CAIRO — Coming from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, a group of American Muslim women are forming the country's first only-women law firm to dispel stereotypes about Muslim women.
"They are defeating stereotypes on multiple levels," Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), told the Chicago Tribune on Friday, August 1.
"On the one hand you have Muslims standing up for justice and due process, and on the other hand you also see Muslim women succeeding in the professional world, leading the community in more ways than one."
Six Muslim women attorneys formed Amal Law Group to offer legal help to American Muslims and clear misconceptions about Muslim women.
"People think that somehow we're weak and not able to express opinions," Iraqi-born Janaan Hashim, 41, who founded the firm, said.
Opened last year, the firm offers legal services on issues from civil rights and employment regulations to criminal, family, real estate and Immigration law.
The firm also organizes seminars for Muslims on drafting prenuptial agreements and helps teens avoid traffic tickets.
"People think that we are prohibited from getting an education and being engaged in society," said Maryam Khan, 28.
The six Muslim women are coming from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Some don hijab while others don't. Some are Sunnis and others are Shiites.
"We never talk about it," Hashim said.
"We are all open-minded and respect each other's beliefs."
The Muslim women were spurred to become lawyers to defend their community against backlashes following the 9/11 attacks.
"I think it's good for the community to have the opportunity to be represented by Muslims and hopefully the community will also feel empowered that six Muslim women attorneys are representing them," said Kapitan.
Nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks, many American Muslims complain that they continue to face discrimination and stereotyping because of their Islamic attires or identities.
Since 2005 alone, CAIR-Chicago has logged more than 1,200 cases of Muslims reporting discrimination.
Now, the Muslim women attorneys hope that their move would help show that Muslims are part and parcel of American society.
"We're part of the American fabric," said Hashim.
There are between six to seven million Muslims in the United States, making up less than three percent of the country's 300 million population.
"You may not be used to seeing it, but this is what Muslim women in America look like," said Khan.
"We're educated and we're professionals, and we're not an anomaly."