You’re Cool: Five Amazing Muslim-American Women You Should Know

In light of Donald Trump’s recent campaign against Muslims not only in America, but around the world, we at Be Your Own Muse feel that the time is right to share a different message.

America is founded on cultural and religious tolerance, and the essential rights of every individual. While our collective history reflects struggles to live up to this vision of equality, this is still an ideal which we hold close to our hearts.

We couldn’t help but agree with President Barack Obama’s Sunday night speech, in which he described the irony behind pushing away a significant group of our fellow citizens with suspicion and hate. Although our religious beliefs may vary, religious equality is a right that we’ve fought for and stand behind as a nation. “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country,” Obama said. “We have to remember that.” 

It may be natural to paint religions and cultures with too broad a brush, but that doesn’t make it right. Many have said that terrorism has no religion; well, terrorists may ascribe their actions to a religion, but the faithful and rational among us know that it belongs to none. It belongs to fear and hate. As individuals, it is our job to recognize and honor the humanity of each other with love and respect.

That being said, we’d like to celebrate a few Muslim-American women who are doing amazing things. In doing so, they are bettering not only America, but they are nurturing the wellbeing of humanity and progressing our global society — accomplishments that surpass gender, citizenship, politics, and religion.

1. Tahani Amer

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Born in Cairo, Egypt, Tahani Amer came to the United States at 17 with the intent of pursuing a mathematically-oriented career. Despite not speaking a word of English upon her arrival and being the mother of two children, Amer excelled in her studies and now works for as an aerospace engineer for NASA. As a part of her work with NASA, Amer invented and patented a system to measure the thermal conductivity of a thin film, a measurement that is crucial in thermal modeling techniques for aircrafts.

Amer also strives to help educate and encourage other women interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). She has participated in NASA’s “Day of Caring”, Engineering Week, the Speakers Bureau, Diversity Day, and instructs after-school science clubs at local schools. She has also spoken on the topic of Women in Islam during the Peace week at Old Dominion University in 2011, and was honored as a guest speaker at the Annual Luncheon for the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) to state representatives, university presidents, and new students.

I have always strived to live by three simple principles: Please God and you will please all. Education is the key to opportunity. Serve others with compassion and kindness.

If one thinks about these principles, it is very simple. You have general guidance about values and ethics from God and his books, self-determination by education, and a sense of social responsibility.

2. Tanveer Patel

Tanveer Patel is a flourishing entrepreneur in Birmingham, Alabama. She recently co-founded and serves as CEO for the healthcare tech company ConcertCare, which utilizes integrated technology solutions to bridge the often impersonal and intimidating gap between physician and patients.

She also recently purchased and completely revamped a local Indian grocery store in Birmingham, adding modern flair and technological services to give it a more youthful, trendy feel. The attractiveness and accessibility of the shop has made it universally appealing to local residents, thus spreading knowledge of Indian culture in a community that otherwise lacks diversity.

Her involvement in the community doesn’t stop there — she also serves on the board of numerous non-profit organizations, including the Birmingham Venture Club, Alabama Helping Hands, environmental group Solid Earth, Tech Birmingham, the Birmingham International Center, and the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama, which she founded and which serves over 700 patients without insurance.

You should always do something where you make a difference. Don’t run after money. Solve problems, do the right thing and money will follow you. Think of how you can be game-changing, disruptive and different. Change the way people operate- that’s very cool!

3. Farah Pandith

Farah Pandith was the first ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State. She was appointed in 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In this position, Pandith is responsible for executing a vision for engagement with Muslims around the world based on a people-to-people interactional and organizational level.  In the years since her swearing in, Special Representative Pandith has traveled to more than 80 countries and launched youth-focused initiatives including Generation Change, Viral Peace, the Young Transatlantic Leadership Network, and Hours Against Hate (a campaign that was a partner with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.)  She is also a key architect of the Women in Public Service Project.

In January 2013, she was awarded the Secretary’s Distinguished Honor Award for “exceptionally outstanding service to the agencies of the US Government resulting in achievements of marked national or international significance.”

There are 1.6 billion Muslims on the planet. That is one fourth of the world’s population. What we do today is going to make a difference to what we reap tomorrow. We have to build bridges at a time of non crisis so we have relationships in a time of crisis.

4. Asma Hanif

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Asma Hanif is the Executive Director of Mislimat An-Nisaa, a homeless shelter based in Baltimore, Maryland that caters exclusively to Muslim women and children. Hanif has dedicated more than 28 years to serving marginalized communities.

She established Muslimat An-Nisaa in 1987 to help Muslim women and children access health, education and well-being services that were otherwise unattainable. Soon, she began providing shelter services as well to those who needed it. Today, the shelter provides beds to more than 3,855 women and children a year and even more general services, such as food, clothing, school physical exams and skills training classes to over 5,000 Americans annually.

Twenty years ago, Hanif also started an initiative that she dubs “Chili Bowl Sunday,” which is still active today. She spends half of Super Bowl Sunday in Downtown Baltimore serving hot bowls of chili to the homeless. The initiative also provides cold weather clothing and toiletries to those in need.

I started [Chili Bowl Sunday] as a tradition with my children when they were young as a prelude to them sitting in front of the TV for hours watching football. I insisted that they at least go out into the community and do some kind act to benefit the less fortunate. They had to shop for the ingredients, cook the chili, serve (not feed) their homeless guests on the streets and eat alongside them.

5. Nimat Hafez Barazangi

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Nimat Hafez Barazangi is a Syrian-American scholar, educator, and Muslim women’s rights advocate. She is the author of the radical feminist book, Woman’s Identity and the Qar’an: A New Readingwhich was published in 2004. The book addresses and attacks the established notion that Muslim women are intended to be complementary or secondary in the structure of Muslim societies.

By reinterpreting the Qar’an, the primary source of Islam, Barazangi gives Muslim women the opportunity for self-learning that could prepare them for an active role in citizenship and policy making and may serve as a guideline for moving toward a “gender revolution.” Her main thesis, if carried out in the lives of Muslims in America or elsewhere, would be so radical and liberating that her discourse is more powerful than those of many Muslim feminists.

I intend this book to affirm the self-identity of the Muslim woman as an autonomous spiritual and intellectual human being…I want to bolster the present Muslim woman’s moral courage to stand up for her rights and effect change.

+DO YOU KNOW ANY MARGINALIZED WOMEN DOING INCREDIBLE THINGS? SHARE THEM WITH US IN THE COMMENTS!

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