Among the many stereotypes about Islam is the idea that Muslim women are oppressed and cannot make change and that Muslims never stand up to violence. Dr. Hawa Abdi contradicts both stereotypes. She challenged an extremist group within her own country and, along with her daughters, was named Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year. I decided to write about her because of her courage to challenge those in her community who are not acting within the true spirit of Islam.
Dr. Abdi is a Somali Muslim woman who set up a clinic in 1983 and continued to run it even after the Somali government collapsed. According to Nicholas Kristof, this hospital now provides services for 90,000 displaced people. Moreover, Dr. Abdi runs education programs to alleviate the suffering and improve the status of Somali women.
On May 5th, 2010, a militia group called Hizb al-Islam (Party of Islam) attacked and took over the hospital. Dr. Abdi refused to turn over control to the militia, seriously risking her own life. Eventually, the militia gave in and even issued an apology to her.
Dr. Abdi represents a strong Muslim woman who would not accept the violence brought on by a group that misuses Islam. She stood her ground and protected all those people who depended on her and the hospital. Far from being a stereotypical example of a subservient, meek woman as we so often hear about, Dr. Abdi is an example of a true Muslim woman acting and living according to her faith.
Have you heard of Dr. Hawa Abdi? Do you know of other Muslim women who are breaking stereotypes and making real change? Please share your thoughts below.