WISE Leadership Launches the National Muslim Women's Summit at Harvard University

What it looks like to bring 50 young Muslim women from across the US to Harvard University for political organizing training. 

On the spaces we create for ourselves:

There are spaces said to be for us, with seats that were never meant to be ours. There are spaces we still have to claim. Muslim women are talked, spoken, written, filmed about without being part of the conversation. Faced with patriarchy with a twist of each of our particular cultures and Islamophobia, we are caught in the middle of a battle we did not ask for. Islamophobia is an extension of not only misogyny and the desire to control the Muslim woman's agency in all aspects of life with "liberation" but racism against brown and black people. Navigating in this world as a Muslim woman requires a means of balance and self-care, but it goes well beyond endurance, strength and composure. To be a Muslim woman is to find your sisters at the forefront for the liberation of everybody.

As I attended the Inaugural National Muslim Women's Summit at Harvard University, I saw power in a room full of leaders. Beyond the work everybody did to better their communities, there was a public narrative of a personal desire to make this country and world better than the way we found it. As we discussed the motivation each held inside her, faith was at the forefront. Each one of us was connected by a belief we all exercised personally and differently. The statement "Muslim women are not a monolith" was apparent and alive in that space. We were not all one image and our ways to make our communities better came with different focuses as well. For the first time there was a space which emulated the diversity of Muslim women and empowered us at once. With a political climate infused with Islamophobic rhetoric and fear mongering, 2016 was difficult. To see somebody who bragged about sexual assault in the most powerful office in the world was shocking. Violence against women continues to be normalized and at the height of the election, violence against Muslim women was headlines with a rise in hate crimes only 24 hours after the President-Elect was announced. Many would say it would have been easier to blend in, and go about the lives we live generally as Muslims in America avoiding politics. But that's a privilege, very little of us should stand to accept. For many in our communities to make such a decision is the best one for their circumstances. However, for many, such as myself the reality stares at me that I cannot shed the features of my tan skin and dark eyebrows. My hijab was not going to be negotiable. I could not stand idly by as thousands of people were doing the work, organizing, and after times of self care, and not find my space.

Through WISE and self-defense one can feel the vital necessity to gain skills not only “just in case” but “because.” Because it is an occurrence, and using our bodies for defense is another means of claiming our agency over what is ours.  Dalia Mohaged, Director of Research the the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding spoke about Muslim women post-election, "stepping up to the plate." That stepping up to a plate was the work of Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment Rana Abdelhamid, Bushra Hamid, Zainab Kahloon and Dean Hattout. That stepping up to the plate was bringing over 50 leaders in their communities to learn how to be better leaders and connect. Stepping up to the plate was Darashkan Raja reminding us that we can do work for a niche group and act as support for the work of others. The reminder of humility and checking one’s self because our communities are the backbones of support and the reasons we week justice.

As I flew back to New Orleans from a weekend of a space that I have never been in before, reflecting was hard. Through my mind there was the reminder of how much women who looked like me, who were darker, who shared my faith since the times of colonialism, in the era of orientalism have endured. Being in a room with a diverse group who I felt connected to made me thankful for all the women who came before us. And then I remembered the feeling of the election of Ilhan Omar in the Minnesota State House, the images of the shifting dynamic of our politics in the United States, and how she, as was sworn in with a Quran in traditional clothes. Defying the political climate with the support of community, her political aspirations become a reality, and she did not ask for a seat at the table, she took a stand. The National Muslim Women’s Summit was a stand that was taken, one that seeks to inspire, connect, and a sisterhood was created.

Recently my little sister gave me a sticker to add to my laptop, and right in the middle, in white leaders it reads “I am my ancestors wildest dreams.” Created by New Orleans artist and curator Brandom Odums, this statement describes the summit, the sisterhood, and WISE mission of empowerment not only through one’s body, professional development, mentorship but mind and soul. We took a collective stand, we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams, and Blair Imani reminded us on the first night, that Muslim women empowered, together, yet individual and confident, is somebody, a bigot, a politician, etc’s biggest nightmare. As we stand with one another, for one another, an image comes to mind of the duty to recreate such spaces in our own lives, because not doing so, is an injustice, and injustice is not something, in my faith, we stand for.

