From driving cars to running countries; Muslim women head of states

In the last few months, I have allowed myself to be consumed by the presidential election and all its negativity to the exclusion of everything else.  As a result,  I neglected among other things, to post on my blog, despite the numerous great achievements of Muslims women, both in the United States and around the world.  But,  I am back, and what better way to restart my blog,  than to recycle one of my earliest posts on Muslim women head of states.

We just celebrated Presidents’ Day yesterday,  and even though we have yet to have our first female president in the United States,  the women featured below, give us hope,  that it can be done.

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During a diversity workshop presentation a few years ago at one of the federal agencies in Washington DC, when I was still with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), I asked the audience my customary question of what comes to their minds when they first see a Muslim woman dressed in an Islamic headscarf.  I got the usual answers of, oppression, modesty, beautiful, uneducated, etc. However one answer that stood out for me over the years was from one of the employees who said that he was always surprised when he sees Muslim women driving in the United States, considering that they are not allowed to do so in their home countries.

The perception held by this person was that all Muslims in America were foreign born, and that they all come from countries that have laws which are oppressive; laws that ban women from driving. He did not realize that other than Saudi Arabia, no country in the world prohibit women from driving, and that even in Saudi Arabia, the women have over the years been protesting that law. You can learn more about early American Muslims from my post African American Muslim Women Pioneers: A Reflection on Black History Month

Today, as I was reflecting upon this particular encounter, it got me thinking that on this Presidents’ Day, I should feature some of the women that held the highest offices in the Muslim world. Not only could these women drive cars in their countries, they managed to reach the peak of their political careers, and were charged with the responsibility of driving their countries forward.

The leadership of these women from Asia, Africa and Europe is or was as diverse and as distinct as the countries they lead or led.

Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto, photographed at Chandini Restaurant, Newark, CA by iFaqeer

Benazir Bhutto, photographed at Chandini Restaurant, Newark, CA by iFaqeer

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to be elected to lead a Muslim State and was the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan. She served two non-consecutive terms, 1988-1990 and from 1993-1996.

 

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has elected two female Prime Ministers each having served two non-consecutive terms.

Begum Khaleda Zia, former Bangladesh Prime Minister and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is photographed as she appeared as the chief guest in a book opening ceremony on 1 March, 2010 at the Diploma Engineers Institute, Dhaka.

Begum Khaleda Zia, former Bangladesh Prime Minister and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is photographed as she appeared as the chief guest in a book opening ceremony on 1 March, 2010 at the Diploma Engineers Institute, Dhaka.

Begum Khaleda Zia was the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the second woman to be elected to lead a Muslim state after the Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She too served two terms, from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh at the Olympic hunger summit in Downing Street, 12, August 2012 (www.Flickr.com)

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh at the Olympic hunger summit in Downing Street, 12, August 2012 (www.Flickr.com)

Sheikh Hasina, is the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She has been elected twice to the office, having served from 1996-2001 and again from 2009 to present.

 

Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller (left) and the prime minister-designate, Mesut Yilmaz, 1996. Burhan Ozbilici—AP/Wide World

Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller (left) and the prime minister-designate, Mesut Yilmaz, 1996.
Burhan Ozbilici—AP/Wide World

Tansu Ciller served as the 22 Prime Minister of Turkey from 1993-1995 and is the first female to serve in that capacity.

 

Kosovo

President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga during the signing of the U.S.-Kosovo Agreement on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on December 14, 2011. (www.flickr.com)

President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga during the signing of the U.S.-Kosovo Agreement on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on December 14, 2011. (www.flickr.com)

Atifete Jahjaga at age 36 she was elected the fourth president of the Republic of Kosovo in 2011.  She is the first female president of the republic, the youngest ever to be elected, and the first female head of state in the modern Balkan states.

 

Mali

Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Sidibe Kaïdama of Mali

Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Sidibe Kaïdama of Mali

Cissé Mariam Sidibe Kaïdama held the office of Prime Minister of Mali from 2011-2012, and was the first female in the history of the country to be appointed to that position.

 

Indonesia

Megawati Sukarnoputri, fifth President of Indonesia 2001

Megawati Sukarnoputri, fifth President of Indonesia 2001

Megawati Sukamoputri was the fifth President of Indonesia and the first female to serve her country in that capacity. She served from 2001-2004.

 

Senegal

Boye-Mame-Madior, Prime Minister of Senegal 2001-2002

Boye-Mame-Madior, Prime Minister of Senegal 2001-2002

Mame Madior Boye was appointed to office as the Prime Minister of Senegal and served from 2001 -2002.  She was the first female Prime Minister in the history of the country.

Updated: June 5, 2015

Another Muslim Female president has joined this rank of head of states. Read my latest blog below.

http://www.redefinedperspective.com/africa-has-a-new-muslim-female-president/

 

If you like what you read,  please share,  and leave a comment.

Peace

27 comments

  1. dr.abeid says:

    thank you for pointing out women take positions too. How can men of the world forget that Aisha r.a was a woman who had high status in Islam? She was more than a scholar, professor, who shared all her knowledge. They even forgot that Khadija r.a was a great merchant of Makkah. She was rich than most of the men and had high status in the community. No wonder you share the name with her, let Allah also raise your status to be like them. My advise, let all men (muslims and non muslims)read history of Islam, and understand it right that Islam doesn’t oppress women. Instead it raises their status. Let men understand difference between

    • dr.abeid says:

      thank you for pointing out women take positions too. How can men of the world forget that Aisha r.a was a woman who had high status in Islam? She was more than a scholar, professor, who shared all her knowledge. They even forgot that Khadija r.a was a great merchant of Makkah. She was rich than most of the men and had high status in the community. No wonder you share the name with her, let Allah also raise your status to be like them. My advise, let all men (muslims and non muslims)read history of Islam, and understand it right that Islam doesn’t oppress women. Instead it raises their status. Let men understand difference between Islam and traditions in most islam countries which undermines women. Am not chauvinist am just advocating for muslim women.

