by Noran Elzarka
Reclaiming voices, identities, and ambitions has been a struggle for many of us as women of color. Too often, Muslim women feel isolated within their religious and non-religious communities because of unrealistic expectations, harmful gender roles, and presupposed definitions of womanhood and the construct of an ideal Muslim women. Neda Kittaneh and I, Noran Elzarka, have to come together to provide a platform for facilitated workshops and discussions to question, criticize, and celebrate the Muslim women identity. AMiRA, which stands for Advancing Muslim-Women in Reclaiming Ambitions, is an initiative that works to create a safe space free of misogyny, racism, and neo-colonial discourse for that struggle.
This initiative began when Neda and I realized the need for this kind of space. Spaces, although marketed as safe spaces, often fail to accommodate and include the sensitivities that affect the diversity of the Muslim women identity. From our own experiences, these spaces and platforms have not taken an active approach in improving and including all diverse voices and narratives; thus normalizing political and social injustices.
AMiRA is currently planning its first set of events that will address issues including:
- Muslim women in the media, or lack thereof
- the problematics behind accommodating to the Western gaze
- addressing anti-blackness and shadeism within our own religious communities
- dissecting cultural norms and gender roles and extracting cultural practices that stem from colonization but unfortunately merge into our everyday lives, understanding internalized sexism, reclaiming the hijab, and pushing our own stories and narratives to be heard
Depending on the content of the event or workshop, some will be gender segregated while others will be open to the public.
We hope that this platform and space can allow voices to be heard, respected, and legitimized by one another. On our Facebook page, you will find more information and updates about AMiRA, as well as partake in occasional online discussions. If you have any questions or ideas, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noran Elzarka and Nada Kittaneh, Ella Baker fellows through the Sadie Nash Leadership Project in New York City, are the founders and managers of this organization. Noran Elzarka is an undergraduate student at Drew University studying Political Science and Women’s Studies and Nada Kittaneh is an undergraduate student at Rutgers University studying Business and Psychology.