Imam for She

Ani Zonneveld is a writer, singer, Grammy certified songwriter, founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) and founder of Alliance of Inclusive Muslims (AIM). Its missions are to inculcate a culture rooted in human rights in Muslim societies. Ani is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; on the U.N. Inter-agency’s Faith Advisory Council, and was commissioned by the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect to create an anti-hate speech workshop for Muslim communities. In 2023 she was selected as an “inspirational woman” in the LA Times. Ani co-authored a chapter titled “Transnational Progressive Islam: Theory, Networks, and Lived Experience” for a book titled “Handbook of Contemporary Islam and Muslim Lives” published by Springer (2021).

This paper discusses a program called #ImamsForShe designed to fight for gender equality and women’s rights in Muslim communities. The program is run by Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) and tackles issues like violence against women, lack of education for girls, and denial of women’s rights. It challenges traditional interpretations of Islam that are used to justify these problems. #ImamsForShe trains religious leaders, Imams, to promote gender equality using the Quran and teachings of Prophet Muhammad. The program uses a mix of methods including sermons, radio shows, workshops, and curriculum development in religious schools. Imams are given tools to teach human rights using child-friendly methods.

The program has reached millions of people and empowered women to become entrepreneurs, pursue education, and participate in politics. It’s become popular, with communities seeking out #ImamsForShe Imams for their mosques. However, the program faces challenges from extremists who threaten and attack Imams. They also fight against misinterpretations of the Quran used to justify violence against women.The paper highlights key learnings, like the importance of partnering with established Imams and providing them with training to teach gender equality effectively. It emphasizes using child-centered methods in religious schools and promoting interfaith activities for a more positive image of Islam.

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Overall, the paper shows #ImamsForShe as a successful program for achieving women’s rights in Muslim communities through education and empowering religious leaders.


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