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10 Muslim peace activists proving negative stereotypes wrong

Flickr: World Bank Photo Collection

It’s no secret that ISIS has succeeded in strengthening the hateful case for Islamophobia. Ever since the attacks in Paris, a new wave of debates regarding Islam have flooded the internet.

Some argue that the terrorist group’s extreme views are directly related to Islam, while others assert that Islam is a peace-loving religion.  

Though I’d say it’s clear an entire religion cannot be blamed for the acts of a tiny minority, there’s one thing that no one can dispute: there are Muslims who promote peace and equality all over the world. And in some cases, Islam is the very thing that has enabled them to find peace and happiness in their lives.

Here are 10 Muslims that defy the Islamophobic rhetoric and its negative stereotypes. 

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2013)

These days, it’s hard to even think about peace or equality without thinking of Malala. She is currently one of the most powerful advocates for education in the world and has become the voice of the more than 60 million girls deprived of education worldwide. She routinely calls on world leaders to “send books, not guns” and has shown that peaceful activism can persevere in the face of violence.

Kainat Ahmad

On the day Malala was shot by the Taliban in 2012, Kainat was sitting next to her on the bus and was also wounded by the blow. The two are still good friends to this day after surviving the attack. Refusing to let fear stop her, Kainat now studies in the UK and hopes to become a doctor. She is a firm believer in the power of education and urges young girls to continue their mission to get one.

Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2011)

Tawakkol is another amazing young woman who has persevered in the face of violence. She is known for her nonviolent work to secure the safety of women and her struggle for women’s rights in Yemen. During the beginnings of the Arab Spring, Tawakkol’s voice became a common sound over the loudspeaker in Yemen’s Change Square, where she urged Yemeni youth to stand up against human rights abuses. To many she is known as the “Mother of the Revolution.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2005)

This Egyptian is known for his efforts "to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way." As if fighting for peace through nuclear regulation isn’t enough, ElBaradei is also known for standing up against the Mubarak regime in Egypt.

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (2003)

Dr. Ebadi was one of the first female judges in Iran and is known for her efforts to promote the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in the country. Although she was dismissed from her Chief Justice status during the Islamic Revolution, she clawed her way back to a position that could defend the rights of others. She became a lawyer, opened her own private practice, and established a campaign demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian law.

Manal al-Sharif

Manal al-Sharif has campaigned for women's rights in Saudi Arabia for many years. In opposition to the country's restrictions on women drivers, she filmed herself driving a car and uploaded it to YouTube and Facebook. The video marked the beginning of what is now known as the "Women2Drive" campaign.  

Queen Rania of Jordan

Queen Rania has consistently spoken out in support of Syrian refugees, and Jordan has been a role model for how to accept and resettle refugees in need. Queen Rania has also been a very strong advocate for education and cross-cultural dialogue, using social media as a platform for discussions about Islam and cultural stereotypes.  

Hawa Abdi

This remarkable woman is known for running a hospital and refugee camp throughout Somalia’s long civil war, sheltering hundreds of thousands and saving many lives. When Islamic militants kidnapped her and ransacked her hospital, she managed to convince them to let her go and issue a written apology.   

Eboo Patel

This well-known blogger and speaker founded the Interfaith Youth Core, an organization dedicated to making “interfaith cooperation a social norm” by bringing together religiously diverse groups of students to work on service projects all over the world. He is driven by the belief that religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.

Adel Termos

Last but certainly not least: the late father Adel Termos. Upon seeing a suicide bomber in Beirut, Termos heroically tackled the bomber before he could enter a crowded Mosque. In addition to saving several lives that day, Termos sent a very powerful message that humanity will not back down in the face of violence. He will forever be remembered as a hero, and he will forever be thanked for protecting the friends and family members of others.


There are always people who remind us that it is dangerous to get caught up in generalizations. As a global citizen, do your best to avoid making assumptions and, instead of perpetuating negative stereotypes, look up to those who defy them.

If you take a look around, you might just realize that those people are right in front of you.


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