Maghrib Shahid said he was concerned about the development of the situation regarding Muslims in recent years.
“I have noticed that many Muslim women take off their hijabs because they are afraid of being seen as Muslim in public. Muslims are no different from other people. It’s just that our beliefs are different,” said Maghrib.
This concern is also the background of his efforts to organize Miss Muslimah USA, a beauty pageant for Muslim women in the United States. Having been held four times, this annual event aims to empower Muslim women and at the same time introduce to the public that Muslims are no different from the general American public.
However, Shahid emphasized, do not mistake the contest as a competition for physical beauty. Miss Muslimah USA, according to her, puts more emphasis on non-physical beauty, intelligence, and broad knowledge of Islam.
Shahid said that the mission of this organization is to uplift and empower women.
“Previously American Muslim women didn’t have that platform. Through this platform they can change their own misconceptions and break down stereotyped views,” said Shahid.
In 2016, Maghrib Shahid said he was unhappy with how Muslim women were viewed and treated. One day he was shopping at a grocery store, and found someone telling him to go back to his home country. The statement shocked him and made him determined to change things. She feels sure that many Muslim women experience such treatment.
Muslims make up a significant part of the United States population. The results of the Pew Research Center research in 2020 show that about 1.1 percent of the US population or 3.5 million are Muslims
When she first hosted Miss Muslimah USA, Shahid was forced to drain her savings because it was difficult to find sponsors. However, in the following years many parties were willing to become funders.
The Miss Muslimah USA 2020 event was planned to be postponed to the end of last August due to the corona virus outbreak. Moreover, there were around 50 contestants who stated that they had withdrawn for fear of contracting the virus. However, considering the importance of the mission carried out, the organization insisted on continuing to carry it out with a number of restrictions and the implementation of health protocols.
The organization, founded in Columbus, Ohio, was forced to change the venue for the event from a large enclosed hall to an outdoor tent.
Halimah Abdullah is Miss Muslimah USA 2017. She said this pageant helped build her confidence. He hopes that Miss Muslimah can be a role model for Muslim women, especially those who are underage.
“Entering this contest and finally winning the title showed me that beauty is not just about outward appearance. Women’s beauty should be seen from what lies beneath the surface. I am now confident and no longer hesitate to wear the hijab anywhere,” said the Somali woman who lives in Columbus and studied at Ohio State University.
Zehra Abukar, Miss Muslimah USA 2020, have a similar view. The 23-year-old Somali woman who is active on social media wants her new title to help her empower Muslim women.
“I want Muslim women to have career choices that match what they want. Many Muslim women when they come to this country do not speak English, cannot work, are not comfortable being outside the home. This organization offers training on how to open a business, and develop self-efficacy.” [ab/uh]