Asra Nomani

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Asra Nomani
Asra Nomani at Women and Terrorism Roundtable.jpg
Asra Quratulain Nomani

1965 (age 54–55)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
Alma materWest Virginia University (BA), American University (MA)
OccupationJournalist, professor
ChildrenShibli Daneel Nomani
Parent(s)Zafar Nomani
RelativesShibli Nomani

Asra Quratulain Nomani (born 1965) is an American author and former Georgetown University professor. She is co-director of the Pearl Project,[1][2] a faculty-student, investigative-reporting project into the kidnapping and murder of her former colleague, The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Nomani is the author of two books: Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam and Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love. 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.

Early life[edit]

Nomani was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India to parents following Sunni Islam.[3] 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.[3] Her father, Zafar Nomani, 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 of nutrition. 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. Nomani received her B.A. in Liberal Studies from West Virginia University in 1986 and M.A. from American University in International Communications in 1990.


Nomani is a former The Wall Street Journal correspondent[3] and has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, The American Prospect, and Time. She was a correspondent for 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.

She was a visiting scholar at the Center for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. She was a Poynter Fellow at Yale University.

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."[4] Various mixed-gender prayers have been led privately by a Muslim woman, including a 1997 funeral prayer led by a South African Muslim feminist Shamima Shaikh.[5]

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."[6] The Declaration also announced the founding of the Muslim Reform Movement organization to work against the beliefs of Middle Eastern terror groups.[7] In 2015 Nomani and others placed the Declaration on the door of the Islamic Center of Washington.[7]

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.[8] Nomani has also argued in favor of "racial and religious profiling," explaining that the "common denominator" of many terrorist with anti-American views is they are Muslim.[9][10] 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."[9]

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."[11][12][13] After Donald Trump passed controversial Executive Order 13769, Nomani supported the decision and stated that referring to the executive order as a "Muslim ban" was a "propaganda campaign" to incite fear in the public.[14]


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.[15]

Inspired by Michael Muhammad Knight's punk novel The Taqwacores,[16] she organized 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 his book Blue-Eyed Devil (p. 209), Knight recalls the event as follows:

Inside the chapel there might have been as many reporters and camera crews as there were praying Muslims. The imam of the day, Amina Wadud, was so distracted by the long rows of popping flash-bulbs that in the middle of the prayer she forgot her ayats. At PMU[Progressive Muslim Union]'s first board meeting, Ahmed Nassef would read to us an email from Dr. Wadud that completely washed her hands of the event. Though she still believed in woman-led prayer, she wanted nothing to do with PMU or Asra Nomani... Wadud had drawn a clear line between the Truth and the media whores, and we knew that PMU was on the wrong side. To avoid public criticism, PMU's website made no mention of Asra's role in organizing the prayer. Asra complained of PMU shutting her out.[17]

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.[18]

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."[19]

Nomani is interviewed in a 2005 National Film Board of Canada documentary by Zarqa Nawaz about the efforts of North American Muslim women to be accepted in mosques, entitled Me and the Mosque.[20]

Impact and reception[edit]

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,[21] criticized her and questioned her motives.[22] Others suggest Nomani's woman-led prayer in 2005 led to open discussion and debate about the role of women in Muslim society.[23] 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, but also for not sufficiently interacting with longstanding Muslim communities.[22]



  • 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




  1. ^ "GU Class to Investigate Murder of WSJ Reporter". Georgetown University. Archived from the original on February 14, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  2. ^ "Project Pearl: The Bravest Class in Town". Marie Claire. Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c "Biography". Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  4. ^ 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. Retrieved June 25, 2007.[dead link]
  5. ^ Shamima Shaikh (1998). "Death of a Muslim Joan of Arc". Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on August 8, 2007. Retrieved June 25, 2007.
  6. ^ "National Secular Society". National Secular Society. Archived from the original on December 12, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Muslim Reform Movement decries radical Islam, calls for equality". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b 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.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Asra Nomani (November 11, 2016). "I'm a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Donald Trump". The Washington Post/Fairfax NZ.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Blue-Eyed Devil, p. 206: "At a lecture in Arizona, Mohja Kahf called me the "enfant terrible of American Muslim writers." Asra Nomani told me "this is how you can finance your life," and said that The Taqwacores had led her to consider that women could lead men in prayer. Referring to the scene in which Tabeya, my niqabi riot grrl, gives a khutbah and serves as imam, Asra promised, "we're going to make that a reality."
  17. ^ Blue-Eyed Devil: A Road Odyssey Through Islamic America Archived May 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "America at a Crossroads. The Mosque in Morgantown | PBS". Retrieved December 26, 2019.
  22. ^ a b 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.
  23. ^ 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.

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