 

 

 

WISE Meets with NYC Mayor's Office to Discuss Gender Based Violence

Like many other Americans who cried themselves to sleep on Wednesday night, wondering if this was the work of Satan, I too closed my eyes shut, hoping for a miracle. I hadn’t studied for my chemistry or Arabic exams. I was just too upset, and wished I didn't have to go to college tomorrow. The pain, the fear, it all felt too real. It was a feeling I’ve never experienced before, so much so that I called to God for help. Let’s just say I’m not the most devout Muslim, but I try very hard to be the “ideal” Muslim. Ever since I witnessed the results of the 2016 presidential election on CNN at 3 a.m., I actually prayed without giving myself some sort of materialistic motivation. There was some sort of force pulling me towards that prayer mat.

 

    It was Wednesday, 8:32 a.m. I opened my eyes only to realize that Trump is still the president elect, and I fell back into my mind’s infinite hole of despair. My test was at 9:15 a.m. ‘Can I just skip it? No, that’s not an option. I’m already failing chemistry. I can’t risk really failing’, I thought as I slowly flung the corner of the blanket to the other side of the bed. I got changed, didn’t eat breakfast, took my bag and stuffed it with my calculator, a pen, and an almost empty water bottle. I had to go out into the world and do it again, like the day before. The potential for contemptuous stares and unusually quiet bus rides, this was what the world had become, or at least my world.

 

    I handed my test paper to the proctor and speed walked out of the lecture hall. Some alone time for reflection, that would’ve been nice. I was imagining myself rolled up in my bed, being miserable, all alone, while watching reruns of “The Office”. Watching Michael Scott and his crazy shenanigans always cheered me up. But this was a much bigger problem, and no amount of The Office could fix this.

 

    Fast forward to 1:45 p.m. My Arabic 101 class starts at 2:15 p.m., so I had time to skim through the pages and “study”. As I passed the corner, I saw my classmates sitting outside the room. And I said, in the most depressing way possible, “Hey guys. Guess what? Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America”. From there, we started talking about all the things wrong with that man and all the people we despise for choosing him. Many of us said that most people voted for him because they think he will bring jobs, prosperity for the US, but most importantly, he will bring change. Didn’t matter if it was good or bad change. It would be change nonetheless. However, one thing that stumbled into my mind was how could people ignore the consequences of their choice regarding the potential ill treatment of minorities? How could people be so selfish? But this was a complicated question to answer. Maybe, they weren’t thinking of us. Some of them don’t know what it’s like on the other side, the side that minorities are all too familiar with. The stares, the whispers, the “random” searches, etc. That discussion made me feel even more vulnerable and alarmed at our country's true face. What progress do we pride ourselves over? We haven't made any progress! People continue to wake up with the 1960’s mindset; they still think we belong in the back of the bus and we don’t belong in this country, even though many of us have been born here. This is the only place we can call home! We all got so passionate about the conversation that we forgot to look over the material for the test, but luckily, my teacher was considerate enough to make it an open book test.

 

Immediately after the class was dismissed, I ran to my research lab office, and prayed Asr in the empty room. When I finished, I collected all my things and made my way to the bus. Today, I had a meeting in the Mayor’s office with his Gender Equity and Community Affairs Committee. I got off the E train at World Trade Center, and started walking down Park Ave. I couldn’t wait to get into that meeting. Two days ago, I would’ve been very nervous to talk about WISE, but I don’t think I have ever felt more confident talking about an organization that offers so much to the Muslim youth- a safe space, ways to protect yourself and those around you, and a transformative experience along with new people who will inevitably become some of your closest friends.

 

I opened the door, and saw a metal detector, and two male guards, with big smiles on their faces. The black male guard probably sensed the tension on my face and said, “Oh, you're the first one here. Are you here for me?” I laughed and I had a sense this was going to be an interesting evening. After, I collected my things from the belt, and walked passed the metal detectors, I found the elevator, which someone held for me. I suppose when all you’ve seen on Facebook and the news are acts of terror, you seem to notice the small, kind gestures more, and appreciate them.

