By Tahira Ayub: Soon-to-be First Year Masters student at Stockton University (N.J.), Co-Chair of the Society of Young Muslim Women
Two and half years ago, The Society of Young Muslim Women was formed as a way to fulfill the desperate need in our community for a place where girls aged 13 and up could come together, bond, and feel safe to have discussions. These discussions first started as a way for us all to understand our faith and ourselves – what does the Hijab mean? How should we as Muslims deal with anger and bigotry? What does Islam say about life after death? For a while, we were very content with keeping to ourselves and working on our small scale.
Over the past two and half years, we’ve made an impact on our local community in ways we had never expected to be able to. We have collected thousands of cans for local food banks, collected hundreds of books for local organizations, and 3 dozen bags of clothes for those in need. We’ve volunteered with the American Red Cross and participated in the ACUA Earth Day Festival for nearly three consecutive years. We’ve represented our group at conventions and events and have kept up much needed dialogues. We’ve made ourselves seen and heard.
As the years went by and our involvement with the community increased, not only did our membership grow but our empowerment did as well. We started finding comfort and unity by raising our voices for the oppressed, raising awareness of global issues, and understanding the power of the voices we had. We started to find a reason to use our voices for those who weren’t being heard – especially Muslim Women. In the media today it seems that Muslims are brought up a lot, however, they are always spoken about and spoken for by improper representations of who Muslims actually are. We found that no one is really asking Muslims – everything is just assumed. So we set out to change that in any way we could.
We created a segment of our group, titled the Daughters of Abraham, which focuses on creating interfaith dialogue between girls aged 13 and up. Partnering with Stockton University, this group has grown from a dozen members of just the Jewish and Islamic faiths to 40 plus girls of many faiths. This has been a platform for us to not only teach others about Islam from our own perspectives, but also create dialogue and learn from others about other beliefs as well. This project, along with others, has allowed us to gain traction in interfaith organizations and has influenced us into using available media, such as radio shows, to spread our message.
Additionally, when horrendous comments about Muslims began to be a norm during presidential debates from candidates this past year, we decided we wanted to make a statement. Donald Trump, who is only one of many politicians to say generalizing and false statements about Muslims, spoke about the necessity of requiring all American Muslims to wear identification. In response, a few of us came together to show him that we already had IDs – as students, women, athletes, and more. The response to this post was incredible, and we were able to catch the eye of the Huffington Post where we now have a blog position. In this small act of courage, our group has been given a larger platform to reach people and change hearts, but we have been given motivation to keep using our voices to teach love and peace, as our religion teaches us.
About the Author & Co-chair:
Tahira Ayub: Soon-to-be First Year Masters student at Stockton University, Co-Chair of the Society of Young Muslim Women
Tahira is a graduating senior at Stockton University, pursuing degrees in both Psychology and Health Sciences Pre-Communication Disorders. She will be begin her Master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Stockton University in the Fall. Tahira is a co-founder of the Society of Young Muslim Women and is involved in and hold leadership positions in organizations on campus and the community.
Nudar Chowdhury: Incoming Freshman at Stockton University, Co-Chair of the Society of Young Muslim Women
Nudar is a graduating senior at Egg Harbor Township High School and will be beginning at Stockton University in the Fall. She is passionate about working for human rights. Nudar will be entering Stockton as a member of the Honors Program, proving her excellence in academia in addition to her work ethic and involvement.