Muslim Girl, by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Simon&Schuster 2016

My sister bought me this book because she thought I should read it for this blog and so I did. It’s written by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder of Muslim Girl – a website that serves as a safe space for Muslim Girls to communicate and ask questions and get answers from other muslim girls who are dealing with similar issues. Amani talks about her experience growing up as a Muslim girl in New Jersey, spanning from being a 9 year old on 9/11 to the recent resurgence of anti-immigrant rhetoric in US politics.

Her story is important because she is just a regular girl, born and raised in the US, who’s faced extreme racism, judgement, cruelty, and bullying because of her appearance and because of the hijab she chooses to wear. She tells about moments in her family’s life so unfair you don’t want to believe it. Like the time her father turned to the police after his tires were slashed and instead they investigated him in response to an allegation that he was planning to bomb the outdoor market he worked in. My favorite part of her story is when she explains how she came to find and create her own version of Islamic feminism. One of the most striking points she makes is that white leaders in the US are always so concerned with muslim women being under threat by muslim men, but the real threats Amani faces everyday come from white men in the US.

“The theft of brown women’s narratives is not only an injustice placed on them, but also one extended to their male counterparts; by insisting they need to be liberated from their ‘barbaric’  civilization, [Laura Bush] summoned the colonial assertion that brown women need saving from brown men, when, in actuality, brown women have suffered at the hands of white men more than at those of any other oppressor in history.”

If I had to choose the most important point Amani makes in her book, however, it is that the only voices we can and should trust to tell us what it’s like being a muslim woman are the voices of muslim women. The following quote (about the headscarf as a symbol) is a powerful comment on the subject:

“Throughout time, the headscarf has evolved to symbolize autonomy and control over Muslim women’s bodies. An empowering rejection of the male gaze, colonialism, and anti-Muslim sentiment, it can just as easily be twisted into  a disempowering tool of subjugation and repression through its forced imposition…Today, some governments are just as eager to mandate its wear in public as others are to forbid it. In all cases, any decision to intervene in how a woman dresses, whether to take it off or put it on, is just the same assertion of public control over a woman’s body…Sexism has been employed in many ways throughout history to uphold racism.”

Read this book. You will be and need to be shocked by what the average muslim girl and her family have to endure in this country.

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