10 Muslim Women Founders and Leaders Making Their Mark!
Posted on Jan 21, 2020
Editorial note: This month we are running a series focusing on foundations – how we can build solid foundations across all areas of our life to help ground us so that we can embrace all that our deen (religion) and dunya (the world) have to offer us. We will be covering foundations of marriage, faith, your morning routine, relationships, mental health/self care, technology, hijab and other areas. Each focus could really be a book, but we will try and break it down into the most useful, attainable and basic things we can do to build critical foundations in our lives.
By Nargis Hakim Rahman
To kick off the new year and celebrate faith and leadership, Haute Hijab is highlighting 10 phenomenal women who are creating waves as founders, role models and leaders in business and nonprofit work. From our own CEO of Haute Hijab, to women leading mental health wellness narratives, to social justice activists, these women have kept faith at the center of their drive and are paving paths for generations to come. There are so many powerful Muslim women founders and nonprofit leaders that whittling it down to a few was a difficult feat! By no means does this list even begin to cover all the fantastic Muslim women we’d love to highlight, but it’s a start! Share your suggestions for Muslim women founders and bosses in the comments below!
1. Sameera Ahmed @thefyi_org
Mental health wellness has become a driving and necessary theme in the last decade, one that has been elevated by people like Sameera Ahmed, director of The Family Youth Institute. Sameera helped form FYI in 2006, an organization that has been instrumental in providing workshops on youth development, marriage, parenting and mental health. FYI creates infographics and toolkits on mental health, bullying of American Muslim youth, suicide prevention and more. In addition to her work with FYI, Sameera, who has a PhD in clinical psychology and a masters in biology, serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health. She has co-authored the book, Counseling Muslims: Handbook of Mental Health Issues and Interventions and has been a grassroots community organizer for more than 30 years. Sameera is also a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. (Image source: FYI)
2. Hoda Katebi @hodakatebi
Hoda Katebi may be best known for her responses to reporters on a Chicago news station asking Islamophobic questions about nuclear weapons and her stance on whether Iran should go back to a time before hijab was worn. She was told, “You don’t sound like an American,” when she said the U.S. is a country with a legacy of creating war. But what may be her biggest accomplishment is opening the Blue-Tin Productions fashion production co-op for Chicago’s immigrant and refugee women, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. The Iranian-American political fashion writer, who was born in Oklahoma, also has a popular blog called JooJoo Azad and a book titled “Tehran Streetstyle.” Hoda has also been featured in the New York Times, Teen Vogue, TNT, Mothering Jones, and Refinery29. (Image source: Twitter)
3. Zarinah El-Amin Naeem @enliven.your.soul
Zarinah El-Amin Naeem is a lover of travel, art and self-development through connection. She is the founder of Beautifully Wrapped & The Headwrap Expo, held in Metro Detroit. The expo showcases head wraps across cultures, faiths and races. Zarinah is also the founder of Enliven Your Soul, The Globalize Your Mind Summit for Women’s Leadership and Luminary Collective, which encourages women to travel for growth and bring back leadership skills to their communities. Zarinah is a self-described cultural anthropologist, wife, mother and an author. She is the publisher and “chief spiritual officer” for her publishing company, Niyah Publishing and Creative Living. And, she wrote two books - “Like Glue: The Little Book of Marriage Advice we Should have Stuck to from the Beginning (Enliven Your Soul) (Volume 1)” and “Jihad of the Soul: Singlehood and the Search for Love in Muslim America.” (Image source: Knight Foundation)
4. Najah Bazzy @zamaninternational
Dearborn native and transitional nurse Najah Bazzy began the organization Zaman International to help marginalized women and children out of her van 1996 after seeing a family without basic essentials in their home. As the CEO and founder of Zaman, Najah divides her time between meetings, burials of children, and building her skills-training programs at the nonprofit. Najah was named one of the top 10 CNN heroes of 2019 for her work with Zaman. In an interview with Haute Hijab, she said, “If God has privileged me with that, it's a huge responsibility. I hope I am able to execute it with dignity and respect that our faith deserves.” (Image source: Najah Bazzy)
5. Eman Idil Bare @emanidil
Eman Idil Bare is the definition of hustle. The journalist-turned-fashion designer has found a way to combine both of her passions - to work for CBS National and start her own fashion line at 23 years of age. She employs women who came to Canada as refugees to stitch her brand together. Last year she took part in New York Fashion Week and showcased her ethically-sourced modest clothing with Black models and worked with a Black photographer. Eman also writes for Teen Vogue, Huffington Post and Muslim Girl and is a fashion editor for The Demureist. She is attending New York Law School to continue her ambitions. (Image source: Leaderpost.com)
