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6 Reasons Why Every Empowered Woman Should Read Leading While Muslim

Leading While Muslim is a research on American Muslim Principals after the attack of 9/11. In this blog we discuss why every empowered woman should read Leading While Muslim by Dr. Debbie Almontaser

There has been sizeable research after 9/11 and its effects on the public sectors including our schools and students. However, no data was gathered about Muslim American principals.

When I see the power of The Squad; our four congresswomen of color, it justifies the ultimate foundations of my book. Leading while Muslim, Black, Latinx, and, at the same time a woman, is not easy. Especially in a politically charged climate that is antithetical to our American values.

Ilhan Omar is a congresswoman who stands for equal rights of miniorities in America.

That is why I believe, every empowered woman, or those seeking empowerment, should read Leading While Muslim. You will learn about the challenges and triumphs these American principals experienced. You will also learn how we can support the leadership of women of color. 

Here are the six reasons why.

1. It is Authentic

Leading While Muslim is the first of its kind to study American Muslim Principals in the US. Their experiences reflect a plethora of racial and religious fears faced by American Muslim leaders aftermath of 9/11. 

This book is not fiction, it’s not what I think. It’s not what the American Muslim community thinks. 

It is not even what Muslim leaders think. 

Its unyielding, staunch data. 

The book identifies adversities faced by American Muslim Principals, and how to address these adversities. Of the fourteen school principals, eight were women and six were men.  Within the eight women, four were black and brown women who felt they had to prove themselves three times more than their white counterparts. Only because they were women, black/brown and Muslim.

Leading While Muslim (Ch. 6, p. 63)

Muslim, Black and Latinx women leaders in America can relate to the current racially charged environment in the US. 

At present, our nation is basically divided into two categories; those who agree with Trump, and those who don’t. Many women come up to me every day and share their fears. 

They recall the times they were attacked (emotionally, professionally, physically) because of their background. 

And no, I’m not just talking about Muslim women. I have seen women from all backgrounds facing similar issues of bigotry, intolerance, and injustice.

2. American Muslim Experience Post 9/11

This book provides the historical context of the last 17 years after 9/11.  It illustrates the hate and discrimination American Muslims have experienced at the hands of the government and the Islamophobia industry.  

Throughout these years, American Muslims have faced increased instances of job discrimination, hate crimes, and bullying in schools. There were protests being carried out and public opposition of building mosques around the US. 

From 2001 to 2005, Islam became the most negatively viewed religion in America, and 43% of Americans reportedly claimed to have some form of prejudice against Muslims. Charges filed for discrimination more than doubled in the year 2001 as compared to the prior year. Even after a decade, in 2011, up to 5,000 hate crimes were reported against Muslims in 2011.

Leading While Muslim (Ch. 3, p. 31)

Students faced physical abuse (slap, kick, punch), emotional abuse, and felt unsafe in their schools. They didn’t feel comfortable openly talking about their religion among their peers. 

I too am one of the women who experienced bigotry first hand in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. I spent my life working hard to build bridges among people. I then ventured to create a school that would do the same among students through the creation of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. 

As its founding principal, I was forced to resign. This happened after the New York Post distorted my words and took them out of context in an interview that had nothing to do with me or the school. ,

I know what it’s like to be on the front page and on page six for almost a week. I lived through the experience and was vindicated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010.  

Leading while Muslim Women Empowerment blog post by Dr. Debbie Almontaser.

I did so with the support of individuals, community groups and organizations who were outraged by what happened to me. I don’t want women giving up their dreams and freedom if they are in such a situation right now. 

When I started out, I had no idea how big of an impact this book will have.

I traveled nationally to meet all of the fourteen principals and for interviews.  It took me weeks to win their trust to be included in the study.  I gave them my oath not to reveal their identities, school names, cities or states.  

The data begins with chilly experiences of American Muslim Principals telling exactly where they were and what they were doing when the 9/11 attacks happened. 

One subject, a female Arab American Muslim leader describes how her colleagues and friends stopped talking to her after the attack. They used to look at her as if it was her fault. She still remembers crying under the desk of her empty classroom because she felt completely cut-off and isolated.