 

The conference room was empty and I had some time before the meeting started at 6 p.m. It was time to pray Maghrib. I asked Farah, the intern working in the office if there was a place. She led me to a cozy, little room with a prayer mat laid on the floor, which might have been a spacious broom closet. When I finished, I went back into the conference room. One by one, women from different organizations located in NYC started coming in. We went around the table talking about our organization and what it does to serve the Muslim community. For the first time in the past two days, I had a genuine smile on my face, as I looked at the room filled with strong, independant women from almost every ethnic background from Afghan to Latina to South Asian to North African. The things we talked about, the things I could relate to, it filled this void in my heart. Tonight we acknowledged all the problems we have in our communities like domestic violence, unwelcoming mosques, and the importance of empowering Muslim women. These are very real issues and they happen to women every single day. We had meaningful open discussions and proposed possible solutions. Time flew by and before I knew it, it had been more than 2 hours. I collected a few of their business cards. I knew I wanted to collaborate with them on some WISE events. Tazmin, a friend that I made, and I headed out.

 

We got there just in time. An E train was waiting for us. We found a car and hopped in. As we were about to sit down, from a distance we saw a post-it note. Naturally, we went closer, and it read, “Be kind Be brave.” I’m not really a person who believes in signs, but this little piece of paper gave me so much hope. As much as there are hateful people, there are also kind, open-minded people who are ready to help. They too, do not stand for injustice.

 

Overall, this election was terrifying. However, if there is one thing that I am grateful about that was the result of Trump, it would be the unity that he brought to not just the Muslim community, but every community.


WISE Self Defense Instructor's Casting for Adidas Commercial

Two weeks ago, through WISE I received a fantastic opportunity to audition for a commercial for Adidas- they needed a female Hijabi kickboxer. Now when I looked over the casting requirements, I didn't think much of it and put it behind my back. A few days later, I shared this audition opportunity with my mother, brother, and a mentor of who fervently pushed me to try it out. With my mother's motivational words and brother's directing skills, I sent Adidas a video and picture of my skill set. I got an audition with the casting crew. I was able to demonstrate my skills as a martial artist and share what motivates me to keep doing it. A few days after the audition, I received an e-mail inviting me in for a callback- this would decide if I would shoot in the commercial or not. At the callback, there was only one other lady auditioning with me. We had to demonstrate our movements, but this time we would also be observed by a pro kick boxer. At that point, they had to choose between the other participant and myself. In the meantime, I waited calmly outside the gym and hoping that Allah would only give me what's best for me. The other lady was chosen to continue into the next round. Before even auditioning today, I had already decided that not being picked was a blessing and I wished my peer the best of luck. Pursue what you want and be confident when doing it. #byebyetomycomfortzone

A Call to Action: Organizing Lessons for Allies and Marginalized People

Trigger warning: This article contains information that can be triggering, related to gender based and hate based violence.

“I’m so tired of fighting, so tired of this hate,” my friend Hend panicked. “I’m taking off my hijab.”

Hend was frantic after her best friend Anita had just experienced a hate crime. Anita’s hijab was torn from her head and her face was colored with cuts and bruises, demarcating her failed attempt to fight off her assailant. As she recounted these details, I thought about my own assault. I thought about the dozens of harassment and bullying stories I’ve heard from young Muslim women. I thought about the Muslims in my community in Queens who have been killed these past couple of months: Nazma, Imam Maulama, Thara and Al-Hinai.

Since the beginning of this election cycle, I have spoken to dozens of young Muslim women who are literally terrified to leave their homes. We are not afraid of the president-elect. We are afraid of what he has uncovered: a violently polarized nation, where scapegoating and misplaced grievances have become the norm. We are afraid our society won’t do anything about the hostility in this country that has contributed to so much violence against minority communities like mine. We are afraid of business as usual.

But if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s to fight back. 

-After I experienced a hate crime at 16 in New York City, I organized because I needed a safe space. For the past six years, WISE has trained upwards of a thousand Muslim women in self-defense, storytelling and social entrepreneurship. We’ve created profoundly beautiful safe spaces, where Muslim women have put aside violent rhetoric and engaged difficult issues. We’ve empowered ourselves to fight against hate and to serve our country.

We have learned so many lessons from our work. As a Trump presidency looms and affects more than just my community, we realize the value of sharing these lessons for all of us--both allies and marginalized people.

