The stereotype-smashing boss behind Muslim Girl
seen the resurgence of the hijab globally. I think it came as a result of this widespread attack on our identity. My grandmother’s generation didn’t wear headscarves; they wore bathing suits on the beach in Egypt, and people forget about that.”
In the past year, MuslimGirl has launched campaigns to help bolster the image of Muslim women in the press, as well as help provide platforms for them to thrive. There was the first Muslim Women’s Day, launched during Women’s History Month, in which the brand worked with an unprecedented number of partners in mainstream media to flood the internet with positive, diverse stories about Muslim women. In addition, they initiated a scholarship fund called the MuslimGirl Foundation, which provides financial opportunities in different fields – the first project is to empower Muslim women in the media. They also launched their first cosmetics line, a waterpermeable nail polish with Orly that was promoted as ‘halal paint’.
“It received such a tremendously positive response because Muslim women were just so excited to see themselves represented in the beauty space.” Unfortunately, the partnership came to a halt after Orly’s CEO posted racist comments on social media. It was “a lesson”, says Amani. So it’s not a surprise that she’s keen to ensure underrepresented communities are benefiting from – and not exploited by – companies that are marketing specifically to Muslim women. “Being able to create products that are for us – and by us – is such a powerful way for us to have representation in an authentic way. The risk is that you will see brands and corporations that really don’t care about our communities, just to get a
profit off them.”
AMANI AL- KHATAHTBEH IS a total boss: a writer, tech entrepreneur, fashion and beauty icon, and last year she became the first veiled Muslim woman on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list – all before turning 25. At age 17, Al-Khatahtbeh launched a website called MuslimGirl, which today has over one million readers. Her mission for it? To become the first mainstream media network by and for Muslim women. She now employs 50 journalists. “It’s made up by countless more women than those who started it, who yearned for and want to accomplish the same exact thing,” she says. Amani is also a host for MTV and YouTube, a contributor at Forbes and The Guardian, and an in-demand speaker. In her book, Muslim Girl: A
Coming of Age, which was released late last year, Al-Khatahtbeh recounts what it was like to be a Muslim-American during the 9/11 attacks. She was nine years old and recalls the bullying and isolation her family experienced living in New Jersey. “The one thing that the book review in The
New York Times mentioned, that I think hit the nail on the head, is that we are the ‘forgotten 9/11 generation’,” she says. “It’s not only the children that were directly impacted… but also the people who were blamed for it in the aftermath too. For a lot of Muslims, especially Muslim-Americans, it’s almost as if we’re still paying the price for something that we didn’t have anything to do with.” Amani talks about that collective judgment weighing heavily on her generation, which came to a head as Donald Trump was campaigning to be president of the United States. “The time of me writing [the book] was when he started bringing up the topic of the Muslim ban and positioning that central to his policy.” Her decision to start wearing a hijab came in defiant response to the Islamophobia she experienced as a child – a decision she believes many women are making. “Over the past decade or so we’ve
Al-Khatahtbeh is speaking with Yassmin AbdelMagied at Antidote Festival, Sydney Opera House. 6.30pm. $30. Sun Sep 3.