By: Leenat Jilani

 Leenat Jilani is going into her fourth year of University majoring in Political Science, Social Justice and Peace Studies at a Western University in Canada – Brescia University College. As a young leader, Leenat has represented Canada on an international trade and development mission to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and now the Y20 Summit. Leenat would like to thank Al-Maghrib Institute for supporting her trips and promoting female leadership.

Recalling my time at the Y20 Summit, Mexico, as a Hijaby (head-scarf wearing Muslim woman) I can confidently say that I felt like I met the world in four days: about 200 youth leaders from 25 different countries across the globe. It was a great honor to represent my country, Canada. I love my country and our promise of a multicultural mosaic was evident in every fiber of our team.

I like to bring back the memories to reflect a spiritual meaning behind the journey. The youth I met at the summit are going to be the world leaders of tomorrow. Yet, for a lot of these youth they were meeting a Hijaby for the very first time. Most males had no idea of the interaction etiquette with a Muslim woman that wears a head scarf, leave aside what she thinks. I was asked questions out regarding the Hijab like “did your dad make you wear that?” or “how do you people get married if you can't even hug the guy beforehand?” to mention a few.

Some of us Muslims think that one should never go to the places or put themselves into a situation that may become uncomfortable or inappropriate for a Hijaby woman to be a leader. But for me it was those moments that demanded the greatest need of my presence. Hijabys cannot just run away from the leadership positions or places that might put us in uncomfortable situations. We must face them with dignity and assert our identity as Muslim leaders. If we don't do it as Muslims then we might as well not exist and regional to global decisions will never reflect our perspective.

After a long conversation with a delegate from a country in Europe, explaining why I wear the Hijab and why I believe I feel it frees me, the importance of this conversation hit me. With political aspirations in mind, this well intentioned youth who had many misunderstandings of the position of the women in Islam could have become an advocate of many misconstrued ideas that would attempt to “liberate” women that look like me. Clearly there is a great communication gap.

Being one of the two Hijaby's at the Y20 Summit I quickly became a specimen of fascination. Since Latin America has very little exposure to Muslims and Islamic culture; I quickly became the favorite of the guards who wanted to take pictures with me. I would have had the most random people ask for a “Foto?” and with no ability to speak Spanish I would nod, smile and pose. I believe it took a mere couple of hours for the whole conference to know that I was from Canada. People would express their surprise as they confirmed the information to be true. My perfect English and position as Rapporteur for my working group were the proof that I was the most eligible to represent my country.

It is also important to mention that every person I met was simply wonderful. I did not feel weird or left out wearing the Hijab. Delegates from all countries were gracious, kind, welcoming and open. All the men were more understanding polite whom I told not to hug or kiss for it not being the Muslim way. As some of us are told that wearing hijab will hamper your success, to that I say bi'iznillah – Allāh will never let you down.

If some of you are still wondering what the Y20 Summit is, let me first explain it in reference to the G20. The Group of Twenty or G20 is the premier forum for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda. Recently it has expanded to include more topics affected by the global economic system such as Green Growth and Food Security.  It brings together the world's major advanced and emerging economies. The Y20 then brings together youth leaders from the G20 countries to discuss the same issues and produce a document that will be taken into consideration by the G20 leaders as the global youth voice.

6 Responses

  1. Aminah

    Now that is my kind of Sister. May ALLAH bless you. There are just too few sisters who have aspirations and before I’m crucified for that,I would say even in Islamic theology. If we say women should keep to their homes,that’s fine. But I would totally love to see more female theologians and hafidhas.

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  2. Maryam

    A bit confused…Yasir Qadhi has a video,” Muslim Women shouldn’t work”
    on youtube…Can someone throw some light on this scenario…

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  3. CG

    There is definitely a lot of benefit in this, and i hope that your aspirations are going to be worthwhile, been watching some lectures by a sheikh lately something about sea of galilee drying up…and it leading to some political turmoil etc, some hadith on it.

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    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Dear CG

      Our Comments Policy requires a valid name or Kunyah to be used when commenting. You may also use a blog handle provided your blog is linked, the email address is a valid one, and it is not advertising a product.

      Best Regards
      Comments Team

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