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21 Kick-Ass Muslims Who Changed The Narrative In 2014

In a year of bad news, these Muslims kicked butt and took names.

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1. Malala Yousafzai, who won the damn Nobel Peace Prize at 17 years old, making her the youngest laureate ever.

Christopher Furlong / Via Getty Images

Who she is: An education activist from Pakistan who survived a targeted shooting by the Taliban when she was 15.

How she changed the game in 2014: Her selflessness has inspired people of every faith. Meanwhile, her speeches demonstrate that Islam is her inspiration for educating women and continuing work on behalf of children worldwide.

2. Ibtihaj Muhammad, who slayed as a world-class fencer AND fashion designer.

instagram.com

Who she is: The first Muslim woman to compete for the United States on an international scale.

How she changed the game in 2014: She won her first international fencing gold for America in team sabre at the 2014 World Fencing Championship, killed Instagram with her amazing fashion designs, AND participated in the 2013 Mipsterz video.

3. Reza Aslan, who criticized Bill Maher's Islamophobia and added nuance to media coverage of Islam.

Courtesy of CNN

Who he is: Author, professor of creative writing at the University of California-Riverside, and a scholar of religion.

How he changed the game in 2014: Following up a masterful performance during a very strange 2013 Fox News interview, Aslan provided a nuanced critique of Maher's anti-Islam stance on CNN, saying Maher's usage of a few generalizations to criticize all of Islam is close to "bigotry."

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4. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin, who reported fearlessly from Gaza despite setbacks.

Ben Gabbe / Via Getty Images

Who he is: A foreign affairs journalist who covered the Gazan conflict for NBC.

How he changed the game in 2014: Mohyeldin was pulled from Gaza soon after he live-tweeted an airstrike that killed four Palestinian children. The resulting outrage and outpour of support for Mohyeldin's balanced coverage caused him to be reinstated in Gaza.

5. G. Willow Wilson and Sana Amanat, who introduced the groundbreaking Muslim heroine Ms. Marvel to the world.

It's a #WomenOfMarvel selfie with me and my girl @GWillowWilson #msmarvelforlife

sana amanat@MiniB622Follow

It's a #WomenOfMarvel selfie with me and my girl @GWillowWilson #msmarvelforlife

1:25 PM - 12 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who they are: An author and editor at Marvel comics.

How they changed the game in 2014: Wilson and Amanat collaborated to create Kamala Khan, Marvel Comics' first Muslim superheroine. The character was based on Amanat's childhood in New Jersey, which she discussed in an amazing TEDxTeen talk about the importance of media representation for young people.

6. Kamala Khan herself, who took selfies with Wolverine and kicked a lot of ass.

Kamala Khan is so important and I love her. RT @kristoncapps That panel and this cover are instant classics.

Rachel@uptownandoutFollow

Kamala Khan is so important and I love her. RT @kristoncapps That panel and this cover are instant classics.

9:22 PM - 03 Nov 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who she is: A geeky child of Pakistani immigrants from New Jersey with the power to shape-shift.

How she changed the game in 2014: Her book has been a massive hit for the majority-white Marvel universe, showing that the comic world is ready for more diversity, with a well-adjusted, spunky Muslim leading the charge.

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7. Aasif Mandvi, who continued to explore a career beyond The Daily Show.

Who he is: Comedian, The Daily Show correspondent, and now author.

How he changed the game in 2014: In addition to continuing his role on The Daily Show, Mandvi released his memoir, No Land's Man, which explores his intersecting identities.

8. Hasan Minhaj, who made his The Daily Show debut this year.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Via Getty Images

Who he is: An up-and-coming comedian and new correspondent for The Daily Show.

How he changed the game in 2014: Too early to say, but damn, two Muslims on The Daily Show? Helllllll yeaaaaaaahhhhhh!

9. Rabia Chaudry, who tirelessly advocated for the innocence of Serial's Adnan Syed while working on interfaith, national security, and civil rights issues.

