Activist Spotlight: Amara Majeed, A FEMINIST Voice for the Hijab

As a Muslim revert it could become difficult to grasp the idea of having an individual identity while wearing the hair cover, or “Hijab.” Over the years since 9/11, the Hijab has gained the preconceived notion of great oppression toward Muslim women – as a sign of degradation, or forced cult ruling, silencing the wearers of their voices, and stripping them of their rights to express their identity and individuality.

As a mother, alhumdulillah, I often contemplate on how I may educate my daughters about the Hijab, as well as how they can help enlighten those who they will encounter in the future, who have questions about the veil. I also often think about whether or not the way the Western culture’s views on the Hijab will change for the better, or if I should prepare my children for the worse.

However the Western world sees it, Muslim women all over the world are doing their best to change these presumptions that many non-Muslims have been lead to believe. Such as the case of my friend, with whom I had the great pleasure of doing a quick Q&A with.

You may have read her Open Letter to Donald Trump, or may have even seen her quick video on NowThis. She has been noted by BBC as one of the 100 Most Inspiring Women of 2015, Ms. Amara Majeed. Amara is a 19 year old, Brown student, and proud Hijab activist doing what she can to contribute with the elimination of the negative stigma behind the Hijab – and ultimately the Muslim women who wear them, as well as the the religion it is practiced in.

Amara and I met through a Facebook group in May of 2014, while she was in the process of writing her book, The Foreigners. Through our conversations, I’ve come to learn of her easy going personality, quick wit, politeness, her good attitude, honesty, intuitiveness, and most of all Islam – her passion, mashaAllah. She has so much insight and sentiment when it came to her views, and revealed her yearning to change the world’s views of Muslims along with the Hijab, and stated:

“I really want people to read this book and understand Muslims better, in order to end this hateful discrimination that many people have towards us. We live in the era of Islamophobia, and I feel that if people learn about Muslims, their struggles, etc, then perhaps they will be more understanding/less hateful towards them.”

Here is Good Morning America‘s video spotlight of Amara. If you scroll down, you can see what kind of feedback, and how much backlash we are experiencing from what crazy, self-righteous, entitled people have decided to act upon.

Here are some samples of the unbelievable hatred our fellow Americans are expressing towards someone who has taken upon herself to carry on the very Constitutional rights we have been granted as American citizens:

Here is the top most, and I have to say, the most unladylike thing to comment.

Here is the top most, and I have to say, the most unladylike thing to comment.

Here is the second most popular comment on this interview.

Here is the second most popular comment on this interview.

Everyday since 9/11, we as Muslim Americans have been at fault, when most of us are trying to live our lives like everybody else – raising good, pious children, going through school, performing mundane tasks at home, or even running businesses that employ non-Muslims. We have been accused, and are still being accused of crimes these people have committed – what happened on 9/11Sandy Hook, or even in Orlando.

I make these statements because I have gathered from what “news” I get from the TV has shown me, that anytime there is a shooting, or an act of violence occurs, I find myself at the edge of my seat, listening to reporters, asking live: “Is this an act of terror?”

Let’s all be honest here, when the airwaves are live, and the word “terror” is broadcasted to the general public of the USA, people, including myself, my family and peers, wonder this same resounding thought: “was the attacker Muslim?”

The Qur’an teaches ALL Muslims to defend:

“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.  (The Noble Quran, 2:190)”

Unfortunately, these few decided to take justice in their own hands. (Sigh…)

As a Muslim, I do my best not to judge people based on the color of their skin, the way they dress or speak, because of this fact: 

Narrated Al-Ma’rur: At Ar-Rabadha I met Abu Dhar who was wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a similar one. I asked about the reason for it. He replied, “I abused a person by calling his mother with bad names.”  The Prophet said to me, ‘O Abu Dhar! Did you abuse him by calling his mother with bad names You still have some characteristics of ignorance. Your slaves are your brothers and Allah has put them under your command. So whoever has a brother under his command should feed him of what he eats and dress him of what he wears. Do not ask them (slaves) to do things beyond their capacity (power) and if you do so, then help them.”  (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Belief, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 29)

So without further a-do, our Q&A with Sr. Amara Majeed (un-edited).

Could you tell our readers about your background – your family history, values, who you are?

My name is Amara Majeed, and I am a 19-year-old Muslim American student at Brown University. I am of Sri Lankan origin. 

When you and I first started having conversations about your mission to make a change, a positive impact, I thought “wow” what a feat to conquer! Did you have any fears and doubts? How did you prepare yourself to overcome those fears and doubts?

I actually get this question a lot! To be honest, I’m a really impulsive and spontaneous person. When I want to do something, I do it without overthinking the consequences and the aftermath. 

Can you tell us what the Hijab means to you?

Sure. Throughout history and on a global scale, women have been sexualized and objectified. As women, a lifelong struggle that we have is that our physical appearance is deemed to be the most important aspect of our beings. For me, the hijab is a political symbol, a feminist symbol, and a social motif. By wearing the hijab, I’m stating that I want to be seen for my intellectuality and my personality rather than my physical appearance or body. 

(Sure enough, when asked in an interview with GMA what the words #girlpower means to her, Amara defines it as:

“Essentially showing the world that we, females are powerful not despite, but because of our gender.”)

This project stemmed from Amara's feminist views on how women - Muslim and non-Muslim alike - are perceived and respected everywhere!

This project stemmed from Amara’s feminist views on how women – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – are perceived and respected everywhere!

You’re the self published author of The Foreigners, can you tell us what prompted you to write this book; what was your inspiration?

I wanted to inform people about the diversity of the Muslim experience. 

How did your parents feel about you being so forthcoming and public about your mission to enlighten people who have their reservations toward the Hijab?

My parents have been very supportive throughout my years of being an activist, but they’ve been understandably concerned and apprehensive about me being so outspoken about polarizing topics. 

So, please tell us, when did you start wearing your Hijab?

I started wearing the hijab when I was 14 and a freshman in high school. 

What is the most common “misnomer” or misconception that you’ve heard someone tell you about being a Hijabi or wearing the Hijab? 

From my years as an activist, it’s become very apparent to me that many Americans hold the idea that women that wear the hijab are oppressed. 

How does wearing your Hijab solidify your identity as a Muslim woman?

The hijab is a massive part of my identity, and it means something much more to me beyond religion.

And to many Muslim women, the Hijab means freedom and control over what other people sees of her – her hair, her skin – denoting that the very first thing another person should know about a Muslim woman is her intellect.

I hope, I’ve given you insight from this post. And just for the record, these acts of violence ‘in the name of Islam’ are not at all Islamic:

“Nor take life — which Allah has made sacred — except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand retaliation or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life, for he is helped (by the Law).” [Quran 17:33]

“What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human beings, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured.” (Bukhari)

— Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be to him

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  (Desmond Tutu)

Amara Majeed is a 19-year-old Muslim American activist. She is the founder of “The Hijab Project,” a global initiative that promotes the understanding and empowerment of Muslim women through social experimentation. Amara and her project have been featured by numerous media sources, including but not limited to Good Morning America, BustleThe New York TimesGlobal News, BBC, MSNBC, The Baltimore Sun, Business Insider, Marie Claire Magazine, Yahoo!, and Seventeen Magazine. Miss Majeed is currently a pre-law student at Brown University, pursuing a double major in Cognitive Neuroscience and Public Policy. 

 Is there an inspiring person in your life? Comment below and tell us why they inspire you!

Originally posted 2016-06-13 20:28:56.

Muslim Mommy USA

Muslim Mommy USA is a Modern Parenting lifestyle blog for Muslim families living in the West.