This post was written by guest contributor Nur Laura Caskey.
Once upon a time, back in the 90′s (so long ago for some, I know), there was a band called Salt ‘N Peppa that performed the song “Whatta Man.” The opening lyrics started with “I wanna take a minute or two/ and give much respect to/ the man who’s made a difference in my world.” Now, I want to bring this concept back, and not just for the sake of nostalgia. Let’s take a minute or two and give much respect to some of the Muslim women who’ve made a difference in our world. I’m talking about taking a quick breath from the overwhelming influx of news concerning the atrocities of French re-invasion of Mali, of Pamela Geller’s laughable recycled characterization of Islam as inherently misogynist while Euro-American Christians are presented as egalitarian saviors, and such continued horrific diatribes against women of color activists as this, and instead focus on something that just makes you want to smile and say “mashallah!”: this.
In the Fall of 2012, Zahra Billoo, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations‘ San Francisco Bay Area branch, put out a request using social media for Muslim women speakers. Within a short period of time she was able to compile and publish a list of female speakers competent in a variety of topics for Muslim programs. In addition to this, Billoo has made an effort to bring awareness of the lack of women’s voices to event coordinators’ attention and provide them with this list so as to better inform them and circumvent oft-resorted-to excuses of there not being any qualified female speakers. At the time that I saw Billoo’s request come out on Facebook (I feel too technologically apathetic to be able to competently manage both a Facebook and a Twitter account, so I just stick with Facebook), I was ecstatic that someone was actually taking the time to address such a crucial need.