ING Celebrates Women’s History Month Week 4: Contemporary American Muslim Women

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In this final week of ING’s celebration of Women’s History Month we will look at contemporary American Muslim women who founded or lead non-profit organizations, excelled in academics, are authors or publishers, or excelled in sports.  This list is merely a sampling of the many accomplished American Muslim women in multiple fields which time and space does not permit us to include in this note.

All entries are in alphabetical order by last name within each section.

Female Founders of National Muslim Organizations or Magazines.   

Dr. Azizah Y. al-Hibri, is the Founder and Chairwoman of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. She founded the organization in 1993 to support the rights of Muslim women worldwide through educational programs, jurisprudential scholarship, and a network of Muslim jurists and leaders. Dr. al-Hibri is also the first Muslim woman law professor in the United States, teaching law at the University of Richmond. She has written extensively on women’s issues, democracy, and human rights from an Islamic perspective in a variety of publications, including the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the Harvard International Review, and Fordham International Law Journal. Dr. al-Hibri was appointed to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in June 2011 by President Barack Obama. Dr. al-Hibri earned a B.A from the American University of Beirut and a Ph.D. in philosophy as well as her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Maha Elgenaidi is the founder, President & Executive Director of Islamic Networks Group, a non-profit with Affiliates around the nation which provide education about Muslims and their faith, as well as opportunities for interfaith engagement.  Named by the San Jose Business Journal as one of Silicon Valley’s 2010 Women of Influence, Maha is a former commissioner on the state Commission for One California as well as the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission and recipient of several civil rights awards.

Sheila Musaji is the founder of “The American Muslim” which began as a quarterly journal, but is now an online publication that lists hundreds of articles and entries about Islam and Muslims, including a comprehensive bibliography of Muslim condemnations of terrorism. She was also the first Muslim speaker at Amherst College’s Baccalaureate service. Musaji has also written many articles and worked on interfaith projects with Parabola and other journals.

Tayyibah Taylor is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Azizah magazine, which provides a popular voice for Muslim women. Before becoming a magazine publisher, she was administrator for a Seattle Islamic school for 20 years. She has travelled extensively, lecturing on Islam and women. 

Female Muslim Directors & Presidents of Non-Profits

Shakila Ahmad is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Cincinnati, Tours and Talks Programs and Resources.

Shaista Azad is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Southern California, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Southern California

Zahra Billoo is the Executive Director of the CAIR San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

Karen Dabdoub is the Executive Director of the CAIR Cincinnati chapter.

Tabassum Haleem is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Chicago, Organization of Islamic Speakers Midwest.

Sarwat Husain is the founding president of the CAIR San Antonio chapter.

Azra Hussain is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Arizona, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona.

Suzanne Kasim and Christina Khan are the Co-Directors of the ING Affiliate in Colorado, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Colorado.

Maysa Kergaye is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Utah, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Utah.

Soumaya Khalifa is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Atlanta, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.

Farhana Khera is the first Executive Director of Muslim Advocates and the Na
tional Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML). Prior to that, she served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution.

Tehseen Lazzouni is the Director of the ING Affiliate in San Diego, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of San Diego.

Maisha Liwaru is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Nebraska, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Nebraska.

Mary Loutfi is the Director of the ING Affiliate in Florida, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Ocala, Florida.

Asma Lori Saroya is the co-founder and chairwoman of the CAIR Minnesota chapter.

Julia Shearson is the Executive Director of the CAIR Cleveland Chapter

Zehra Wamiq and Amrin Quraishi are the Co-Directors of the ING Affiliate in Pennsylvania, the Delaware Valley Speakers Bureau.

Influential Female Muslim Academics

Zainab Alwani is an Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at the Howard University School of Divinity. She was the Program Director and an Adjunct Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Northern Virginia Community College as well as Adjunct Professor of Arabic Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is a researcher, social and community activist, and the first female jurist to serve on the board of the Fiqh council of North America. She also serves on the board of KARAMA. Dr. Alwani has authored and co-authored a number of scholarly articles and chapter books such as Change from Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities; What Islam Says about Domestic Violence; and Perspectives: Arabic Language and Culture in Films. She received her Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences from the International Islamic University in Malaysia.

Sahar Aziz is principal of the Law Office of Sahar Aziz and an Associate Professor of Law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law where she teaches national security, civil rights, and race and the law. She also serves on the board of directors of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association. She served as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She has published numerous online commentaries on, the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post,, the Atlantic Council, Foreign Policy, the American Constitution Society, and has been featured on C-SPAN and Al-Arabiya.

Mohja Kahf is an Associate Professor of comparative literature and a faculty member of the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Aminah McCloud is professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University and Director of the Islamic World Studies Program. She is the author of African American Islam, Questions of Faith, Transnational Muslims in American Society and Silks: The Textures of American Muslim Women’s Lives. She is currently working on Owning Islam: African American Islam in 21st Century and author of over twenty articles on topics ranging from Islamic Law to Muslim women. She is also a Fulbright Scholar, consultant on Muslim affairs for the courts, and current editor of The Journal of Islamic Law and Culture. She is founder of the Islam in America Conference at DePaul University which houses the Journal of Islamic Law and Culture and the “Islam in America Archives.”

