Voices of Muslim Women is a non-profit organization with the goal of enabling Muslim women of all different backgrounds and ethnicities to speak out about their lives, aspirations, and experiences. The organization held their first ever panel this month and MY Voice gave me the opportunity of attending. The Ringleaders Panel featured four inspiring women: Dr. Nasrin Maiter, photographer Alia Youssef, motivational speaker Ilhan Abdulla,  and lawyer Veen Aldosky. The two lovely ladies of VWM, Fatima Ahmed and Aisha Azba Amijee, lead the night into an array of important discourses and conversations.

When I first arrived at the event, personally I felt very intimidated. I felt that perhaps I was under-dressed or that I would not know how to interact with all these inspiring women – how do I even ‘network’. However, Aisha and Fatima did a great job at welcoming all of us attendees and instilling a great sense of comfort in the atmosphere. Later, I met two lovely ladies that were sitting next to me in the row of chairs. One of them was kind enough to help me out with networking and giving me tips in handing out copies of MY Voice magazines. I was also introduced to Fatima Ahmed herself and immediately felt comfortable. It was inspiring and eye-opening to meet a person who has done amazing things, and yet, to realize that we both really are the same after all; just Muslim women on our journeys.

Before the panel began, the four speakers were introduced, all of whom were extremely accomplished and doing amazing things in their lives. Some topics were serious, while some were more on the lighter side. All of the ladies gave wonderful and well-thought out answers, which also made me realize that our experiences really are not as different as I thought. One idea that stood out to me most was that being a Muslim invites you to experience a sort of culture, and that culture is experienced by all Muslim, whether you realize it or not. It is a culture that we are born in to, and we experience it in different ways depending on our ethnicities, families, and traditions. Along with that, as a Muslim woman, you experience a culture that is slightly different than a male, and it further develops on the difference scale if you are of colour and have strict traditions. However, the beauty lies in the fact that this very culture is a means to bring all of us women together.

I felt enlightened to realize that we are all different in our varying ways. We all come from differing backgrounds, mindsets, rearing, and ethnic culture. We all differ in our outer appearance – whether a woman looks visibly Muslim or not – and our skin colour. However, this very well does not divert from the fact that we share the same ultimate experience and that because we are in sync within one factor: being a Muslim woman. It was important that we raise our voices and bring light upon topics that usually are shoved under the rug. It is inspiring to share our experiences and accomplishments being a Muslim woman, for it is a reminder for all of us that we can, and we will, regardless of being a woman and even more so, being a Muslim. Attending the Ringleaders Panel helped me realize this. The only person stopping you from achieving all those amazing dreams is you – we walk around with heavy titles that stop us from stepping on the next stone, for we assume we will slip if we try. However, it is important to let go of those heavy titles for that second before taking the leap, for it is highly possible that the one step could lead to many more.