Interfaithing with the @JihadiJew #twittercelebritysightings

rabia chaudry@rabiasquaredFollow

Interfaithing with the @JihadiJew #twittercelebritysightings

5:11 PM - 10 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who she is: A lawyer and childhood acquaintance of Adnan Syed who brought his case to journalist Sarah Koenig's attention.

How Serial changed the game in 2014: Chaudry was the catalyst for starting Serial, one of the first pieces of mainstream media that analyzes the double life of the children of immigrant Muslims. In addition, she blogs her own narrative in response to Koenig's accounts, as someone who knew Adnan when he was young.

10. Husain Abdullah, who prostrated in sujood after his second career touchdown.

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Who he is: A safety for the Kansas City Chiefs.

How he changed the game in 2014: Abdullah was fined for his prayer, which started a discussion on double standards for religious expression. The NFL later said Abdullah should not have been penalized.

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11. The Muslim Writers Collective, which established a safe public space for Muslims to get creative.

"Go ahead curse me out, this mission is accomplished as long as you've heard my voice" #muslimswrite

Muslim Writers Co.@muslimswriteFollow

"Go ahead curse me out, this mission is accomplished as long as you've heard my voice" #muslimswrite

6:26 PM - 09 May 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who they are: An initiative dedicated to cultivating a "vibrant literary tradition in Muslim America."

How they changed the game in 2014: The Collective started holding open mic events in New York in February 2014, which provided a previously unavailable public space for young American Muslim poets and authors to share their work within the community.

12. The editors and writers of the Love, InshAllah series, who captured the diversity of the Muslim community in their collected essays on love and sex.

Who they are: A group of American Muslim writers, led by editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi (pictured right).

How they changed the game in 2014: Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy was released in February 2014, giving a previously unseen, intimate look into often stigmatized subjects like dating, premarital sex, cheating, queer love, and more. They also run an active blog.

13. The founders of the new Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, which started important conversations on Muslim identity and racism.

Don't stay silent when people use racial slurs. #DroptheAWord #BeingBlackandMuslim -NI

Muslim Anti-Racism@MuslimARCFollow

Don't stay silent when people use racial slurs. #DroptheAWord #BeingBlackandMuslim -NI

2:26 PM - 07 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who they are: A group of activists, scholars, and social media experts looking to confront "anti-blackness and racism" amongst American Muslim communities.

How they changed the game in 2014: The group has moderated many difficult conversations on Twitter. For example, #DropTheAWord was a hashtag dedicated to ending the usage of an Arabic racial slur used against black people.

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14. The Kominas and Riz Ahmed of Swet Shop Boys, who explored immigrant identity through the universal languages of punk and hip-hop.

Who they are: The Kominas are a longtime Muslim punk rock band, and Riz MC is one half of newly formed hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys along with Heems (formerly of Das Racist).

How they changed the game in 2014: The Kominas explored mental health in immigrant communities in "Banana" and a night with the raddest brown dad ever in "Disco Uncle." Meanwhile, Swet Shop Boys released the "Benny Lava" video, where Ahmed and Heems rap about Hindu, Muslim, Indian, and Pakistani identity on beaches and in dining rooms.

15. Wrestler Sami Zayn, who represented his Arab heritage proudly and avoided stereotypes common in the business.

What a fantastic crowd tonight in #WWEKualaLumpur. Life high.

Sami Zayn@iLikeSamiZaynFollow

What a fantastic crowd tonight in #WWEKualaLumpur. Life high.

10:03 AM - 10 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who he is: A Syrian-Canadian wrestler on NXT, the WWE's talent development show.

How he changed the game in 2014: Contrary to the history of portraying Middle Eastern wrestlers like the Iron Sheik and Muhammad Hassan as villains, Zayn, who recently won the NXT Championship, has consistently played a good-hearted underdog. The company has never explicitly stated whether Zayn is Muslim, but his name is emblazoned proudly in Arabic across his trunks and he even cut a promo in Arabic!

16. Noor Inayat Khan, whose courageous story was captured in the film Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story.

