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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Nawal El Moutawakel
I have the satisfaction of contributing to the liberation of Muslim women--or, rather, of Muslim men, who will have been forced to meditate on my ability.
Nawal El Moutawakel (Philip Hersch, “Olympic Pioneer’s Amazing Back Story,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 2009)
Known For: Olympic Athlete
Dates: Hijri 1381 – Present (AH)
Common Era 1962 – Present (CE)
During the 1984 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles, Nawal placed first in the 400 meter hurdles and became the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
Nawal was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco. Her talent brought her to the United States, specifically to the track team at Iowa State University. While a student, she was asked by the Moroccan track team to compete with them in the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She competed in the inaugural 400-meter hurdles event and placed first, beating her personal best by .76 seconds and winning the gold medal. The King of Morocco at the time, Hassan II, declared that every girl born on her victory day would be named Nawal in her honor.
Since her historic win, Nawal has championed female athletes all over the world. She is a member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), and she was selected to be a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1998. She was president of the selection committee for the 2012 summer games and is the first Muslim woman to be on the committee.
Since 2007, she has been the Moroccan Minister of Youth and Sports. She is also the president of Association Marocaine de Sports et Developpment (AMSD), as well as the vice-president of the Moroccan Royal Federation of Athletics.
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