Sometimes it feels overwhelming in the face of huge systemic issues. But we can do this. What we can’t do, is go back to doing what we were doing before. When they go low, we go high. And we are always stronger together. Below, I’ve provided lessons for allies and marginalized people. I hope this will be start to creating the change our country needs to see.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MARGINALIZED PEOPLE Do you.

-Take care of yourself and of your community. Pray, listen to music, meditate, go on a run. If you’re a hijabi woman and need to take off your hijab, girl don’t care about what anyone else will say. If you’re white/straight passing and don’t want to out yourself. Do you. This is about you feeling physically secure. You need to do what helps your mental health. You can’t be there for someone else when you’re not taking care of yourself first.

Know your rights. Read this on knowing your rights: https://www.cair.com/images/pdf/Know-Your-Rights-Guide.pdf. 

 

Take care of the children . The most profoundly impacted by what’s happening right now are the youngest. Hate and intolerance are unacceptable---always. As people feel emblazoned to leave political correctness behind, we need to teach our kids how to deal with hostility and maintain a culture of respect and integrity. We also need to protect them for the bullying and harassment that they are dealing with.

 

Solidarity from within. On the other hand, if you can and want to and are not as targeted as other folks in the group (for example Muslim men aren’t as visible as Muslim women), feel free to be more open about who you are. This can help a lot. Muslim man? Rock that Kufi and Salwar Kameez. White passing latinx? Be more open about your heritage. Only if you want and feel safe to do this, of course.

 

Love how fly we all are. Create spaces where you can appreciate the very parts of you that are being under attack. Trump hates that you’re gay? Throw the biggest baddest reading circle and read about the LGBTQ movement in the US. Trump wants to register all Muslims? Make it easy and get all your Muslim friends together for a sufi poetry night and some chai. Our histories and cultures are so rich, finding strength from them can be really empowering on both personal and community levels.

 

Take a self defense class. Take a self defense class. Take a self defense class. I get it. why should you have to do the extra work? But it is violent out there and you need to know how to de-escalate a situation when you’re confronted with violence. Email us at info@wise-woman.org to set up a class near you.

 

Organize. Trump was elected. This is the reality. No change.org petition is going to get him impeached. What can help is if folks organize to make sure that his rhetoric doesn’t become policy. What can help is if folks organize to protect the most vulnerable against the rising levels of hate based violence. Create spaces where your communities can come together and support each other. Create spaces where you can strategize and make plans for research, outreach and policy advocacy. We still live in a democracy. You can have impact if you strategize effectively.

 

Write your own story. Write about how you’re feeling and center your experiences because it is really important right now. Can we get everyone else to stop talking on our behalf? Please.


 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ALLIES

Protect the undocumented:

-Figure out how to take action to protect undocumented students at your institutions. Here is an example from Harvard U: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSemp4Jd77TAlkWzvcc_dxZSm9sfiEm3lUM2KMqC1IBlyGgx1w/viewform?c=0&w=1&fbzx=4823794723253576000

 

Support Healing:

-Organize a healing space and bring the community together for dialogue and/or conversation.

Be loud and in solidarity:

-Wear a safety pin to show that you’re in solidarity. Pull out all of your damn BLM/rainbow stickers. Be visible about how much you actually care. Share this green heart to show you’re in solidarity with Muslims.

 

Be a protector:

-If you see someone being attacked call for help. Here’s an infographic on how to be an effective bystander.

 

Educate yourself:

-Here is a list of readings for folks who want to better understand the challenges facing minority communities right now and on how they can help.

 

Donate:

-Put your money where your mouth is. There are tons of organizations doing really important work in local communities. Providing resources for community to be able to heal and organize is important. Even $10 can go a really long way. Some national organizations include, ACLU, Amnesty International USA and Southern Poverty Law Center. Some Queens specific organizations, include WISE, DRUM, Make the Road NY and Asian Americans for Equity.

 

Get personal:

-It’d be amazing if you sent messages to folks who are feeling most vulnerable right now asking how you can help right now. Honestly, I have received dozens of beautiful, beautiful messages from friends and they have been the only things that made me smile.

