In celebration of Women’s History Month we will look at contemporary Minnesota Muslim women who founded or lead non-profit organizations, excel in academics, are media personalities, or leaders in politics. This list is merely a sampling of the many accomplished Minnesota 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 Minnesota Muslim Organizations
Arlene El-Amin Valerie Shirley Audrey Zahra Williams
Arlene El-Amin is the co-founder and director of community outreach activities for Masjid An-Nur in Minneapolis. She engages in multiple interfaith and community-wide efforts to challenge a variety of social justice issues, with a focus on helping those challenged by unemployment and underemployment. Arlene is the mother of five children and has twenty-two grandchildren.
Valerie Shirley is the co-founder of Global Deaf Muslims-Minnesota Chapter (GDM-MN) and a national board member of GDM. GDM advocates for the advancement and inclusion of Deaf Muslims and seeks to raise awareness of Deaf Muslims issues within the broader Muslim community. Valerie, a mother of five, is a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She is the recipient of the Courage Center's 2010 Rose Phillips Award.
Audrey Zahra Williams is co-founder and principal of Al-Amal School. Her passion is in the Islamic school movement and she has been an educator for twenty years, working as a teacher and principal. She is a board member of the Council of Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA), and is known as a mentor to many developing Islamic schools and administrators nationwide.
Female Muslim Directors & Presidents of MN Non-Profits
Afira Hasan Sakinah Mujahid Asma Lori Saroya
Afira Hasan is the president of the Muslim Youth Leadership Award (MYLA), an award established to assist, prepare and encourage the future leaders in our communities. Afira is originally from Houston, Texas and has been practicing as an optometrist in the Twin Cities for the past six years. She currently resides in Edina, MN with her husband and two children.
Sakinah Mujahid is the executive director of Sisters Need a Place (SNAP). She has worked in social services for six years and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and certificates in Financial Literacy Training and Dispute Circle Training. Sakinah served thirteen years in the U.S. Army. She is currently an advisory board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN).
Asma Lori Saroya is co-founder and president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN), the state’s only Muslim civil rights advocacy organization. She is a board member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit, was recognized as a Facing Race Ambassador by the St. Paul Foundation and was selected for MinnPost’s YPN5Q, which spotlights the state's top young leaders. She received the IRG Community Leadership Award and the St. Catherine University Alumni Award.
Minnesota Female Muslim Academics
Awa Abdi Afshan Anjum Manijeh Daneshpour
Dr. Awa Abdi is an assistant professor in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota. She writes on topics including family and gender relations, refugee and human rights issues in the Horn African region as well as the role of the war on terror on Muslims around the globe. She has a number of articles in national and international journals and is now completing a book on Somali migration experiences in different regions of the world. She has a BA from the University of Ottawa and an MA from the University of Guelph (Canada), and a PhD from the University of Sussex, UK.
Dr. Afshan Anjum is assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. She completed her residency in adult-psychiatry in 2000, fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry in 2002, and fellowship in schizophrenia and psychotic disorders program in 2004 from the University of Minnesota. She became a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota in 2004. She is currently serving as child psychiatrist in the outpatient psychiatry clinic providing patient care and also as a clinical supervisor of residents and fellows. Her research interests include early onset psychotic disorders, mood disorders, mood disorders and cultural psychiatry with special reference to the immigrant population.
Dr. Manijeh Daneshpour is a full professor and chair of the department of Counseling and Community Psychology at St. Cloud State University. She has served as the president of Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy and chair of the election committee for the Minnesota Association for Marriage and Family Therapist. Her research interests, presentations, and publications are in the areas of multicultural family therapy, gender relations, social justice, and postmodernism.
Minnesota Female Muslim Media Personalities
Zuhur Ahmed Lolla Mohammed Nur Fedwa Wazwaz
Zuhur Ahmed is the host of Somali Community Link on KFAI Radio and ECHO TV on TPT Minnesota. She brings awareness to community issues, with a focus on healthcare. Zuhur is a community activist, aspiring doctor, and a graduate of University of Minnesota.
Lolla Mohammed Nur is a freelance journalist and a Young Reporter Series Fellow with Minnesota Public Radio, working on a project on how East African and Muslim youth in the Twin Cities use poetry and art to express their identities and cultures. She has worked as a reporter and/or columnist for the Minnesota Daily, a citizen journalist for the Twin Cities Daily Planet, and has interned for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She also interned for Voice of America Middle East in Washington D.C. through the Fund for American Studies program at Georgetown University in the summer in 2011. She recently graduated from the University of Minnesota with honors in political science and journalism, and a minor in African American and African studies.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a blogger for the Star Tribune and co-founder of EngageMN, which fosters dialogue between Muslims and the greater Minnesota community. Fedwa is also the co-founder of several Minnesota nonprofit organizations, including the Islamic Resource Group (IRG) an the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN). She has worked on various outreach projects in the community to build bridges of understanding through education. Fedwa completed training in restorative justice at the University of Minnesota Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking and was a 2008-09 Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Minnesota Female Muslim Leaders in Politics
Nimco Ahmed Hindia Ali Farheen Hakeem
Nimco Ahmed is the policy aide for Vice President Robert Liligren of the Minneapolis City Council. She is the chief of staff of the 6th ward office and represents the council in city and neighborhood meetings. Nimco is a Somali activist and was named a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Hindia Ali worked on Congressman Keith Ellison’s reelection campaign by increasing the participation of Somali voters in political campaigns. She is the youth leadership coordinator at Somali Action Alliance and a Resident with Community Organizing Residency (COR) in the Twin Cities Cohort. Hindia has been a powerful voice in advocating for the rights and safety of Somali Muslims and regularly organizes community meetings with elected officials and law enforcement.
Farheen Hakeem is the national co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and is the highest ranking Muslim woman in any U.S. political party. Born and raised in the Midwest, Farheen is an educator, leader, and community organizer. She is currently working on the campaign team of Roseanne Barr for President.
Mary Abraham was a pioneer in the Minnesota Muslim community. She co-founded the Women’s Society at the Islamic Center of Minnesota and served as its first president. She also was a member of the Salvation Army Quilting Club and enjoyed gardening. Mary was fifteen years old when she moved to North Dakota from Lebanon. She died on July 29, 2011 at the age of 100.
Islamic Resource Group's (IRG) Presentation on Muslim Women
IRG 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@example.com or request the presentation online: www.irgmn.org.
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