When I sat down and began thinking of women that I wanted to interview to kick off the Women Do Cool Sh*t series, I had a certain archetype in mind. I didn’t want to put the series in a box or be limiting towards the kinds of women that we featured, but I wanted to find women who were, well, operating across a few different verticals and making a difference. Sara Alattar came to mind.

I know Sara through some mutual friends and we’ve been following each other on Instagram and Twitter for sometime. Alattar is, in her own words, “…a 20 year old Muslim woman, an aspiring physician (sounds cooler than pre-med student), photographer, and community organizer.” Immediately, I was attracting to Sara’s social media presence as someone who has a voice. Everyone has a voice in the age of the internet, but Sara’s willingness and dedication to educate, inform, and take a stance for her beliefs made her feed stand out from my endless scrolling.

Sara Alattar; photo by Rowayda Zatar. 

Recently, she help found Mecca MVMT, a new initiative created by youth for youth, for her faith-based community at the Mecca Center. Mecca Center is Sara’s beloved local mosque, which she very much considers her second home. The initiative aims to cultivate a community with long-term programs such as sports tournaments, brother and sister events, and spiritual classes. “The best part is that we’re connecting people’s hearts to one another and letting our youth community know that there is a place that belongs to them at the mosque …Where they’re always welcome, and will always have love, support, and a community of fellow brothers and sisters waiting for them …Ready to be at their service for whatever they need.”

Sara was motivated to create Mecca MVMT because of her personal love and belief in having a strong community, “Supporting each other, connecting with one another, and inspiring love is, I believe, how we can change the world… When we invest in each other, we invest in infinite possibilities. This is why I love investing in my community.” The inspiration behind such a moving force of young individuals creates an atmosphere of faith, love, and dedication that really sets a stage for unprecedented growth in the lives of many different people.

Alattar’s hobbies also consist of photography, one of her works is featured here.

Over the next few years, Alattar would like to see Mecca MVMT grow to a place where people who don’t normally come to mosque find a home in it, like she has. They are currently planning for a youth center that would allow Mecca Center to become an even more welcoming and open space for people and create an atmosphere of resources. One of the ongoing sources of inspiration for Alattar is her faith; Sara’s faith has always been a cornerstone and its completely shaped how she lives her life, “My faith is my rock and my purpose. I find comfort in that even if I hustle and it doesn’t work out the way I want, I know that God’s plan is better for me than whatever I had planned for myself.”

One of the very selfish reasons that I wanted to interview Sara was to pick her brain with a few of my own personal questions. I have a genuine curiosity to find out how different women, from different cultures, religions, backgrounds, area codes, etc., define empowerment and feminism. Alattar’s answer was – frankly – beautiful. “To be empowered to me is to reach one’s fullest potential in capabilities and talents, take control of one’s fate and position in society, gain the ability to claim one’s rights, and confidently and unapologetically represent one’s morals and values.” Unapologetically and confidently. Cosign.

In today’s political climate, Islam is often highly misconstrued in the arenas of the feminist discussion; which is factually incorrect, just for starters. However, I didn’t want to put my own words to it (as a non-Muslim and not a hijabi), so I simply asked Sara.

“Fake ’empowerment’ and alliance is a huge issue I’ve experienced as a Muslim woman – for example, the hijab. Outsiders cheer the ‘unveiling’ movement, believing that hijab is a means of oppression mandated upon Muslim women. They push for the ‘freedom to not wear the scarf.’ That’s not empowerment! All that’s happening now is that you’re policing what I’m wearing. You think I’m forced to cover up, but you end up denouncing my choice to cover up.”

In a personal opinion (and this is my blog, so I can write my own personal opinions, ha ha!) the act of wearing a hijab is an act of unadulterated feminism and empowerment. The decision to wear one’s faith, values, and morality so publicly and openly is a confident and empowered decision that a vast majority of people wouldn’t be able to make.

More of Alattar’s photography.

Sara’s advocacy and passion for community organizing is based on a simple policy of equality. “I’ve made my advocacy simple and direct: trying to call for the righteous empowerment, wellness, and respect for women and their choices, and making sure everyone knows that they have a role in that. Not everyone chooses to identify as a feminist, and that doesn’t mean they’re isolated from the empowerment of women!”

Alattar’s motivations as a community organizer and advocate go well beyond impressive and into inspiring. Her definitions of empowerment and feminism should be required reading for anyone who falls into the trope of white or western activist movements. Activism should only ever do one thing: bring communities together, something Alattar is well on her way to accomplishing.

Oh, and she prefers coffee over tea.