This Millennial Muslim Feminist Blogger Is Challenging Media Stereotypes With Her Narrative

amani-al-khatahtbeh

When you hear the word “feminist” images of Rose the Riveter or Gloria Steinem often come to mind. We think of women who are fighting against gender inequality in society, in politics and even in religion. So when you hear the words “Muslim” and “feminist” together, it seems like a juxtaposition, right?

Wrong!

Our millennial generation has been doing a great job of challenging institutional and systemic norms for a number of years now, and it continues across a range of industries. One of the things we are passionate about here at GTHQ are women who refuse to be marginalized by the way society likes to label and pigeon-hole us, and stand against it by speaking out in revolutionary ways.

We recently came across a girl by the name of Amani al-Khatahtbeh who runs a blog called MuslimGirl.net. This is one seriously badass website which not only unravels every idea of what a young Muslim woman looks like, but also offers a safe community for millennial Muslim women who identify as feminists who want resources that cater to them.

Amani started the site as a teen in her bedroom in New Jersey after becoming fed up of the way media portrayed Muslim community members, especially in the US.

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“When you first heard our name ‘MuslimGirl,’ one of two things probably happened. If you’re a Muslim, you were like, ‘Yes, finally — that’s me!’ If you’re not a Muslim, you might have flinched and thought something along the lines of, ‘Ugh, not these people…’And that’s why we’re here. We’re normalizing the word ‘Muslim’ for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” explains the website.

“We at MuslimGirl are taking back the narrative. We use our own voices to speak up for ourselves. We are raising the place of Muslim women in mainstream society. We are drawing awareness to the Qur’an’s message of gender equality and Islam’s principle of peace. We are paving the way towards a world in which every woman can raise her head without fear of being attacked for her gender or beliefs.”

In a recent interview with Women’s Enews Amani states that the basic tenets of Islam are inherently feminist, so identifying as one fits in line with her beliefs.

The idea of how a feminist is defined has been very problematic and we think the confusion has contributed a great deal to why so many celebrities (and everyday women of course) state they aren’t feminists and cite a bogus definition. Should there be ONE definition only? Hasn’t the definition evolved over the years as our struggles have?

Amani-al-Khatahtbeh

“The Western feminist movement has always been alienating to women of color. I would argue that ‘feminisms’ that disregard the intersections of race, class and gender are not only anti-feminist, but even uphold systems of oppression that feminism claims to defy. I think the most important thing for the movement is to take a step back and empower women to speak for themselves, rather than assuming their lived experiences and speaking for or talking over them,” said Amani.

Speaking of race, and the aforementioned Gloria Steinem, on the eve of her 81st birthday she gave an interview with Black Enterprise and made a statement about black women and feminism that may have shocked some people.

“I thought they invented the feminist movement. I know we all have different experiences, but I learned feminism disproportionately from black women,” she told the reporter.

You are probably all familiar with this iconic image of her and fellow activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes who she launched Ms. Magazine with:

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“I realize that things being what they are, probably the white middle-class part of the movement got reported more,” she continued. “But if you look at the numbers and the very first poll of women thinking about responding on women’s issues, African-American women were twice as likely to support feminism and feminist issues as White women.”

Her words as well as Amani’s show that feminism doesn’t belong to one particular group, as women from all sections of society have struggles they have faced.

With Muslim women, Amani says one of the battles they face even today is wading through the huge amounts of media coverage that only portray Muslim women as oppressed and under valued.

“No one has the right to pass judgment on Islam or Muslim women if their only knowledge of either of them comes from Fox [News] or “American Sniper.” The whole premise of feminism is to empower women’s individual choices and autonomy of their own lives. It’s interesting how Western feminism has always been gung-ho about this concept unless it is applied to Muslim women,” she says.

“Not only does the misconception of Islam’s relationship with feminism reveal a very politicized and stereotypical image of Muslim women, but it also infantilizes us as though we are incapable of thinking or making decisions for ourselves. As a Muslim woman, my hijab is my feminism; both in asserting my authority over my body as well as defying post-9/11 Islamophobia, racism and stereotypical expectations.”

Her point about how the media, politics and entertainment paints a stereotypical view of veiled women is exactly why we need more voices like hers breaking through the mainstream.

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Muslimgirl.net is a fantastic portal but it is not the lone ranger online. If you type in “Muslim Feminist” in Google, a range of different article and blogs will pop up, including this one (where we found our featured image from!) called Ellie’s Life.

In the hyperlinked post she breaks down Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments about feminism having nothing to do with Muslim culture. He has come under fire recently for sexists comments made about how he thinks Turkish women should live.

“Erdogan should stop hurting women with his misogynistic speeches and he should start respecting and protecting Turkish women…You can be both Muslim and Feminist. No one can say Feminists don’t have a link to Islam because religion is between individuals and Allah so it is not anyone’s business,” writes Ellie.

While there are struggles that are specific to Muslim women, the issues concerning marginalized voices and communities in America today affect many people including Muslims.

“At the moment, American Muslim women are alarmed by the recent spike in hate crimes that often target “visibly Muslim” women that wear headscarves. Additionally, the national conversation surrounding police brutality is of particular interest to Muslim women because militarization against communities of color is a shared struggle.”

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As a woman who is very active on social media and uses her digital platform to share positive messages and breakdown stereotypes, Amani has come under her fair share of harassment and bullying, which she has learned to deal with. Just like many other women online, regardless of race, religion or persuasion, she has received death threats, rape threats and vitriol linked to her Arabic culture. The bad news (for all those keyboard cowards who think they can silence her) is that she is still speaking up and will continue to do so.

“The Internet can be a very vitriolic place for women as it’s a space where we publicly defy the margins to which society relegates us. One of the common comments Muslim women receive when they’re speaking their mind online is, ‘You wouldn’t even be allowed to share these opinions if you were in your country! You’d be stoned!’ as though we don’t belong and, ironically, in an attempt to keep shutting us up in societies that claim a moral high ground. This is part of the reason why I started MuslimGirl; to create a space where we can collectively assert our voices on important topics and where ‘Muslim Women Talk Back’.”

It really excites and encourages us to see a generation of women from all walks 0f life claiming feminism and redefining it along the way. The most important part about the movement is that feminists are walking the talk. When we see how Muslimgirl.net and Amani are giving young Muslim women a voice in the mainstream like never before, we need to do ourselves a favor, and take a moment to listen.

Amani-al-Khatahtbeh

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: This Millennial Muslim Feminist Blogger Is Challenging Media Stereotypes With Her Narrative | Create Parity

  2. Always good to hear about Muslim – and other – feminists. One quibble: “So when you hear the words “Muslim” and “feminist” together, it seems like a juxtaposition, right?” It IS a juxtaposition. I think you mean it seems like an oxymoron.

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  5. Pingback: Watch This Young Muslim Feminist Break Down Social Norms In 3 Minutes

  6. Pingback: Our Conversation With Dr. Nora Amath About Feminism, Islam & Interfaith Dialog, Part 2 - GirlTalkHQ

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