When it comes to women of character, courage and commitment, the first thought that comes to my mind is, “that’s the definition of practically every American Muslim woman I know.” Islam being a religion of peace consumes the character of these women. Attributes such as honesty, humility, a drive to seek education, helping others, and integrity in all aspects of life are just a few of the many traits that define Muslim women who follow the teachings of Islam.
This unique set of women is not afraid to stand out or stand apart. This era of Muslim extremism and its inseparable Islamophobia, only strengthens a cause to help society understand the true Islam. American Muslim women of today are not afraid of their hijabs (head coverings) or outer garments and they surely are not afraid to tell you that they do so in strict obedience to God’s commandments as laid out in the Holy Qur’an. Take a look around you — shopping malls, restaurants, the metro, buses, cars, universities, business complexes — you will see them all around you. They are the teachers at the child’s school, the doctor or nurse at your local hospital, the teller at the bank, the pharmacists, the sales representative, or the engineer. And they are not afraid to stand out and excel to be the best that they can be and to be contributing citizens of this society. The courage to be different, especially when the majority of people will profile, stereotype and succumb to prejudice in a blink of eye, is not something to be taken lately. These women are proud of their faith and wear it as their identity. The Holy Qur’an gives guidance on the various roles of Muslim women as daughter, wife and mother. It also gives them spiritual, educational, economic and social rights. It is this belief that drives these women to be the best that they can.
Being born and raised in the USA, I have never seen myself to be different than everyone else. I was an athlete in high school playing sports while wearing the hijab. Being a Muslim woman did not hinder me from graduating in the top of my class or going to a college on full scholarship where I received a bachelor’s degree with a double major which I completed in three years. I went on to get my master’s degree and graduated at the top of my class. I have been working as security engineer consulting for the federal government for the last 8 years.
But if you were see to me on the street, what would my head covering say to you? What would the blocks on my calendar for prayer times say? Would you judge me to be ill-mannered if I didn’t shake a male boss’ hand? Or what if I told you that I had an arranged marriage and am madly in love with my wonderful husband? Would these differences speak volumes to the fact that it’s my faith that has set me free and enabled me to excel? To some, my declarations are a whole different perspective — but we are really not that different. In this life I expect good from others and do good; where I harness my equality, liberty, and courage into my every action. Where I am fully aware of my purpose in life and work every day to make a difference in this world. That it is my commitment to my faith and community that is my eternal drive to be the best daughter, older sister, wife, mother, friend and devoted Muslim.
Maliha Amjad Ahmad