Asra Quratulain Nomani
June 7, 1965
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
|Alma mater||West Virginia University (BA)|
American University (MA)
Asra Quratulain Nomani (born June 7, 1965) is an Indian American author. Born in India to Muslim parents, she earned a BA from West Virginia University in liberal arts in 1986 and an MA from the American University in international communications in 1990. She subsequently worked as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal with her colleague Daniel Pearl in Pakistan post-9/11. Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by Islamist terrorists while following an investigative lead. Nomani later became the co-director of the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigative-reporting project which has looked into Pearl's murder.
Nomani is the author of three books: Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam, Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, and Woke Army, the Red-Green Alliance that is Destroying America's Freedom. Articles include: "Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom", the "Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque", and "99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World". She has also written for The Washington Post and has been a returning guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Her story forms part of the documentary The Mosque in Morgantown, aired nationwide on PBS as part of the series America at a Crossroads.
Nomani was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, to parents following Sunni Islam. Her mother Sajida Nomani (c. 1947–) and father Mohammad Zafar Alam Nomani (born 1935–), an Indian nutritionist, were both born in colonial India. Her father was born in Hyderabad, India where he eared an MSc from the Osmania University, later serving as an assistant professor at the university till 1967. When she was four years old, she moved to the United States with her older brother to join their parents in New Brunswick, New Jersey where her father was earning a PhD at Rutgers University. When Nomani was ten, her family moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, where her father became an assistant professor (later professor) of nutrition at West Virginia University. Her father (cited as M.Z.A. Nomani) published studies on the health effects of fasting during Ramadan and also helped organize mosques in both New Jersey and West Virginia. Asra Nomani received a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from West Virginia University in 1986 and a Master of Arts from American University in international communications in 1990. She has 1 son.
Nomani is a former The Wall Street Journal correspondent and has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, The American Prospect, and Time. She was a correspondent for Salon.com in Pakistan after 9/11, and her work appears in numerous other publications, including People, Sports Illustrated for Women, Cosmopolitan, and Women's Health. She has delivered commentary on National Public Radio.
Nomani is the founder and creator of the "Muslim Women's Freedom Tour." She was a lead organizer of the woman-led Muslim prayer in New York City on March 18, 2005, which has been described as "the first mixed-gender prayer on record led by a Muslim woman in 1,400 years." Various mixed-gender prayers have been led privately by a Muslim woman, including a 1998 funeral prayer led by a South African Muslim feminist Shamima Shaikh.
In 2015 a group of Muslim activists, politicians, and writers issued a Declaration of Reform which, among other things, supports women's rights and states in part, "We support equal rights for women, including equal rights to inheritance, witness, work, mobility, personal law, education, and employment. Men and women have equal rights in mosques, boards, leadership and all spheres of society. We reject sexism and misogyny." The Declaration also announced the founding of the Muslim Reform Movement organization to work against the beliefs of Middle Eastern terror groups. In 2015 Nomani and others placed the Declaration on the door of the Islamic Center of Washington.
Nomani has argued in favor of government surveillance programs in the fight against Islamic terrorism, saying that society's "sense of political correctness has kept us from sensible law-enforcement strategies that look at Muslims, mosques, and Islamic organizations." She argues the Muslim community does not do a good job of policing itself and that public areas were "natural meeting spot for criminals." The leader of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Zuhdi Jasser, agreed with Nomani's argument that such spying tactics were warranted. Nomani has also argued in favor of using racial and religious identifiers in threat assessment, saying that a "common denominator" of many terrorists with anti-American views is they were Muslim. She reiterated that "the Muslim community [has] failed to police [them]selves" and that such profiling on the basis of "religion, race and ethnicity" is a necessary "part of keeping our skies safe."
On November 11, 2016, on CNN, Nomani revealed that she voted for the Republican candidate Donald Trump, and adding that "liberals and the left have really betrayed America." After Donald Trump signed controversial Executive Order 13769, Nomani said the effort was a continuation of an Obama administration order and stated that referring to the executive order as a "Muslim ban" was a "propaganda campaign" to incite fear in the public.
In November 2003, Nomani became the first woman in her mosque in West Virginia to insist on the right to pray in the male-only main hall. Her effort brought front-page attention in a New York Times article entitled Muslim Women Seeking a Place in the Mosque.
She helped organize the first public woman-led prayer of a mixed-gender congregation in the United States, with Amina Wadud leading the prayer. On that day, March 18, 2005, she stated:
We are standing up for our rights as women in Islam. We will no longer accept the back door or the shadows, at the end of the day, we'll be leaders in the Muslim world. We are ushering Islam into the 21st century, reclaiming the voice that the Prophet gave us 1400 years ago.
In addition to her books, Nomani has expressed her experiences and ideas for reform in op-eds in The New York Times and in several other publications and broadcasts. She was a friend and colleague of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was staying with her in Karachi with his wife Mariane Pearl when he was abducted and later murdered by Islamic militants in January 2002.
Nomani is portrayed by British actress Archie Panjabi in the film adaptation of Mariane Pearl's book A Mighty Heart. The Washington Post published a review, by Nomani, of the film in which Nomani argued: "...that Danny himself had been cut from his own story."