Asifa Quraishi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School where she teaches courses in Islamic and U.S. Constitutional law.  She is on the board of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers (NAML), Muslim Advocates, the Journal of Law and Religion, and the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Islamic Law.  She is an affiliate of the Muslim Women’s League, past President and Board Member of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, a Fellow with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and a member of the “Opinion Leaders Network” for the British Council’s “Our Shared Future” project. She has published a number of articles and has served as law clerk in the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School and law degrees from Columbia Law School and the University of California at Davis, and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Intisar Rabb teaches constitutional and criminal law and comparative and Islamic law at Boston College Law School. She is also a research affiliate at the Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program and a 2010 Carnegie Scholar for her research on “Islamic Law and Legal Change: The Internal Critique” which examines criminal law reform in the Muslim world.  She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Yale Law Association and the Princeton Graduate School Leadership Council. She holds a B.S. from Georgetown, and M.A., Ph.D from Princeton an
d a J.D. from Yale.

Amina Wadud is currently a visiting professor at Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley. She specializes in Islam, gender and Qur’anic studies. She has taught previously at Virginia Commonwealth University and the International Islamic University in Malaysia. She is the author of “Inside the Gender Jihad: Reform in Islam”; “Introduction to Islam: A Reader;” and “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective.” She has a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. and Ph.D from University of Michigan.

Influential Female Muslim Authors

Sumbul Ali-Karamali is the author of the popular book The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing. She holds a B.A. from Stanford University, a J.D from the University of California at Davis, and a graduate degree in Islamic law from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She has served as a teaching assistant in Islamic Law at SOAS and a research associate at the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law in London.

Naheed Husnat is author of Shooting Kabul, a children’s fiction based in part on her husband’s experience growing up in Afghanistan. The book has received much recognition including the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award for the best Young Adult for 2010, by the American Library Association. It was also NPR’s book pick for February and the author was interviewed on the show.

G. Willow Wilson is a journalist and author of the graphic novel Cairo, her memoir the Butterfly Mosque, and the comic book series, Air. She also has contributed articles to the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine and the Canada National Post. Willow is currently writing Mystic, a four-issue miniseries for Marvel Comics and her first novel Alif the Unseen is being published in July by Grove Press.

Prominent Female Muslim Athletes

Kulsoom Abdullah is a 35 years old Pakistani-American with a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in Electrical Engineering. She is also one of the few or perhaps the only Muslim  woman in hijab aspiring to compete in Olympics-class weightlifting. She started lifting weights in 2008 and began participating in local competitions in early 2010. At her request the International Weightlifting Federation agreed to allow weightlifters to cover their heads, necks, arms and legs during competitions.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is the first high school basketball player of Massachusetts to score more than 3,000 points in basketball while wearing hijab. She continued playing basketball at the University of Memphis.

Ibtihaj Muhammad is an American sabre fencer and member of the United States fencing team. She is the first Muslim woman to compete for the United States in international competition and if she qualifies for the U.S. Olympic team, will make history, not because of her race or her religion, but because she wears hijab.

Notable Former Female Muslim Presidents of National Organizations Elected to Office

Dr. Ingrid Mattson is professor of Islamic Studies and director of Islamic Chaplaincy at the Macdonald Center for Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT. She served for two terms as the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), one of the largest Muslim organizations in North America.  She served for two terms and before that as vice-president, elected in 2001.

Hadia Mubarak was the first female president of the national Muslim Students Association (MSA).  She is a doctoral student at Georgetown University’s Islamic Studies department and received her Master’s Degree in Contemporary Arab Studies.  Asma Mirza is the second woman to serve as MSA president.

In Memoriam

Aminah Asslimi (1945 – 2010) was the director of the International Union of Muslim Women and a sought after speaker. She was named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre. She was also involved in the release of the 2001 Eid stamp. She died on March 5, 2010 in a car accident while returning from a speaking engagement.

Sharifa AlKhateeb (1946 – 2004) was founder and vice-president of the North American Council for Muslim Women from 1992 to 2004. She was also president of the Muslim Education Council, an organization that educated school educators and administrators about Islam and Muslim culture from 1989 to 2004. In 1995 she served as Chair of the Muslim Caucus at the Fourth World Conference on Women convened by the United Nations in Beijing, China. She was also founder and Director of the Peaceful Families Project, a nationwide family dynamics and violence awareness program within the Muslim community, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

ING offers a presentation entitled Muslim Women in the U.S. and Around the World that is suitable for high schools, universities and colleges, and community organizations. The presentation examines some of the common stereotypes about Muslim women before discussing Qur’anic teachings that emphasize the equality and dignity of women. The presentation also features surprising data from recent polls and describes notable Muslim women in history and today. To schedule a presentation about Muslim women, please contact [email protected] or request the presentation online.

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