 

Shut down the hate:

-If you hear the hate, shut it down. I’m not saying don’t engage it but don’t just be silent either. That’s when this type of rhetoric becomes normalized. We all know by now that rhetoric isn’t just rhetoric. It has really violent implications.

 

Listen:

-Listen to your friends who are most marginalized by this election. Listen to folks who voted for Trump. I know it is hard to do both but it is the lack of really deep engagement that has lead to such polarization across our country. A lot of people who voted for Trump have real anti-establishment grievances that are valid. Listen to those, think about what you can do to actually mitigate the injustices they are facing so that we can slowly not repeat history.

Netflix:

-Take a break, this is hard on you too. You don’t have to be sorry. You didn’t make this happen so let yourself mourn too. After that, like I said, don’t go back to business as usual. It’s not business as usual for many of us. We’re damn terrified. We need you to be proactive and create change with us.

I’m updating this list so if you have any suggestions/comments please email them to (info@wise-woman.org)

Samiha's Legacy

QUEENS, NY- I first met Samiha about twelve years ago when I was waiting at a Q104 bus stop, exhausted and not very enthusiastic about having to spend my summer attending a Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) preparatory class. Samiha, on the other hand, shone under the warm, summer sun. She had these big, beautiful, bright brown eyes, and a welcoming, though introverted, smile.We became friends from the moment I asked her for directions to the class. We began meeting for lunch every day and she quickly became my best friend, my confidant, and the person who made me feel most whole. She was a genuine,empathetic, and extremely intelligent woman who had a passion for music, and cooked a damn good meal. Samiha Khan was the type of Brown girl everyone wanted to be around.

 

Samiha told me about the abuse she endured late in our friendship. She told me how you would violate her. She told me how you put your hands in intimate places she had never explored herself; parts of her body you taught her to be ashamed of. You were sexually abusing her since she was eight years old. When she finally had the courage to speak out, you threatened to murder her. You threatened her with words such as, “You won’t find a good husband” or “who will want to marry a stained girl?” You made her feel pain. You caused her pain. You were the source of her pain. You made her hate herself. When she first confided all of this to me, I held her fragile body in my arms for hours as she wept softly. There wasn’t enough love in my heart or prayer in my soul that could make her feel whole after what you did to her. She tried to kill herself that night.

 

Still embedded in a twisted manifestation of orthodox South Asian and Muslim culture, she received no support from her community. Instead, she was made to feel ashamed of her feelings, of her body and of her mental health issues. She tried to kill herself every time she remembered what you did, but she was able to pull through She was the strongest woman I have ever known.

 

You see, Samiha was amazing, but she could not live in a world that neglected her experience, a world that made her, as a victim of sexual abuse, feel deeply misplaced and ashamed for having been a victim.  She was left with no choice. She would rather feel the pain of a train running over her body and take her life, than to continue to experience a world that normalizes and tolerates violence against women.

 

Samiha’s first couple of suicide attempts were heartbreaking desperate cries for help. Her last one was a devastating tragic act that sends an important message to women who experience these forms of gender based violence, especially South Asian and Muslim women.

 

Unfortunately, the story of Samiha is not isolated. This didn’t just happen to her. Samiha is everywhere and our society is always ignoring the gendered forms of violence that are perpetuated against our bodies. In fact, one in five children in the U.S. is a victim of sexual abuse.

 

This is why we won’t let fathers, brothers, husbands, partners, and men like you continue to try to defeat women, who look like us. This is why Brown, South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and women of color don’t care about our prospects for marriage. We’re going to create communities of our own in her name, in Samiha’s name and the many others out there who are nameless and forgotten. We’re going to fight against your shaming of rape survivors and the larger culture of victim blaming to honor her struggle and in her name. We’re going to genuinely and deeply love one another in her name, love rooted in collective liberation, transparency, and a culture of accountability. We’ll find the resources. We’ll speak out, until men like you stop and another Samiha’s life isn’t taken by gender-based violence. Screw your respectability politics. Samiha is a fighter. Her suicide could have been prevented if she had not been violated, if her pain was acknowledged and if she was given the resources to heal. As we grieve for our sister, this is our message to you, to a society that upholds rape culture. This was her message and we won’t let it go unheard.

 

Speak up for Samiha. Speak up for people with mental health issues. Speak up for people who are victims of sexual abuse. Speak up for anyone who needs help.

