Inaugural Islamic conference motivates women to reach potential

Empowering The Muslim Woman

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

Kiran Malik-Khan presents her speech titled: The Professional Muslim Woman to a crowd of almost 200 guests for the first Empowering the Muslim Woman conference on November 15. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

Kiran Malik-Khan presents her speech titled: The Professional Muslim Woman to a crowd of almost 200 guests for the first Empowering the Muslim Woman conference on November 15. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

With a purpose to motivate others, the Markaz Ul Islam Sisters Committee did just that for guests at the first-of-its-kind conference: Empowering the Muslim Woman.

Close to 200 attendees of Muslim and non-Muslim women joined together at the Keyano Recital Theatre on November 15 to listen to special guest speaker Hafsa Thompson of Vancouver, B.C., along with local community leaders, Chadia Huda and Connect’s own Kiran Malik-Khan.

In collaboration with Markaz Ul Islam, the Islamic Centre of Fort McMurray, the event was created and inspired from the success of the Centre’s annual conference. The Sisters Committee has been actively involved in previous events and felt it was time to have one of their own.

“It was time for us to do our own,” explains Samra Ilyas, member of Markaz Ul Islam Sisters Committee and co-organizer for the conference.

“It was time for us to do our own,” explains Samra Ilyas, member of Markaz Ul Islam Sisters Committee and co-organizer for the conference. Other members of the committee include local residents Bushra Irfan, Sara Eweida, Siraad Hassan, Chadia Huda and Rida Ikram, who represent diversity by their age, ethnicity, background, language, experience and skills.

The title of the conference: “Empower the Muslim Woman” was chosen to showcase how women can maximize their potential through work, school, home and everything else between.

“We decided that this would be a good way to gather the Muslim women together to get a feel for the programs that they would like to see in the community. It was also a chance for women to have a day out, leaving the kids at home or at the baby-sitting that was provided,” said Ilyas.

“A chance for women to come out and meet other women in the community, to network, learn, share. This was to be our first event, so we wanted to do something big and something that would be memorable.”

Local journalist and communications coordinator for the Fort McMurray Public School District Kiran Malik-Khan empowered the crowd with her business knowledge and determination in her presentation: The Professional Muslim Woman.

She shared how Islam’s history tells the stories of business women from centuries ago and how today should be no different for any woman doubting their capabilities in the workforce.

“Islam’s history features industrious women leaders,” Malik-Khan said to the audience. “Our Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadija – May Allah be pleased with her – was a business woman.”

She continued, “Think of the modern female business tycoon today who runs an empire, finds a suitable partner, has children, and does it all. Islam started the trend 1,400 years ago. Tell me again women can’t work, or that we don’t have rights.”

Malik-Khan, who is also the president and co-founder of World Hijab Day Fort McMurray, ventured into her ideals on collaborating with non-Muslims in the workplace and how to easily remove any doubts or potential insecurities of wearing a hijab by helping educate its purpose.

“To the new hijabis going back to work, or those who are wondering what’ll happen to my career if I start the hijab, articulate the significance of the hijab whenever you can during light lunch conversations. Let co-workers, and your boss know how important the hijab is. Don’t be embarrassed, or hesitant,” she said.

“A majority of us want to learn from one another… And, another thing – please don’t go “holier than thou” on anyone if you do wear the hijab. Islam is about manners. Our actions make us Muslim, not just our attire. Kindness, compassion, honesty, being of service to everyone regardless of faith – that makes a Muslim, not just wearing the hijab.”

“A majority of us want to learn from one another… And, another thing – please don’t go “holier than thou” on anyone if you do wear the hijab. Islam is about manners. Our actions make us Muslim, not just our attire. Kindness, compassion, honesty, being of service to everyone regardless of faith – that makes a Muslim, not just wearing the hijab.”

As part of the conference, there was a special performance by the youth girls of the Centre and Ilyas describes it brought a lot of emotion to her and the guests alike.

“(It was) so powerful and brought many of us to tears,” she said. “It ended with a Canadian flag and a sign that read: We Are One!”

Ilyas hopes the first conference has left women feeling inspired to learn more about Islam and motivated to do better, as well as, reach their full potential.

“It was a great opportunity to network and hopefully it gave them an opportunity to connect through discussion, sharing of ideas and experiences, and maybe make some new friends,” she said. “We are preparing a new generation of women to be the leaders of tomorrow. They are confident, smart and socially aware.”

– Connect Weekly –