x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Women who are making a difference

Amina Wadud - The daughter of a Methodist minister, she is an American convert to Islam and a scholar, author and feminist. Her stance on women's rights has generated outrage among Muslims, including Yusuf al Qaradawi, an Egyptian scholar and preacher, who issued a fatwa calling for her death. In defiance, she led a mixed-gender prayer in New York City in 2005, following a bomb threat. She has published an interpretation of the Quran from a woman's perspective.

Aisha Rafea - An Egyptian educator on spirituality in Islam and the daughter of the prominent Egyptian Sufi Master, Rafea Muhammad Rafea. She is an author of children's books on spirituality and research papers and articles on spirituality in Islam. She plays an integral role in the Egyptian Society for Spirituality and Cultural Research, the organisation that her father founded in 1980.

Massouda Jalal - An Afghan psychiatrist and paediatrician best known for being the only female candidate in her country's presidential elections in 2004, when she came in a distant second to Hamid Karzai. She emerged as a strong voice for women's issues in 2001, five years after the Taliban regime removed her from her post as a faculty member at Kabul University. Today she works for the UN Food Programme and is a leading critic of the Karzai government for falling short on its commitments to women.

Laila al Zwaini - Born in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and an Iraqi father, Ms al Zwaini is an academic and adviser to the Dutch government, the UN and other international bodies. She focuses on women's rights and their access to justice. She has also worked as an adviser on the constitutional process in Iraq. Dawood Sharifa Khanam - A Tamil Muslim activist who is planning to build the first all-women's mosque in India. Ms Khanam attributes her passion for women's issues primarily to her experience at the Aligarh Muslim University in northern India, where, she says, she was appalled by the blatant discrimination against female students. She devotes her time to helping women on issues such as family violence, education and health care.

Suraya Pakzad - Recently named by Time magazine as one of the World's 100 Most Influential People, Ms Pakzad is best known for running an underground school for girls and a support centre for battered women during the Taliban reign in Afghanistan. Even today she receives death threats. Her main work is developing a network of women's shuras, quasi-government councils, around Herat, which help women create small businesses.

Tayyibah Taylor - Founding chief editor and publisher of Azizah Magazine, the voice of American Muslim women. She was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. Sumbul Ali-Karamali - The author of The Muslim Next Door: the Quran, the Media and that Veil Thing, a book that explains Islam and Islamic law. While at home in the US raising her two children, Ms Ali-Karamali had several articles published in legal journals and mainstream publications, and worked with her local civil rights advocacy group. She received an Asian American Hero Award for fostering cross-cultural understanding and education.

Nevin Reda - Preparing to defend her doctoral thesis on the comprehensive and holistic approach to the largest Sura in the Quran, Surat al Baqara. Her focus includes women in the Quran and Bible-Quran intertextuality. She has co-led scriptural reasoning and other inter-faith dialogue sessions and is a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. Sabeeha Rehman - The director of inter-faith programmes for the American Society for Muslim Advancement. She has worked for 25 years as a healthcare executive and administrator.

* The National