How These Muslim Women Became NYC Civic Leaders

NYC-Muslims-AP_100825034349-780-x-508Source: Religion & Politics

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“It’s difficult to avoid the elephant in the room,” says Faiza Ali, a 33-year-old New Yorker. “Walking the streets of New York, you can’t forget you are Muslim, brown, or black.”

The daughter of Pakistani immigrants, Ali describes herself as a community organizer, a civil rights activist, and a proud Mets fan. She works in local government, as the co-director for outreach at the New York City Council. She has also been an activist for many years. When her father came to New York City in the late 1960s, he worked as a dishwasher and later at a knitting factory, before securing a union job as an elevator operator. Her mother worked as a seamstress from their apartment in Brooklyn. She says her bustling childhood household of seven led her “to activism, anchored in values of justice and passion.” After 9/11, she was further galvanized after witnessing injustice perpetrated against Muslim communities, including “experiencing my own daily microaggressions of being a woman in hijab in NYC.”

Across the United States, Muslim women, especially those identifiable on account of their dress, have become the poster children of stereotypes regarding Islam, patriarchy, and gender inequality. But Muslim women in New York City are increasingly at the forefront of local and national political engagement—not as spectators, or even just participants, but as largely unrecognized leaders of civic change.

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