Impact and reception
Regarding the Morgantown mosque issue, Pakistani-American lawyer Asma Gull Hasan, author of Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey, expressed admiration for Nomani, while West Virginia University professor Gamal Fahmy, who claimed that many Muslims believe women should be "isolated as much as possible" to reduce sexual temptation, criticized her and questioned her motives. Others suggest Nomani's woman-led prayer in 2005 led to open discussion and debate about the role of women in Muslim society. Representatives of some Islamic organizations have criticized Nomani on the Morgantown mosque issue, in part because she has openly criticized commonly accepted practices in the American Muslim community.
- Woke Army: The Red-Green Alliance That Is Destroying America's Freedom (2023). ISBN 978-1-63758-004-2
- Milestones for a Spiritual Jihad: Toward an Islam of Grace (2010) ISBN 978-0-470-61472-3
- Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (2005). ISBN 0-06-057144-6 (Published in India as Standing Alone in Mecca : A Pilgrimage into the Heart of Islam (2013))
- Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love (2003). ISBN 0-06-251714-7
- "The Woman Who Went To the Front of the Mosque", The Washington Post, 5 June 2005
- "A Gender Jihad For Islam's Future", The Washington Post, 6 November 2005
- "As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity", The Washington Post, 21 December 2015
- "I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump", The Washington Post, 10 November 2016.
- "My Day in DC: How Leaders like Linda Sarsour are Weaponizing the Media to Foment a Global Campaign Against Jews", Jewish Journal, 23 October 2023
- "GU Class to Investigate Murder of WSJ Reporter". Georgetown University. Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
- "Project Pearl: The Bravest Class in Town". Marie Claire. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
- "America at a Crossroads. The Mosque in Morgantown | PBS". PBS.
- "Muslim writer embroiled in dispute at Morgantown mosque". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 10, 2004.
- Sirohi, Seema (July 26, 2004). "US Muslim woman defies hardliners". BBC News.
- Standing Alone in Mecca : A Pilgrimage into the Heart of Islam (2013)
- "Biography". AsraNomani.com. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
- M.Z.A. Nomani in Marquis Who's Who.
- M. Zafar A. Nomani publications indexed by Google Scholar.
- "M. Z. A. Nomani". IslamiCity. Retrieved August 18, 2022.
- "Asra Q. Nomani". Sojourners. February 16, 2011.
- Teresa Watanabe (2005). "Muslim women take bold steps for role in Islam: Not content with being pushed aside in mosques, some defy the religion's age-old traditions". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 11, 2023. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
- Shamima Shaikh (1998). "Death of a Muslim Joan of Arc". Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
- "National Secular Society". December 8, 2015. Archived from the original on December 12, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- "Muslim Reform Movement decries radical Islam, calls for equality". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- "Muslim journalist defends surveillance by NYPD, says some Muslims 'use religion as cover'". Fox News. March 26, 2015.
- Nomani, Asra Q (March 5, 2012). "Why NYPD Monitoring Should Be Welcome News to U.S. Muslims". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- Nomani, Asra Q (November 28, 2010). "Airport Security: Let's Profile Muslims". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- "U.S. AIRPORTS SHOULD USE RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS PROFILING". Intelligence Squared. November 22, 2010. Archived from the original on March 11, 2011. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- Costello, Carol (November 11, 2016). "'Muslim Reform Movement' Founder: I Don't Fear Donald Trump, I Fear Islamic Extremism". CNN. Archived from the original on November 12, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- Asra Nomani (November 11, 2016). "I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Donald Trump". The Washington Post/Fairfax NZ.
- Justin Wm. Moyer (January 6, 2017). "Muslim woman who voted for Trump asks Georgetown to intervene over professor's 'hateful, vulgar' messages". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
- Harvard, Sarah (January 31, 2017). "Muslims who voted for Trump differ on his ban, but agree on one thing: They still support him". Mic. Archived from the original on February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 4, 2017.
- Jon Jackson, "Virginia PTA Official Says 'Let Them Die' About Parents Opposing Critical Race Theory", Newsweek, 16 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
- Goodstein, Laurie (July 22, 2004). "Muslim Women Seeking a Place in the Mosque". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
- Burger, Timothy J.; Zagorin, Adam (October 12, 2006). "Fingering Danny Pearl's Killer". Time. Archived from the original on December 1, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
- Asra Q. Nomani (June 24, 2007). "A Mighty Shame: It's the Story of Our Search for Danny Pearl. But in This Movie, He's Nowhere to Be Found". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on December 16, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- Ken Lem, Val (April 2006). "Me and the Mosque". Canadian Materials. XII (17). Archived from the original on April 11, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
- "America at a Crossroads. The Mosque in Morgantown | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved December 26, 2019.
- Teresa Wiltz (June 5, 2005). "The Woman Who Went To the Front of the Mosque". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
- Jane Lampman (March 28, 2005). "Muslims split over gender role: American Muslim women challenge the tradition that only men can lead ritual prayers". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
- "Factsheet: Asra Nomani". Bridge Initiative Team. Retrieved September 28, 2023.