By Aysha Mairel –
On Oct. 11, 2015, 200 women attended the Al-Mu’minah 20th Anniversary Gala at the Phoenix Airport Marriott, an event dedicated to honoring the achievements of Muslim women in the greater Phoenix area. This highly anticipated, all-women’s event was held in a completely private ballroom staffed only by women to allow the attendees the freedom to dress up without hijab.
“The Al-Mu’minah Gala was immersed in a freeing atmosphere, where we feel we can embrace our true selves,” said Amy Aboalam, an attendee.
This year’s theme was “recognizing a legacy of achievement,” a tradition that has lived on for 20 years through honoring Muslim women graduates of the past year. Dr. Aneesah Nadir, original founder of Al-Mu’minah, greeted each graduate on stage. There were women in engineering, biological sciences, pre-med, graphic design, nursing, education, music, creative writing, dentistry, obstetrics and more. These graduates are either studying or working in one of these fields.
The event took a short hiatus for a few years but was revived by organizers to mark its two decades of accomplishments. “After a three-year break from hosting the Al-Mu’minah graduations we had a fantastic turnout for our 20th anniversary gala,” said Karen Hadley, Al-Mu’minah advisor and event coordinator. “They enjoyed our step and repeat photo area, delicious food from Tahoora Grill, a loud, festive dance party, and seeing old friends and making new ones.”
Through the last 20 years the event has had different themes to create an exciting atmosphere. Guests have been taken on a pretend cruise, experienced Broadway performance themes, celebrated Al-Mu’minah’s quinceañera, recreated the Oscars and hosted a garden tea. This year attendees were transported back to the 1920s through the music and fashion of that iconic time.
As per tradition, the program began with Zarinah Nadir, co-founder and organizer of Al-Mu’minah, leading everyone in the pledge of sisterhood. The pledge includes a promise by attendees not to take pictures out of the designated photography area to protect the privacy of the women attending the event.
The Qur’an recitation and translation was provided by Maesa Abdulal and Anisa Abdul-Quadir. Then, third generation Al-Mu’minah alumnae Tooba Ajmeri and Aysha Mairel presented speeches on the importance of the gala and what Al-Mu’minah means to them. “The gala was a night to remember,” said Ajmeri, who was also an event organizer. “It was like a giant family reunion of all the girls.”
Following the alumnae speeches was a presentation by Marci Hadley-Mairel, a co-founder and organizer of Al-Mu’minah, in tribute to Sister Zarinah Awad, a longtime supporter and entertainment MC of Al-Mu’minah, who passed away in 2013 from cancer. Next, the keynote speaker Dr. Nadia Katrangi talked about the accomplishments of Muslim women and the practical and spiritual steps that everyone can take in life to achieve their goals.
After the speech guests were eager to eat the buffet-style dinner, and honor the graduates from 2012 to 2015. After the official program ended the after-party started and the guests hit the dance floor for the rest of the night.
Many of the attendees had positive feedback about the event, including Aseel Atalla who said, “It had just the right amount of education and fun.”
Al-Mu’minah was founded in 1995 during a time when there weren’t many organized activities in the Valley for Muslim youth. Al-Mu’minah was created to fill that void by 14 youth founders and two advisors. Over the next 20 years they organized yearly bowling events, graduation ceremonies, Race for the Cure teams, community service projects, step dance teams and so much more. Al-Mu’minah’s mission is rooted in establishing a place for young Muslim women across the Valley to come together, support each other and benefit the community.
Disclaimer from writer: I am the daughter of one of the co-founders of Al-Mu’minah, granddaughter of one of the advisors, I was a speaker at this event, and was a volunteer organizer for this event.