A Muslim woman honoured by the Queen hopes her award “silences the haters” who contribute to an environment of Islamophobia.
Akeela Ahmed said she accepted her MBE for services to Muslim women on behalf of those she works with through the She Speaks We Hear online platform she founded, describing them as “changemakers” in their communities.
The 39-year-old mother-of-three created the project, which seeks to empower women from faith communities, in a bid to defy what she saw as the “binary, stereotypical” representation of Muslim woman as “either being oppressed or being a threat”.
I really feel that this award is not just for me but it’s for all the amazing women that I work with Akeela Ahmed
Terror attacks last year led to a rise in Islamophobia, especially against females who wear traditional Islamic dress, she said.
“Unfortunately with all the various tragic events that we’ve had in the last year we’ve definitely seen an increase in Islamophobia and especially for Muslim women who look different and who wear the hijab,” said Mrs Ahmed, from north-west London.
“And I really do hope that despite all of that, me getting this award will really help women understand that not everybody views Muslim women in that way and actually we’re as much part of this country as anybody else and our achievements are recognised and validated as well and also hope it just kind of silences the haters a bit as well.
“I think that’s really important.”
Mrs Ahmed, who also works with not-for-profit social enterprise Seaside CIC which helps the homeless in Brighton, said she was “hugely proud and honoured” to be made an MBE.
She said: “I really feel that this award is not just for me but it’s for all the amazing women that I work with who are all changemakers in their own communities and doing amazing things and I think they will feel that this is recognition for Muslim women more broadly.”