3. What Emerged from the Study

The data illustrates what the 14 principals experienced. It details their challenges and triumphs.  There were some who faced great adversity and some less. However, they all believed that their leadership and spirituality were affected in various ways.

 Some raw experiences shared by these American Muslim principals are:

  • Feelings of isolation due to the political climate.
  • Feelings of inferiority that lead them to develop a fear:
    • The fear to discuss Islam with their students, colleagues, and peers, even they brought up.
    • The fear of scrutiny from parents, elected officials, and the media.
    • The fear of being labeled extremist and having to guard what they say or do to avoid being judged.
    • Having to maintain political correctness.
    • Feeling of vulnerability in foreign public places such as the school, or the internet. 
    • Fear of safety for oneself and other family members due to hostility.
  • Forced removal of hijab to ensure safety.
  • Having to keep your religion a secret, unless specifically asked.
  • Traumatic experiences in the workplace resulting in job loss.
  • Day to day experiences that made life difficult for American Muslim principals and the effect on their view of oneself as an individual and as a leader.
  • Lack of support systems in the workplace.
  • Facing unfortunate and frustrating views about Islam (Islamophobia) from friends colleagues, and peers. 

This book covers all of the above and much more!

Along with the pages of Leading While Muslim, readers discover the journies of these school principals and how they managed to overcome these fears and establish their careers post 9/11.

4. Everything About Muslim Leadership 

Elements of leadership are discussed at length in the book from an Islamic perspective. Islam teaches Muslim leaders to be humble, to spiritually put the needs of others before their own. Islam stresses great importance on education. Even the first revelation by the angel Gabriel conveyed the importance of reading and education. 

Muslim American women are one of the most highly educated groups in America. What happened to me in the past, and what is happening now to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib clearly shows how American Muslims are being attacked. Especially those who seek to expand their leadership ends up being targeted by the media and political pendants under certain propaganda. 

Trump’s public rants of bigotry and prejudice are the reason why some Muslim women fear for their safety and the viability of their leadership in America. The good thing is, women like Ilhan Omar and others in the Squad are paving the path to bravery, freedom, openness, and authority for all women. 

Strong women build each other up. We have examples like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who are standing up equal rights of miniorities in America. Trump's racist twitter rants confirm the foundations of Leading While Muslim.

5. This Book Will Confirm your Fears… And Help you Erase Them

You might think that you are all alone in this, but, look around you so many women are facing more or less the same issues. When they step into leadership positions in any field, they face this kind of bigotry. Be it science, education, business, or arts; women need a proper support system. 

Once you read Leading While Muslim and step into the lives of these fourteen Muslim American principals, you will realize, you’re not the only one. 

You can either keep allowing others to intimidate you. Or you can step into your rightful authority and draw the boundary line. I’m not claiming it’s easy. Heck, I’m someone who struggled with this for a very long time. 

Trust me, it gets easier. One thing that you can start doing right now to become more empowered is to reach out to other women who are in the same place as you are, and bond with them. This sort of networking will soon become a safe haven.  You can also coach yourself to take the first step towards empowerment

6. Modern-day Applications

Muslim women of the modern day and age can continue to learn from the experiences of American Muslim principals. There are lessons to learn from what happened to them, and how they picked themselves up and kept treading towards a better future. 

You can quickly get used to the bigotry and injustice. Or you can create a better future for the Muslim youth and all minorities for that matter. 


Studies report that during times of conflict, women are only seen as victims. Women are expected to be submissive. When that doesn’t happen, it offends most people. As I mentioned above, you can either allow for the discrimination, the injustice, and bigotry, or you can let empowerment take over your every move. 

In this book, you will read moments of triumph and moments of defeat that stem from microaggressions and overt racism and bigotry.  You will laugh and cry with each principal as they share personal accounts as school leaders who just want to be the best school leaders ever, but every now and they are reminded they are the “other” and feel defeated. 

Leading While Muslim Official Website

We need more women like those in congress who have courageously stood against racism and bigotry. 

It’s high time women understand their value. 

It’s now or never.

One Comment

  • Leave your comments down below and tell us about your experience after the attacks of 9/11. Better yet, leave in some ways of how you ended up coping with everything!


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