 

Women do not need to suffer alone. There are safe zones for people to speak up in. There are resources for immediate and long term help. If you or someone you know is facing the types of aforementioned violence, check out these important resources for support:

 

Turning Point, WISE, Safe Horizon, Sakhi.

www.tpny.org

http://www.sakhi.org/

https://www.safehorizon.org/

http://www.wise-woman.org/

 

Exactly one month before she killed herself, Samiha posted this message to Instagram. This is what Samiha’s legacy looks like:

 

i never speak publicly about this, but recently my anxiety and depression has gotten worse. some days are better than others. i was supposed to go out earlier today but ended up feeling like absolute shit, crying, and ruining my makeup. but i feel a lot better now after crying! i just want to remind everyone - especially those with mental illness - that it's okay to let yourself cry, get sad about things, and feel things intensely. it doesn't make you weak or pathetic and letting it all out helps you keep on keepin' on. it's okay to not want to get out of bed or socialize if you don't feel well. i also want to remind everyone to be more understanding of those with mental illness. herbal tea and saying others have it worse doesn't fix anything. and just because you can't see the pain, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. everyone experiences it differently and the way we talk about it can have a significant effect on someone's well being. so always be kind and empathetic. #personal

WISE Annual Iftar: Standing in Solidarity with LGBTQ Muslims

One June 12, the biggest mass shooting in recent us history took place in Orlando, Florida. The entire world shook, as people scrambled for words to try to explain what happened. It was an incident that truly changed the perception of LGBTQIA communities. Although the world seemed United as rainbow flags soared the sky in protests and on skyscrapers, there was still an underlying issue that needed immediate attention. Vigils and hashtags are not enough and there is a lot more work that needs to be done. Being a part of WISE (women's initiative for self-empowerment), means talking about topics that are relevant and that will lead to productive conversations as well as taking action to support the rights of marginalized groups and to empower minority groups.

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, WISE organized a halaqa, otherwise known as a discussion circle where Muslims talk about topics that are important to them. The topic for this gathering was community inclusivity regarding the LGBTQI community. Many people participated in this discussion and it brought up many important points. One being that as Muslims, it is our duty to stand in solidarity with the victims as there was absolutely no reason for them to lose their lives that day. Islam demonstrates the fact that if one kills a human being, it's as if he has killed humanity. Coming together and talking about compassion and mercy towards one another shed light on the fact that we have to keep trying. We must persevere and stick together as minorities in the United States. More importantly, it is important for Muslims to create inclusive spaces for LGBTQI communities and make sure that discussions are conducted in a proper manner in order for everyone to benefit. We must also realize the importance of being inclusive of Muslim LGBTQI members within our community. This topic has been a sensitive one for years but it is time to break the ice and create social change. We must create an environment where everyone feels included, secure and comfortable.

At the WISE halaqa, Muslims who identified as being part of the LGBTQI community spoke up and voiced the ways they feel excluded by society as well as the Muslim community. WISE's safe space allowed these members to be able to share their thoughts as we showed our unwavering support. It truly felt like a loving community by the end of the talk. Peoples thoughts and stories resonated with everyone, as we committed to end homophobia, islamophobia and xenophobia. We cannot let fear over come love, for love is what erases fear.

2015


Reflection on WISE Career Panel in NYC by Nada Ali

Choosing a career path can be one of the most difficult decisions one has to make. Especially when in high school or first year of college, it is a challenge trying to find which major is right for you and which field you would like to work in. The Muslim community has often restricted itself to choosing careers in either medicine or engineering, meanwhile there is a plethora of options and opportunities for young Muslims. Since the our community lacks an effective way of networking and career planning for those who are still deciding, it was necessary to provide a space that will enable successful Muslims to interact with young professionals.


On December 26, 2015 WISE and Muslim Center of NY hosted career panel event, which aimed to inspire young Muslim men and women to pursue careers based on their interests and what they enjoy doing. Four panelists who were in different professional fields, spoke about their experiences and the opportunities they had to get to where they are. They also elaborated on the struggles they had to face as Muslims, and how they were able to overcome obstacles in order to do what they love.