  2. Habiba says:

    I love this article showcasing some very accomplished women in Islam. Apart from holding the highest political office, Muslim women have been highly influential in almost every other field we can think of. I would like to mention one who I recently watched a documentary on.

    Her name is Asha Haji Elmi and she is the founder of Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC). She and her sister have been fighting to protect women and children in war torn Somalia. She was recently voted in as a parliamentarian. I was so impressed and inspired by her story. She is just another example of countless Muslim women leaving an indelible mark in history.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asha_Haji_Elmi

    • Khadija Athman says:

      Thank you Habiba for sharing about Aisha Haji Elmi, it is heartening to hear about the tremendous work of selfless women out there ready to serve humanity. It is the intention of this blog to highlight the work of such women so we can all be inspired to follow in their footsteps

  3. Abdulqadir says:

    Assalamu alaikum.

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. I think its important that contributions made by Muslim women are highlighted as a way to remonve the stereotypes. Its disheartening for Muslims to hear that Florence Nightigale is viewed as the first person ever to practice nursing in the battlefields of 1st world war, whereas Nusayba and co. (radhia’llahu anhuma) did exactly that in 624 AD, 1300 yrs before Nightigale. This is something students of nursing at higher levels would know about, but not the common individuals.

    So, as a follow up to the Presidents and prime ministers, positions which can be brushed as politicial and can be influenced by certain favoritism in the ascession to in the countries mentioned, it would be even more convincing if the achievement of muslims women in modern times can be highlighted. We have Muslim women Nobel laurates, scientists, writers, philanthropists, industrialists, economists all over the world. I’m sure one can find these and list them.

    May Allah guide you and reward you for Your efforts.

    • Khadija Athman says:

      Thank you for your your input, I am glad that we share the same vision for this blog. It is the intention of this blog to highlight the different achievements of Muslim women in different walks of life and all the categories you mentioned are in the pipeline. I appreciate your prayers and keep on sharing your feedback and ideas.

  4. Halima says:

    Very enlightening, mashallah. Giving credit to Muslim women leaders that is very often overlooked.
    Keep on educating us Khadija, am really enjoying and looking forward to your blogs. May Allah reward you for this wonderful job you are doing.

  5. MAIMUNA salim KILWA says:

    MASHAALLAH ,
    THIS IS MARVELOUS ,
    MAY ALLAH GUIDE N BLESS YOU MORE FOR THIS VERY EDUCATIVE AND ENLIGHENING BLOG.
    I will pass it around to all my contact n INSHAALLAH will contribute whenever I can .
    Brgds
    MUNA

  6. Batul says:

    Mashallah this is quite an eye opener for us too. We are learning quite a lot. May Allah bless you and continue to guide and give you more knowledge to be able to share and remove the stereotypes against Islam.

  7. Khadija Athman says:

    I too am learning along the way, and ameen to your dua.

  8. salma Edarus says:

    Nice MashaAllah, This is my first blog to follow and thank you because it will build up my reading skills.

  9. Ibn Yusuf says:

    Superb!

  10. Habena.Basty says:

    Khadija…this is one of the most interesting blog any woman should be inspired when they read through.thumbs up for remembering one Important teaching our Prophet PBUH left for us.The rights of women and how they can be empowered.Great job Indeed.Everyone should read this Blog!!

  11. Ibn Yusuf says:

    Khadija, this piece is absolutely superb! And its timing is fantastic. Many of us are very familiar with names such as Bhutto, Hasina, Tansu Ciller, Megawati, etc. And certainly less familiar with names such as Cisse Mariam Sidibe and Maam Madior Boye from the African continent. So thank you for educating us.

    Adding to this list is Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Amina Mohamed who is, “an accomplished diplomat and distinguished negotiator, [she] has a wealth of experience spanning over 28 years of public service in Kenya and at the international level.”

    http://www.mfa.go.ke/?q=node/9

    Thanks again once again for “celebrating the amazing, strong and courageous Muslim women of the world.”

  12. Madiha Hinawy~Tubman says:

    Asalaam Alykum Sister Khadija:

    Thank you for showcasing these incredible Muslim women, either past or present who serve(d) in the role of leadership. I sincerely hope your blog will not only help educate the masses and eventually eradicate ignorance surrounding many issues faced by women in Islam, but I hope it will speak directly to the young Muslim girls out there who might be inspired to follow the footsteps of these magnificent ladies I am proud to refer to as Muslim female leaders.

    Speak up and continue to be heard my dear sister, for silence, is, but a whisper amidst a howling wind.

    Nakutakia kila la kheir.

    Maasalam

    • Khadija Athman says:

      Thank you very much for your support and it is my hope and prayer that the blog will achieve the goal of educating the masses and inspire the Muslim women to take up leadership roles. We will all “lean in” so to say, as pointed out in my latest blog post. I pray you will continue to follow this blog and contribute any ideas or feedback you may have. Thank you again.

  13. […] Although the media plays a great role in shaping attitudes about Muslims, I also realized that some Muslims, even if it’s a small minority, contribute to the negative stereotype. Thus, the federal employee who said he was surprised every time he saw a Muslim woman in America drive, had his view shaped by Saudi Arabia’s law. See my post “From driving cars to running countries; Muslim women head of states”. […]

  14. […] was stumped as to what to post this week.  I have in the past posted on Muslim women in politics (From driving cars to running countries; Muslim women head of states), sports (The sky is the limit or in this case, Mt. Everest), film (Gender Separation Barriers in […]

  15. Ibn Yusuf says:

    Welcome back!

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