expressed hopes that her position and role will inspire other Muslim women to take on politically active rules in Australia.
13. Blair Imani
American author Blair Imani is a quadruple-threat in the world of activism. She lends her voice not only to the female and Muslim communities but, also, the queer and Black ones.
An avid member of the Black Lives Matter movement, Imani is known for her vocal protests against police violence, systemic racism, and discrimination.
14. Sham Khamis
Muslim women aren’t taking the world by storm in Taekwando alone. They’re also dominating the football scene.
One of the biggest Islamic female football players is Shamiran “Sham” Khanis. This 26-year-old plays for the Australian Association of Football as the goalkeeper for Melbourne Victory. While still new in her career, she already boasts an impressive stats sheet and tops many Melbourne lists of players to watch for.
15. Stephanie Kurlow
Sports that fall on the more traditionally feminine end of the spectrum also have some great Muslim role-models. Stephanie Kurlow, a Russo-Australian ballerina, is one such example.
Kurlow has been dancing since she was 2-years-old. Her talent and dedication to the art of ballet prove this longevity.
She hasn’t sacrificed her faith for the stage, though. If you’ve heard of Kurlow before now, odds are that it’s because of her fame as the world’s first hijab-wearing ballerina.
16. Carmen Marton
Kübra Dağlı is in good company among Islamic female Taekwando experts. Carmen Marton, Australia’s first-ever Taekwando world champion, stands firmly by her side.
Marton, her husband, and her entire family are Taekwando enthusiasts, and she continues to use her skills as a stunt artist. They are also proud activists for gender equality among athletes.
17. Fahma Mohamed
Fahma Mohamed, the second Briton on our list, is a vocal activist for women’s rights worldwide. Although born in the Netherlands, Mohamed now lives in Bristol, where she acts as a leader in the movement against female genital mutilation. Her campaigns have resulted in a number of improvements to the English and Welsh governments, including better education for social care workers on how to report and address cases of genital mutilation.
18. Ibtihaj Muhammad
Fighting with swords is not a lost art. Just ask Ibtihaj Muhammad.
This American Muslim made a name for herself when she joined the American sabre fencing team in the 2016 Olympics. She is the first woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics, a pivotal moment for women in Islam and Muslims worldwide. She also wore her hijab when she received her Olympic medal.
19. Ilhan Omar
Since the 11 September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, the United States of America has largely supported Islamaphobia by conflating Islamic terrorists with all Muslims. Ilhan Omar, Democratic Representative of Minnesota, is one of the first public figures to show positive movement away from that false equivalency. This Somalian refugee is an inspiration for women and Muslims alike in American politics and uses every opportunity given her to speak out against injustice and discrimination.
20. Hafsa Qureshi
One of the most difficult challenges for members of the LGBTQ+ community is maintaining one’s faith. Historically conservative religions and spiritual practices tend to see the worst of this.
Hafsa Qureshi’s goal is to help people overcome such obstacles. Born in Birmingham, England, Qureshi openly advocates for the inclusion of queer people in faith-based communities. She extends special support to people of color who identify as LGBTQ+ and want to reconnect with their faith.
21. Shinta Ratri
Just as not all Muslims are born in the Middle East, not all women are born in female bodies. Shinta Ratri, a Muslim transwoman (aka waria), uses her voice to advocate for the rights of those like her who belong to the Islamic community and identify as transgender. In fact, she founded Pondok Pesantren Waria in Indonesia, the world’s first and only Islamic boarding houses for transgender individuals.
22. Fariha Róisín
The second writer on our list also hails from Australia. Fariha Róisín, an Australian-Canadian novelist, uses her command of the written word to describe the experience of queer, South Asian Muslim women. She also focuses on topics like self-care and mental health.
She released her debut anthology of poems, How to Cure a Ghost, in 2019. Her debut novel, Like a Bird, launched the year after.
23. Captain Mona Shindy
Captain Mona Shindy, head of the Guided Missle Frigate System Program Office of Australia, sets an example for any Muslim girl with dreams of entering the military.
Her role in the country’s defence has resulted in increased capabilities and improved security nationwide. Just as importantly, she also serves as the Strategic Adviser on Islamic Cultural Affairs for the Chief of Navy. In this position, she works to alleviate misunderstandings and prejudices about the Islamic faith and national security concerns.
24. Maha Sukkar
The military isn’t the only defence organization with a prolific Muslim woman on staff. In Victoria, the Australian police can boast of Maha Sukkar.
Sukkar is best known as the first Australian police officer to wear a hijab while on duty. Indeed, she adopted it as part of her official police uniform in 2004. For members of her community, she is better known as a fair and just enforcer of the law.
25. Rashida Tlaib
Ilhan Omar isn’t the only Islamic woman to make history in American politics. In 2019, the same year Minnesota elected Omar, Michigan elected Democratic politician Rashida Tlaib to the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Tlaib is a second-generation Palestinian immigrant who advocates for the American people’s rights for affordable healthcare and racial tolerance.
26. Malala Yousafzai
Perhaps the most famous member of our list, Malala Yousafzai proves that wisdom doesn’t have an age. This 23-year-old Pakistani woman earned worldwide recognition in 2012 when she survived an attempted assassination for the crime of being a female seeking higher education. Since then, she has established the Malala Fund, which invests in education programmes for Muslim girls, and continues to be the youngest Nobel Prize laureate in the world.
27. Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff
Given the overwhelming impact that COVID-19 has had on the world, few people could argue against the importance of immunologists and virologists. One such virologist is Khatijah Mohamad Yusoff.
Although Yusoff doesn’t have any direct connections to the vaccine or cure for COVID-19, her work has led to vast improvements in the medical community. Her research of a deadly poultry virus, the Newcastle Disease, received global acclaim for its impact on farming.
If you don’t recognize the name Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai, you aren’t alone. You probably know this dynamite singer and songwriter by her stage name, Yuna.
Yuna, a Malaysian pop and R&B artist, made a name for herself on MySpace back in 2008. The first songs she uploaded to the primordial social media site gained over 1 million views in a matter of weeks. Nowadays, she is better known for her hit singles “Live Your Life”, “Falling”, and “Crush”.
29. Aheda Zanetti
Anyone who assumes that hijabs are boring or one-note needs to turn their attention to Aheda Zanetti.
This Lebanese-Australian fashion designer specializes in fashions for Hijabi women worldwide. Her first invention, the hijood, gained national attention for its contribution to girls’ sports. She has also launched a Hijabi swimsuit line called the burqini.
30. Haneen Zreika
We round out our list with another star in the world of Australian football. Haneen Zreika, player for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, is the first in a number of categories. She’s the first Muslim player in the AFL Women’s division, nevermind the first Muslim female, and is also the first AFL player of Lebanese descent.
Zreika began her career playing rugby, but she switched sports at the age of 15. She’s been making a name for herself ever since and maintains one of the best records in the division.
Recognizing Muslim Women in Australia and Globaly
To truly promote intersectional feminism worldwide, we need to lend our attention to those women who face the greatest disenfranchisement. Muslim women are frequently at the top of that list. Until this changes, it is our responsibility to support their voices and give them recognition where they have none.
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