Muslim Women: Past and Present

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Throughout the ages, from the earliest days of Islam to contemporary times today, Muslim women have been and continue to be active leaders in their communities and countries across the world. This directory is a growing archive of leading Muslim women scholars, activists, writers, politicians, artists, religious and spiritual leaders, civil society leaders and more. Please contribute to this archive by suggesting Muslim women to be featured through our recommendation form.

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Hassiba Boulmerka

I screamed for joy and for shock, and for much more. I was screaming for Algeria's pride and Algeria's history, and still more. I screamed finally for every Algerian woman, every Arabic woman.

—Boulmerka on her win at the 1991 Tokyo world championships (Nancy Foley, “70. Hassiba Boulmerka, Track and Field” in Sports Illustrated for Women)

photo of Hassiba Boulmerka Photo credit: Lionel Cironneau/AP Images

Known For: The first Algerian to win an Olympic medal
Dates: Hijri 1387 – Present (AH)
Common Era 1968 – Present (AH)
Country: Algeria

About

Hassiba Boulmerka was the first woman from an Arab or African nation to win a world track championship, as well as the first Algerian to win an Olympic medal. Algeria’s best known female distance runner, Hassiba began running at a young age.  Throughout the late 1980s she began making a name for herself on the international stage. It was during this time that conservative Islamic elements in Algeria condemned her and her role as a prominent female athlete. The continued harassment forced her to relocate her training to Europe. Despite this setback, she competed in the 1500 meter race in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. She won the race, earning Algeria its first gold medal.  She continued her professional running career, participating in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.  However, she sprained her ankle in the semi-finals and then retired from professional sports in 1997.

Since then, Hassiba has continued her work advocating on behalf of female athletes. She was elected a member of the Athletes’ Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and in 1999, she lobbied the group to put more pressure on governments that discriminate against female athletes. 

More Information

Jennifer Hargreaves, Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity (London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2000)

Nancy Foley, “70. Hassiba Boulmerka, Track and Field” in Sports Illustrated for Women

Hassiba Boulmerka fan website

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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women alphabetically by their first names. Many Muslim names have alternative spellings once rendered into English so if you cannot find the name you are looking for, please try the general search tab where you can enter keywords of your choice.
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This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women chronologically by the Common Era century. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women by their Country. We are actively building the archive of Muslim women leaders from the past, as well as from today, and we would welcome your recommendations of women to feature. Please complete our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.
This search feature will enable you to find Muslim women leaders by entering the keyword(s) of your choice. If you cannot find a particular woman that you are looking for, please let us know by completing our “Recommend Muslim Women” form and check the site again in the near future as we actively expand this section of the portal with your suggestions.