But Muslim women don’t just encompass the women you see on the screen, they come from all ethnicities and backgrounds. To break the negative and weak portrayal of Muslim women in Hollywood and grossly embedded in the mind of Americans, Muslim Women’s Day was created to reclaim that narrative.
In 2016, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.com, declared March 27 Muslim Women’s Day. The day not only supports Muslim women but celebrates their accomplishments, which are often excluded or not highlighted in mainstream media. “In the current climate, Muslim women are rarely given the space to be heard above all the noise,” Al-Khatahtbeh wrote in a tweet.
Muslim women are a true force; they not only continue to challenge stereotypes but have been leading communities in efforts not only against Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and misogynist attitudes, but many have been front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Muslim women are diverse, independent, empowered, and most importantly, will not be silenced. Join us as we celebrate Muslim women and their resilience. Here’s a list of some trailblazing Muslim women who have broken the glass ceiling in various fields.
Maryam Mirzakhani is the first Muslim woman to receive a Nobel prize in complex geometry and dynamic systems. Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani moved to America to continue her education at Harvard University—she then furthered her career as a mathematics professor at Stanford University.
According to Sky News, English professional boxer Ruqsana Begum is the only Muslim woman who is a champion in her sport. Not only is she a trailblazer and first in her sport, but she also has a history in martial arts and sells her own hijabs made for sports—Begum told Highsnobiety she began selling them before hijabs for sports became popular by Nike. Begum is also well-known for her mental health advocacy; she has been open about her own journey and obstacles she has faced as a Muslim woman in combat sports.
Ibtihaj Muhammad made history in 2016 as the first American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States. Muhammad, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics, won a bronze medal in the women’s fencing team’s sabre event.
Born in Somalia, Ilhan Omar immigrated to the U.S. as a Somalian refugee when she was 12 years old. With her victory in Minnesota in 2016, she made history as the first Somali-American Muslim woman to be elected to a state legislature. Omar now serves as the U.S. representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district.
Ilhan Omar wasn’t the only Muslim woman to be elected into the House in 2018. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, shared the title with Omar as the first Muslim woman to be sworn into Congress in 2019. Tlaib serves as the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 13th congressional district.
Mauree Nivek Rajah Salima Turner, known as Mauree Turner, made history as not only the first Muslim person elected to Oklahoma state’s legislature but one of the first nonbinary state lawmakers in the country. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Turner is the first openly nonbinary person elected to a state legislature and one of five openly LGBTQ elected officials currently serving in Oklahoma.
Note: This list is not even close to exhaustive—there are so many other Muslim women who should be celebrated, many of whom may not be well-known. Additionally, of course, all women should be celebrated and I welcome you to do so, but until we reach equality for all, days like this are important to highlight minority communities who may not otherwise have days to celebrate their success or have an opportunity to hold the mic.