Courtesy of Unity Production Films

What it is: A docudrama narrated by Helen Mirren which covers the life of Noor Inayat Khan, a female codebreaker and undercover agent for the Allies.

How they changed the game in 2014: The film, which aired in September on PBS, provided a brave, relatable Muslim heroine to a broader audience and represents an important step towards Jewish-Muslim solidarity.

17. Ahmed Eid, whose documentary Unmosqued encouraged mosques to step up their game.

Here is the official #unmosqued film poster, coming soon!

Unmosqued@UnmosquedFollow

Here is the official #unmosqued film poster, coming soon!

7:45 PM - 03 Feb 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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Who they are: A documentary filmmaker and app developer.

How he changed the game in 2014: The documentary highlighted many common issues in mosques which are rarely openly discussed — aging leadership, gender segregation and sexism, racism, and much more. Particularly, the film focused on young people and their increasing feeling of disconnect from mosques.

18. The writers at The Hummus, which combined Islam and fake news for a lot of laughs.

The Hummus / Via buzzfeed.com

What it is: A satirical website à la The Onion with a Muslim twist.

How it changed the game: The Hummus added a much-needed and hard-hitting comedic take on American Muslim issues.

19. The Muslim Twitterati, who did almost too many cool things this year.

We come from different backgrounds. We have different experiences. We can't be homogenized into one voice. #NotYourStockMuslim

Release Kaye-raken!@gildedspineFollow

We come from different backgrounds. We have different experiences. We can't be homogenized into one voice. #NotYourStockMuslim

8:59 AM - 24 Mar 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

"I'm sorry that Mufasa had to die in Lion King" #muslimapologies

Mohammad Hassanzai@mo_afghanFollow

"I'm sorry that Mufasa had to die in Lion King" #muslimapologies

10:29 AM - 24 Sep 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Wearing hijab does not turn each of my normal daily activities (jogging, working) into acts of dissent/courage. #EmpoweredMuslimWomen

Pearl B. Lawrence@PearlBLawrenceFollow

Wearing hijab does not turn each of my normal daily activities (jogging, working) into acts of dissent/courage. #EmpoweredMuslimWomen

4:26 PM - 04 Mar 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

people instantly dismissing you as a feminist because as a muslim you're automatically supporting oppression of women #lifeofamuslimfeminist

chiara, old timer@carambalacheFollow

people instantly dismissing you as a feminist because as a muslim you're automatically supporting oppression of women #lifeofamuslimfeminist

10:08 AM - 10 Jan 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Who they are: A diverse group of pundits, activists, teenagers, imams, and more.

How they changed the game in 2014: Let's see... They participated in the conversation to get the offensive pilot for Alice in Arabia cancelled. They criticized ISIS with #NotInMyName, and then skewered the media's insistence that Muslims explain ISIS with the brutally funny #MuslimApologies. Other hashtags included #EmpoweredMuslimWomen, #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist, and #NotYourStockMuslim.

20. Muslims for Ferguson, who committed themselves to the fight against police brutality.

Courtesy of Muslims For Ferguson

Who they are: Co-founded by four activists from around the country: Linda Sarsour from New York, Dawud Walid from Detroit, Muhammad Malik from Miami, and Mustafa Abdullah from St. Louis.

How they changed the game in 2014: Each organizer is active in local community actions against state violence. The four came together in the wake of the Mike Brown shooting to provide a committed Muslim perspective from the ground and have been an active presence at protests and on social media.

21. The first Muslim liberal-arts school, Zaytuna College, which graduated its first class this year.

Justin Sullivan / Via Getty Images

What it is: A liberal-arts college in Berkley, California, co-founded by respected American Muslim scholars Hamza Yusef, Zaid Shakir, and Hatem Bazian.

How they changed the game in 2014:The first graduating class of Zaytuna will hopefully represent a new generation of Muslim scholars, trained in and oriented toward the American Muslim landscape.

For some additional information about Muslim women kicking ass outside North America in 2014, check out 18 Badass Women You Probably Didn't Hear About In 2014.

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