The first panelist, Jasmine Ibrahim, spoke about her journey to becoming an architect. It was very refreshing to see a Muslim woman working in the architecture field since it is a male dominant career path. Later on, Jasmine joined an organization called AAAEA, the Arab American Association of Engineers and Architects. This opportunity allowed Jasmine to network with other successful Muslims and Arabs in her field, and she is now working as an office engineer for a Wall Street company named HAKS.


The next panelist was Nitasha Siddiqui, who is currently a student at Princeton University. She spoke to young Muslims about the importance of mental health and how she is dedicating her psychology degree to working with people who have mental disorders in order to break the stigma in the Muslim community. Nitasha is also involved in WISE because she shares a passion for empowering women and encouraging them to seek out their full potential.


Mushfiqur Chowdry, who spoke after Nitasha, was able to expand on his path to Harvard University, which he is currently enrolled in, studying religion, ethics and politics as a Master’s degree candidate. Mushfiqur informed the audience about a scholarship opportunity called POSSE, which he was granted in high school. This scholarship allowed him to attend the University of Southern California as an undergraduate student. Moreover, Mr. Chowdry spoke about the Humanity in Action fellowship he received and how to apply for one for those who were interested in human rights and international relations.


Last but not least, Zain Ali, who is currently studying to be a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine, explained to the audience how medicine and giving back to the Muslim community go hand in hand. Zain attended Stony Brook University as an undergraduate and is now in NYCOM, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was able to relate the Islamic values to medicine and how Muslims should make their intentions for the sake of Allah when pursuing any career. Mr. Ali expanded on an organization he joined, named MHPS (Muslim Health Professional Students), that brings together Muslim students in medical, dental, podiatric and optometry schools and allows them to give back to the community. Some students in the audience were inspired and wanted to join the organization by the end of his talk.


After the panelists spoke, the room was split into smaller groups for the breakout sessions. These smaller groups allowed audience members to interact and network with the panelists as well as other students who are pursuing the similar career choices. Other students were exploring different career options to see if they might like to work in those fields in the future. During these sessions, everyone was encouraged to exchange contact information and share opportunities that others might benefit from.

 

Overall, the career panel event was a success and it was able to bring together young brilliant minds as well as inspire so many others who are struggling to find their perfect career path.

WISE is featured on WTOP! "Local Muslim women fight fear with self-defense lesson"

WASHINGTON — Rana Abdelhamid was 16 years old when a man attacked her and attempted to remove her headscarf as she was walking on a New York City street six years ago. The incident left her feeling vulnerable and alone, she told a group of local Muslim women at a self-defense workshop Friday night.

A group of 20 local women gathered, some with babies in tow, in the basement of the St. Stephen and Incarnation Episcopal Church, in Northwest D.C., to learn self-defense and discuss what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in America today.

Amid the political climate following the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shooting and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Muslims — and particularly Muslim women — have felt susceptible to hate crimes.

“It feels that there’s a unique way that Muslim women are being targeted. I think it has to do with the intersection of patriarchy and anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry,” says Darakshan Raja, a D.C. resident and founder of the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum, an organization aimed at working against state- and gender-based violence.

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Self Defense Workshop and Discussion for Muslim Women in New York City

"Today, more than ever, Muslim women's bodies and stories have become targets of extremist violence. A recent study in the UK has confirmed that 80% of hatecrimes against Muslims happen against Muslim women between the ages of 14 and 35. Many of these attacks happen with silent bystanders and continue to remove agency from Muslim women. This is an opportunity to bring together a community of young Muslim women in a time of hateful rhetoric and fear. 

The first piece of this workshop will be a basic self-defense workshop. Following the workshop, WISE will facilitate a safespace dialogue about the bigoted violence that is unfolding across the world against Muslim women. We will provide important tips about staying safe, strong and uplifted during these rough times.

This is the first in a series of annual events that are focused on providing young Muslim women with the skills they need to excel in leadership. 

This event is cosponsored by The Strangers (Sisters Ring). Sisters ring is and part of The Strangers project which is aimed at clearing up misconception of Islam and informing people of Islam.

This is a space only open for Muslim women."

 

The event will take place on December 30th at Masjid Manhattan from 1:30-3:30 pm. 

Sign up here!