Hafsah Asadullah:"It's time that as women leaders, we take our seats and create a space of diversity and inclusivity in our religious homes."Written by Hafsah Asadullah
Hafsah Asadullah represented the riding of Milton, Ontario at Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote gathering in March, which brought together 338 young women between the ages of 18 and 23, representing each Canadian riding. Muslim Link had the opportunity to interview several of the young Muslim Canadian women who were selected to participate in this historic event, including Hafsah.
Coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8, Daughters of the Vote was aimed at encouraging more young women to become involved in Canadian politics, a space where there are still challenges to gender equity. The young women spent a week in Ottawa on Parliament Hill where they had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister, past and present Members of Parliament, and women leaders in the fields of politics, law, and technology.
Hafsah Asadullah, a Canadian of Pakistani descent, is currently studying Political Science at the University of Toronto. Hafsah is an active member of her municipality through organizing a series of fundraisers for Syrian newcomers in her community. Her interests in politics, international law and human rights has led her to strive for a career in politics and both represent, and be a voice for women of colour.
What was it like to represent your city at this event?
Representing my riding was an amazing privilege. I've lived in Milton most of my life and have a deep connection with the community that fostered my love for law, politics and social justice. Although, my riding is currently represented by a Conservative (Lisa Raitt). I for one am a Liberal, but more than that I'm a visible Muslim women who is also a person of colour. That is something that the Conservatives have never seen represented on their side of the house. So to be there, to represent the minority perspective, and to represent my home town, was incredibly powerful.
What were some highlights for you from the event?
One of the most beautiful experiences I had was the moment before we began our session in the house. All 338 of us were in our seats waiting to begin, when an indigenous delegate stood up and began to sing the indigenous song 'Strong Woman Song.' She sang the chorus, we repeated back, and another indigenous delegate sang from across the house. At the end, the entire house, raised their fists in the air in solidarity with our Inuit, Metis, and First Nations sisters. It was such a raw and unscripted moment, and I don't believe you will ever understand the power of it if you were not there. I think what really added to it was that we are all attending the event under the umbrella of Feminism, which for women who aren't white, can be problematic. But in that moment there was an intersectionality of feminism. It wasn't just for the equality of women, but for ALL women. Women of colour, women from religious minorities, trans and LGBT+ women, all of us. It was utterly surreal.
How would you like to see the voices of young Muslim women leaders better incorporated into both Canadian life but also Muslim Canadian life (ie Muslim organizations, mosques, etc).?
In terms of what I would like to see from other Canadian leaders, I would want our society to stop thinking of us as outsiders. I myself am a born and bred Canadian. Though I am Pakistani, I see Canada as my home country. I know that I'm not the only Muslim to feel like this, and as a multicultural society like Canada, it's time that this is noticed. It's not the question of what we need to do, rather how society needs to think.
In terms of female Muslim leaders in our Islamic community, I think it's time for the older generation to sit down and let us flourish. Personally I have always felt at odds with my Islamic community. On one hand the sheiks and imams always preach for the inclusivity of young people, but those leading and organizing the mosques are old men. It's time that as women leaders, we take our seats and create a space of diversity and inclusivity in our religious homes. When this happens, not only do we provide a different worldview, but we create an easier path for other women and inspire them to take more ambitious choices.
Follow Hafsah Asadullah on Twitter here
- Changing the Face of Parliament Changing the Face of Parliament
- Delegates in Traditional Cultural Dress Delegates in Traditional Cultural Dress
- Young Muslim Women Leaders Young Muslim Women Leaders
- Hafsah Asadullah means MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris Hafsah Asadullah means MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris
- Sitting in the Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons Sitting in the Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons
- Singing "Strong Woman Song" in the House of Commons Singing "Strong Woman Song" in the House of Commons
- Daughters of the Vote Come to Parliament Daughters of the Vote Come to Parliament
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