We think it’s important to tell Muslim women’s stories to ensure that they are represented in the conversations directly impacting them. In this way, we choose to be allies by elevating the narratives we don’t always get to hear from. We stand with Muslim women against hate, discrimination, and violence.
Today is #MuslimWomensDay, a day to celebrate Muslim women and amplify their voices. We spoke with Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder of the movement as well as the voice behind MuslimGirl.com.
Amani is adamant that we as a whole create a new precedent for Muslim women's representation in mainstream media.
Read more below.
Social media has the ability to highlight different voices, but it likewise has the ability to promote stereotypes. How do you combat the latter with your work?
That’s the nature of social media: it’s a double-edged sword, and we don’t shy away from that. I don’t think it’s just a matter of shutting down the hateful ways that social media is being used, but even more so amplifying counter-speech to elevate those voices that often get drowned out. Social media is the great equalizer in that way. Just as much as it gives a platform to bigots, it also gives an equal platform to marginalized narratives. The beauty of it is that it’s egalitarian as well as democratic by nature. That’s the only way that an initiative like MuslimGirl.com can have a fighting chance to be heard.
How has your experience has Muslim millennial differed from that of your parents' generation?
It’s an entirely different experience, especially since my parents were both born in the Middle East. I was born and raised right here in what people call the world’s greatest superpower. I grew up not only with one foot in two doors but also in the age of 9/11. I had my formative years during one of the most anti-Muslim moments in modern history. The needs of my generation, as well as the ways we choose to express them, are entirely different from that of my parents — people are often surprised that my mother chooses not to wear a headscarf, but that’s only one of the most shallow differences. Unlike my parents, but entirely because of their own unique and tremendous struggles, I also grew up with what would be considered an absolute wealth of privileges and resources by comparison. I also did so in a time and place where minority kids like me have the opportunity to be agents for change and tolerance in our society.
Convos about women’s empowerment are happening everywhere we look. How do you feel about the movement and its reach?
I think it’s really exciting that we’re living in — no, compelling the next wave of feminism. At this junction, I don’t think women of color will allow it to happen without them. I’ve never seen marginalized women become more vocal, more powerful, more adamant about being represented in the conversation in my entire life. For me, I’m bearing witness to an entire #MuslimGirlArmy demanding their place in the movement. It’s always been my dream to expand the Western feminist lexicon to make space for Islamic feminism and I think we’re doing just that.
Do you think it’s inclusive?
I think many women practice only partial feminism — the kind of feminism that only applies to personal or private life and circumstance, but is far removed from the struggles of other women outside of that. If we truly want to embody the concept of feminism, we would not rest until there is just equity for all women, not just the few that get there first. While we’re breaking glass ceilings, we can’t leave women behind to get cut by the shards.
You’ve said, “history has taught us that we can’t compromise on liberation.” What are you unwilling to compromise on?
I’m unwilling to compromise on the reality that absolutely no woman is voiceless. Every woman has a voice, but there are those that are more systematically silenced than others. Not only is it our duty to empower those voices to be heard, but also to know when it’s time to shut up and listen.
If you could change one law, what would it be?
Can we please impeach the president via a Twitter poll?
As a Muslim woman how has the #MeToo movement inspired or motivated you to share your voice in the conversation?
Muslim women are placed in this precarious position where, if we want to speak up against injustices within our own community, we not only have to worry about internal backlash but even more so that Islamophobes will hijack our narrative and use our grievances against us to justify their bigotry. More than anything, I think the #MeToo movement has affirmed to me that we need safe spaces to own our experiences and talk about them.
Can we please impeach the president via a Twitter poll?
What do you hope young Muslim women in America learn from today’s leaders about sharing their voice and being heard?
To be totally honest, I think today’s leaders can learn a lot from young Muslim women in America about what it means to not only share your voice but also to do so against all forms of adversity, even when all the cards are stacked against you, even when it means quite literally putting your life on the line.
What does #MuslimWomensDay mean to you?
To me, #MuslimWomensDay is the culmination of a growing force of not only Muslim women who refuse to back down, but also our allies the world over that stand with us, believe in us and recognize a moment that calls for us to rise up in collective solidarity. I couldn’t be prouder or more moved by its reach.
How can non-muslims support Muslim women in America?
Pass the mic! Center our voices and stories. It can be as simple as hitting share or retweet on Muslim women-focused content or support Muslim-led media initiatives and campaigns. If it’s about us, let us be the ones to lead.
You can take part by simply retweeting and sharing Muslim women’s stories on your social media on this day, and celebrating the Muslim women in your life to let them know you care.