a catalyst of change

“I want to be remembered as a woman who dared

to be a catalyst of change.”

–Shirley Chisholm

Being a minority in twenty-first century America, you learn early on that you are different — it starts off with something as simple as elementary school teachers refusing to pronounce your name correctly so as not to “butcher it” to the immeasurable amount of stereotypes that allow complete strangers to form preconceived notions about who you are.

It’s the constant feeling, as you grow up, of carrying an immense responsibility on your shoulders — you are an ambassador to your nation, to your religion, to your family — everything you do reflects on the community you come from, the sooner you realize this, the sooner you’re able to assert yourself in society as someone deserving of respect.

Coming from a marginalized group, having access to shaping policy for the improvement of your community and the larger society is an honorable position to be in. Representation matters — growing up, it was disheartening to see how my upbringing and those of some Muslim women abroad was so evidently, painfully different. Those in positions of power in countries like Saudi Arabia use Islam as a tool of oppression — corrupting its core values to fit their agenda and feed their egos. As a result, women are coerced into abiding by their laws or facing humiliation: something that is completely and absolutely prohibited in my religion. Muslim women are meant to be liberated through the teachings of Islam, to find strength and hope in it; instead they are oppressed at the hands of those who stand to gain something from bending women to their will.

As a privileged Muslim woman living in the United States (I do consider myself privileged, as I’ve been given the freedoms prescribed in the Quran as a result of growing up in an educated, humane society; as opposed to my sisters abroad who do not share the same freedoms) I see it as my duty to do what I can to bring light to the issues my sisters in Islam face both in the West and the rest of the world. I want to do everything in my power to fight for them and clear any and all misconceptions people may have about Muslim women.

I am a college student en route to becoming an influencer — whether that be in media or politics — and I realize that the platform I’ve been given is rare. It’s sacred, and it matters, and I intend to use it to achieve a higher purpose. There is no greater mission, the way I see it, than attempting to give a voice to the voiceless. And if you are a citizen of this country over the age of 18, you have the power to do exactly that.

Audre Lorde wrote, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from my own.” This is true for all marginalized groups in our society — women and girls, people of color, immigrants, refugees, migrants, indigenous people, religious communities, LGBTQ+ communities, the wrongfully incarcerated and their families, the mentally ill, victims of human trafficking, people of low socioeconomic status — the list goes on and on.

Politics are, and always have been, personal.

When a woman’s ability to choose what she wants to do with her body is stripped away by those attempting to control it, politics become personal. When brave women and men come forward with allegations of sexual assault and their perpetrators are given more credibility without any justice being ensured, politics become personal. When infants and children are separated from their parents and placed in concentration camps under the guise of protecting the country against “illegal immigrants,” politics become personal.

Liberate yourself. Liberate others. Because your voice — your vote — matters more than you might think.

Simra MariamComment