If we read the Qur'an, we find that the only lady mentioned by name in the Qur'an, is Maryam (Mary), mother of Isa (Jesus), peace be upon them both. The life of Maryam shows an amazing lady, who dedicated herself to her beliefs and also a lady who went through the toughest of trials.
Allah has honoured her by not only relating her trials to us many centuries after her death, but also by naming a chapter in the Qur'an after her. Many prophets do not have a chapter named after them and many are not even mentioned in the Qur'an.
Even during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), women always played a great role in society.
Khadijah (RA) gave her husband the support he needed when all had turned away from him and his message of Islam. Then there was Umm Umarah – Nusaybah bint Ka’b, who fought in many battles alongside the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that in whichever direction he turned in the battlefield, he could see her defending and protecting him.
When one considers that in 1876, the UK finally allowed women to go to university, women scholars like Ayesha were considered leading authorities in numerous Islamic sciences, it is clear to see that women were a fundamental part of Islamic society in many fields.
Fast forward to 2013, the Muslim woman is now told that the best place for her is in the home looking after her husband and her children.
I am in no way undermining the role of motherhood, as being a parent is one of the greatest responsibilities anybody can ever have, however, where are the Muslim women scholars of today? Where are the Muslim women who defend our faith?
Are they shunned by Muslim men? Most of the time, unfortunately, yes.
There are even some Mosques that look down on women and do not provide them with the most basic of facilities - to be able to pray in the house of Allah.
However, today we can celebrate the success of a Bosnian Muslim woman, who has become the first hijab wearing Mayor. Her name is Amra Babic and she is respected by all men and women. It is said that when Ms Babic walks down the streets the men rise from their chairs, fix their clothes and put out their cigarettes.
We would like to congratulate Ms Babic on her new role. She is living proof that one's religious identity as a Muslim woman is a catalyst to be involved in helping society.
Her victory comes at a time when many other European countries contemplate banning the hijab or niqab.
She was obviously elected as she is the best candidate for the job and MPACUK wish her the best in this new role. She is not only a role model for the women of Bosnia, but for women worldwide, to show them that women can make a positive impact on civic life.
While Bosnia seems to have learnt that the way to progress is to encourage everyone, men and women, to play their role in society, sadly, Muslim men in the UK seem to be closing their doors to the progression of Muslim women.
Allah has given the Muslim women the choice to play whatever role they desire to leave a lasting, positive, impact on society. One only needs to look through the volumes of Islamic history to see the important role our women have played in society.
It seems that it is often Muslim men who set boundaries for our women and dampen their aspirations.
But Muslim women are fighting back to reclaim what is theirs.
For example let’s take a look at Salma Yaqoob, a Muslim woman who represented people of all faiths as a Member of Parliament. Then there is Yvonne Ridley, who always articulates in speaking truth to power and Lauren Booth, who never ceases to campaign for the Ummah.
We also have our very own Catherine Heseltine, former CEO of MPACUK, whose hard work has played a major role in the successes of MPACUK and was recognised by London's TimeOut Magazine in 2006 as being number 17 in a list of London's 100 top movers and shakers.
We would like to thank all of these Muslim women for being great role models, not only for us, but for future generations. May Allah bless you all and reward you with the best in this life and the hereafter.
But as a community, we mustn't just congratulate these women; we must support them and nurture our young Muslim women to also be able to stand up.
The onus is on us to keep the spirit of Islam alive by empowering our women, because if we don't then we must accept that there is no hope for us as a Muslim community in these turbulent times.