6. Halima Jama @halimajama
Halima Jama likes reflecting and connecting the dots of history to the present. The Toronto-based Somali-Canadian wedding and events photographer, whose work was featured in an exhibition called “Scratch & Mix” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, has gained great success in her exhibit (and business) by showcasing her parent’s love story as inspiration for pieces in the exhibition. The exhibition also featured work from youth of color. As a photographer, she enjoys taking “then and now” pictures, often recreating the same shots and reflecting on how places have changed with time. Along with her wedding and family photography, Halima features du'as, life mantras, travel photography and a positive vibe on her Instagram page. (Image source: Instagram)
7. Dr. Ingrid Mattson @IngridMattson
The Hurma Project was founded and created by Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a scholar and chair of Islamic Studies at the Huron University College in Canada, to take on sexual and spiritual abuse in Muslim spaces. The project came together as a research-led effort to address sexual abuse and it’s impact on mental health, social science, Islamic law, theology and spirituality. The first conference was held in January in Chicago. Hurma is an Arabic term that signifies protecting the sanctity of the sacred inviolability of the body. Dr. Ingrid served as the first female president of the Islamic Society of North America and previously served as the vice-president between 2001-2010. She created the first accredited Muslim Chaplains in America program at the Hartford Seminary, where she served as the director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. She has written books about the Quran and theology and served on the Interfaith Task Force of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009-2010. (Image source: IngridMattson.org)
8. Salma Malik
Salma Malik knows the importance of a strong support group for parents who have children with disabilities - and having support in your own language. She is an occupational therapist, early intervention provider and the founder of the Klimb2 Autism Services for children with autism and developmental disabilities focusing on underserved communities. The New York-based company provides free training for bilingual and immigrant families with children with disabilities, children’s activities and events and support workshops in various languages, including in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi. (Image source: Salma Malik)
9. Suzy Ismail @suzy.ismail
Educator, author and communications consultant Suzy S. Ismail is the founder and head consultant of Cornerstone Marriage & Family Intervention Centers, created in 2014. The faith-based organization works on rebuilding youth, identity and relationships. Suzy was a visiting professor at the Communication Departments of Rutgers University and DeVry University for 15 years. Suzy is also an author who has written about the Modern Muslim Marriage, Muslims working in the western workforce (Nine To Five: Muslims in the Western Workplace) and other subject matters. As a communication specialist, Suzy works with organizations, nonprofits and corporations and speaks to the media often. Along with her communications work, Suzy is pursuing a Doctorate in Human Services and works with Syrian families and refugees in recovery and integration counseling programs. (Image source: Cornerstone Marriage & Family Intervention Centers)
10. Melanie Elturk @hautehijab
Melanie Elturk, a former civil rights attorney-turned-CEO of Haute Hijab, started her hijab company to provide quality brand-name hijabs to the masses with her husband and COO Ahmed Zedan. Melanie began selling vintage hijabs and modest professional work wear, then later concentrated on selling various hijabs from workout to wedding scarves, she told Fashionista.com. HH has bloomed in 10 years, with recognition in every major newspaper, becoming a global hijab brand, growing to a team of 23 people and counting and securing $2.3 million to build the business in 2019. Melanie prides herself in building a brand built up service and faith, catering to the needs of Muslim hijab-wearing women and Muslim women in general. She engages with communities by responding to DM’s and comments as well as modeling how to be a confident, visibly hijabi Muslim woman. (Image source: @HauteHijab)
Know a great Muslim woman boss you want to tell us about? Comment below! We’ll try and do another round up!
Nargis Hakim Rahman is a Bangladeshi American Muslim writer and a mother of three kids. Nargis graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a psychology minor. Nargis is passionate about community journalism in the Greater Detroit area. She hopes to give American Muslims and minorities a voice in the press. Nargis is a fellow for the Feet in 2 Worlds Fellowship/WDET 101.9 FM. She writes for The Muslim Observer, Brown Girl Magazine and Metro Detroit Mommy. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.