CC ISSUE: APR 2012 Last updated: Apr 5, 2012
Women Trailblazers Honored in the Muslim Community
Oakbrook, Ill.—March was Women’s History Month, and the Muslim Women’s
Alliance (MWA) incorporates this within the community by annually exploring the overall contributions of Muslim women. The main focus of the festivity is an afternoon of unity, empowerment and inspiration. It lends itself to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements. It is indeed within these functions that Muslim women are shown to be positive agents of change and become role models for women who prefer to lead by example. This is what makes the event truly an awe-inspiring experience for the more than 500 women at the elegant luncheon. The attendees were able to sit back and admire the contributions one another made in their own daily lives as well as the lives of others.
At the March 11 event, Anisha Ismail Patel, who serves as MWA’s executive director on the board, discussed how Muslim women historically come from a “strong legacy of leaders and have the responsibility to continue this tradition.”
She said it is important to make the time in our hectic schedules to contribute positively to our communities. By engaging in personal development, hand-on service and philanthropy, Muslim women are actively fulfilling the pillars of their faith.
The MWA Inspiring Muslim Woman’s Award was presented to Ameena Matthews, a behavior practitioner; Nour Akhras, a pediatrician; and Iffath Hasan, an author and teacher.
Touching briefly on the history of the sectarian violence behind the genocide devastating Syria today, Akhras made a passionate appeal to the audience to get involved in aiding the thousands of displaced Syrians who have fled Bashar Assad’s brutal regime. Last September, Akhras, a pediatrician, traveled with a group of doctors from Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) to provide urgent medical care and relief for some of the 8,000 displaced Syrians at several refugee camps situated in Turkey along the volatile Syrian border. Audience members held back their tears as haunting images of the poor conditions of the camps and the refugee children screened during Akhras’ heartfelt recounting of her relief work.
Renowned teacher Hafidha Iffath Hasan began her acceptance speech with a touching tribute to her own mother. In a field traditionally made up of males, Hasan holds a unique role as a scholar in Muslim society and someone who assists young female students in memorizing the Quran. Hasan has also connected with the younger generations of Muslims through her prolific use of social media. She updates her blog, lessonsoftheday.com, several times a week as well as tweets inspirational quotes from the Quran, Hadith, scholars and poets.
Final honoree, Ameena Matthews was named “Chicagoan of the Year” by Chicago Tribune for her dedication to community activism for peace building and social change. In 2006, she joined Ceasefire—a Chicago-based non-profit organization—which is an award-winning scientific public health model that has been proven to reduce shootings and killings. Matthews is a specialized intervention expert who mediates conflict before it explodes into violence. Her groundbreaking work as a “violence interrupter” was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary, “The Interrupters.”
MWA awardees inspire a new wave of Muslim activists, community organizers, and scholars.
“[The] Celebration of the Muslim Woman highlights the accomplishments of women who show exceptional leadership, strength and courage to make a difference,” said Noor Hasan, MWA’s director of community relations. “The attraction of this event is simply a way for women to be united and inspired. There is a feeling of togetherness whether with new or old acquaintances.”
The afternoon ended with a social awareness showcase, as community leaders and organizers participated in a fashion show promoting social entrepreneurs dedicated to communities in developing countries who are breaking the cycle of poverty by creating artisan products.