A few weeks ago, a man abducted 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Va. as she walked from her mosque during the holy month of Ramadan. Then he beat her to death with a metal baseball bat.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was the same age when she founded MuslimGirl — a blog that forged a space for Muslim women and girls to find community and give voice to their own stories — in 2009. MuslimGirl is now a leading online magazine for Muslim women who are combatting Western media’s monolithic misrepresentations through storytelling. The site’s tagline, “Muslim Girls Talk Back,” says everything, but the editor-in-chief reveals the story behind its founding in her 2016 book Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age.
In it, Al-Khatahtbeh tells an unvarnished story about navigating adolescence as a Muslim daughter of Jordanian immigrants in the post-9/11 suburbs of New Jersey. She invites readers into her family’s living room as they witness terrorists destroying the World Trade Center’s twin towers and into her elementary school where she is humiliated and harassed as the United States launches its invasion of Iraq.
According to Pew Research Center analysis of FBI hate crimes statistics, the number of physical assaults against Muslims in the United States reached 9/11-era levels in 2015. A new report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, suggests these numbers show no sign of decreasing any time soon.
Al-Khatahtbeh knows that women who wear headscarves bear the brunt of these abuses, and offers readers a revealing account of how she decided to all while compelling readers to laugh and cry, and elucidating the true meaning of “jihad.”
Learn more at MuslimGirl.com.
At less than 150 pages, Muslim Girl is a rewarding read for adults but is accessible to teens coming into political consciousness and questioning society’s messages about identity.
We need stories like Al-Khatahtbeh’s because statistics can only tell us so much, and because we need the leadership of young outspoken Muslim-American women if we’re serious about cultivating a viable democracy.
We need Muslim Girl because girls like Nabra Hassanen are slain in our streets.