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With Bismillah – Five Fierce Muslim Women Look to a Better Future in 2021
Dec 30, 2020
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
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From top left in clockwise order: Kelly Crosby, Dr. Hannah Saad, Dr. Kayla Wheeler, Angelica Lindsey Ali, Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Layla Abdullah-Poulos
contributing writer
Whew! 2020 was a year full of drama and trauma, and I have had quite a few of those. Although the historian in me can recount a lot more cataclysmic events, years, decades and centuries, there is no denying that the past 12 months left a permanent impression on peoples’ psyche and the global social consciousness. We have been shaken, but there is always a glimmer of hope for humans and humanity.
During a year of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and a presidential election that way surpassed George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, we needed the voices and perspectives of Muslim women more than ever. Alhamdulillah, they were out there, being awesome in their respective fields and taking the time out to share their expertise, wisdom and advice. The Haute Take is full of these strong women. They were critical to seeing the Ummah through a rough year.
Now that a new year approaches, we asked some of the women we interviewed to share their outlook for 2021. Here's what five of them had to say.
Angelica Lindsey Ali, aka the Village Auntie, Sexual Health Educator
Angelica spent more than 20 years working as a certified sexual health educator. She teaches sexual health workshops to Muslim women in an Islamic context and using African traditions. Known as “The Village Auntie,” she is a social media influencer with a growing number of followers.
Haute Hijab interviewed Angelica about her “Village Auntie movement” and ways that couples can improve their sex lives.
“Wow, it is almost strange to think that 2020 is coming to an end.
“What I am most looking forward to in 2020 is the ability to scale The Village Auntie Institute into a global certifying entity to equip women with the knowledge needed to help other women. My greatest joy in the calamity that was 2020 is watching how women have harnessed the power of the virtual medium to connect, build and grow business. My team and I are working on certification courses so that the work can grow and nourish woman-centered spaces. I want to continue to use my platform to connect with women globally. Sisterhood has been the biggest gift of 2020.”
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Educator & Islamic Scholar
Dr. Ingrid Mattson is a professor of Islamic Studies, interfaith activist and Muslim leader. She shared her perspective on spiritual abuse by religious leaders and honoring the sacrosanctity of individual humanity with Haute Hijab.
“Our Hurma Project team has spent the last six months conducting extended interviews of Muslim mental health professionals, scholars, imams, chaplains and others to dig deep into the factors enabling violations of the sacred inviolability of believers in our Muslim spaces. I am excited to announce that we will begin releasing these interviews in January, Insha’Allah. It is my hope and prayer that by better understanding these dynamics, our Muslim spaces will be safer, more uplifting and healing for all people, once we are free again to gather in person after the pandemic is under control, God willing.”
Kelly Crosby, Artist
Artist and activist Kelly Crosby has displayed her work across the United States and internationally in Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at conferences, art shows and festivals. We talked with Crosby about her art being a tool of resistance.
“My hopes for 2021 are few: I hope we can work with the new Biden administration to bring significant change, especially in regard to the student loan crisis and food security. So many people are silently suffering due to government mismanagement and greed. I hope the [COVID-19] vaccine will be disturbed to all who need it so we can begin properly mourning the thousands who have died from this preventable crisis. My personal goals are to grow my art business, have more self-confidence and more reliance on Allah's (S) infinite wisdom and love.”
Dr. Hannan Saad, Radiologist
In October, we wrote about the importance of early detection in breast cancer, speaking with Dr. Hannan Saad, a radiologist at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Dr. Hannan listed the signs to look for in a breast self-examinations and what we all can be doing better.
“2020 will forever come to symbolize a year of health and economic crisis negatively affecting the lives of millions of people across the world. While my medical profession has protected me from the threat of job insecurity and the pain of hunger, the unexpected illness of someone near and dear this year has threatened so much more. The fragility of this life has never been more tangible. And yet, as much as I am ready to leave this year behind, my first wish for this New Year is that we all take the time to reflect on the good. Things may be bad, but they can always be worse. Let us be thankful for what we have, be it our health, family, jobs, education or simply God. [Let us] reassess our goals in life and work towards ultimately becoming better human beings for the sake of ourselves and humanity.
“That being said, 2021 brings a much-anticipated milestone for me both personally and professionally. This will be the year that I finally finish my postgraduate radiology training; after four years of medical school and six years of radiology residency/ fellowship, I’ll finally begin my job as a staff emergency radiologist.
“As a mom of three (soon to be four) children, all had during my medical training, I’ve had to make many personal sacrifices while pursuing my career. The all-consuming culture of medicine demands a level of attention that nears worship and remains largely deficient in regards to the respect of women or the sanctity of family. The reality is, there is no such thing as “balance,” just a scale that tilts back and forth. Sometimes milestones are missed, sometimes professional aspirations have to be forgone. The struggles of motherhood and medicine can tunnel vision into a superficial and worldly survival mode. So I look forward to 2021 as the year in which I can tilt the scale back to the way it should be. I look forward to being unequivocally present with my children. I look forward to a year of spiritual clarity. I intend to refocus on becoming more God-conscious and more family conscious, Insha’Allah.”
Dr. Kayla Renée Wheeler, Educator
Dr. Kayla Wheeler is an assistant professor of Gender and Diversity Studies. She holds a PhD in Religious Studies with a concentration in Islam in America. We interviewed Dr. Wheeler about her work curating the #BlackIslamSyllabus collection of Black Muslim “historical, social and cultural sources serving as resources to deepen the study of Islam.”
“In terms of my personal life, I'm looking forward to launching the Black Islam Syllabus website on February 1. This was made possible because of the donations of over 60 individuals. I am also looking forward to finding a digital spiritual community, as I imagine we will continue to have some social distancing practices in place for a long time, and I will not feel comfortable being in enclosed communal spaces for a while.
“I am also looking forward, hopefully, to the end of the Muslim Ban after Biden takes office. I have a lot of friends who have not been able to see their family for nearly four years. I hope that this election does not slow down the momentum organizers and activists were making, especially over the summer when many people finally woke up and realized how truly anti-Black our nation is. I hope people continue to educate themselves, support grassroots organizations that have been doing this work for years like Muslim ARC, and that people commit to challenging oppression in their daily lives, even when it makes them uncomfortable.”
We may not know what the new year has for us, but knowing that these fantastic Muslimahs and more are out there, working for the deen and Ummah, gives me a lot of comfort and fortitude to forge into 2021. Let’s do this!
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