My “coming of age” years were in the late 1990s when I slowly started learning that the small community of Muslims in small-town Alabama wasn’t the only one in America. When I attended an ISNA convention, I was shocked at how many American Muslims had come together to learn, shop, and socialize. It is when I started learning that Islam is so much more than the Pakistani family values my family insisted on. I learned about the diversity of the Muslim ummah by reading about Malcolm X. I started learning about the religion of Islam on my own. I listened to prominent Muslims teachers of the time, like Siraj Wahhaj, Aminah Assilmi, and Hamza Yusuf.
These were also the post-Gulf War years, during which Americans were barraged with misinformation about Islam, especially about Muslim women’s status. I had learned that Islam gave rights to women well before European countries did. Islam gave women equality. The women who lived at the time of Prophet Muhammad, sallalhu alaihi wasallam, were independent, intelligent, strong, outspoken, and hard working. My newfound interest in Islam allowed me to take it upon myself to talk about Muslim women whenever I got the chance. I wrote essay after essay in college, every chance I got, straightening the crooked message Americans were fed about Muslim women. I debated in history and English literature classes. I answered fellow students’ questions.
After all those years defending the status of Muslim women in spite of American media reports, I am learning that those problems of inequality exist right here in America. Millions of white women voted Trump, a self-confessed sexual assailant, into office. Mothers of disabled children voted Trump, who mocked a disabled reporter. Now, two years later, these same women are ready to dismiss Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s reports of sexual assault for the sake of defending Brett Kavanaugh. They cheer on Lindsey Graham’s temper tantrum, and Kavanaugh’s angry, partisan defense. They have no problem with powerful men using rage to express themselves. Imagine if Kamala Harris had screamed like Lindsey Graham. Imagine if Dr. Ford had screamed like Kavanaugh. Just imagine that for a minute.
Maybe it’s time for American Muslim women to use their vote to show misogynist America the power and potential of women.