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Asra Nomani is known for her fight for women's equality in the American Islamic community.
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Asra Nomani was born in India in 1965, and grew up in in Morgantown, West Virginia. Nomani traveled from city to city as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal throughout her early 20s In addition to her work with The Wall Street Journal, Nomani wrote pieces for The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time magazine and Salon.com. She became a vocal advocate for women's rights within the Muslim community in the early 2000s. In 2011, she became the subject of the documentary A Mosque in Morgantown,
which followed her struggle for women's rights in her local mosque.
Asra Nomani was born in 1965 in Bombay, India, to a Muslim family. Her father, Dr. Zafar Nomani, moved to the United States when Asra was a baby in order to earn a Ph.D. in nutrition at Rutgers University. When Asra was 4, her family moved to New Jersey to join her father. When Nomani was 10, her family moved again, this time to Morgantown, West Virginia.
After graduation from high school in 1986, Nomani headed to West Virginia University, where she earned a bachelor's in liberal studies. In 1990, she graduated from American University, where she earned a master's in International Communications.
After college, Nomani traveled from city to city as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. In addition to her work with The Wall Street Journal, Nomani wrote pieces for The Washington Post, The New York Times and Time magazine. She also became a correspondent for Salon.com while embedded in Karachi, Pakistan, during 9/11.
During her time in Pakistan, Nomani fell in love with a man who would eventually become the father of her child. According to Nomani, the man abandoned her after learning of the pregnancy, and had no intention of raising a child with her. As an unwed mother in the Muslim faith, Nomani knew she would face heavy criticism from her peers."When my mother told my father, he wept—but he didn't weep because of his own shame, he wept for fear of what I and my son would have to endure as a woman within my faith to be an unwed mom," she remembered. "It was my parents who first held my baby, it was my father who first whispered the call to prayer that a father is supposed to whisper into the ear of their newborn son."
Since then, Nomani has become an outspoke advocate of women's rights within the Muslim faith, specifically battling for rights within the mosque, and in women's choice of a marriage partner. In 2003, Nomani challenged a rule at her mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, which required women to enter through a back door and pray on a segregated balcony. She was put on trial at her mosque, and banished. In response, Nomani and her father both wrote about the experience, and Asra became a lead organizer of a woman-led Muslim prayer in New York City in March 2005. The event was described as "the first mixed-gender prayer on record led by a Muslim woman in 1,400 years." She is also the subject of the 2011 documentary The Mosque in Morgantown, which followed her experiences fighting for the right to worship in her local mosque.
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Women and men have continued the call for full-fledged women’s rights in a number of venues, including voting access, fair treatment in the workplace and reproductive and sexual freedom. Find out more about this eclectic and electric group of global activists who include Shirin Ebadi, Coretta Scott King, Asra Nomani and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
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