The stereo­type-smash­ing boss be­hind Mus­lim Girl

Time Out (Sydney) - - THINGS TO DO - Emma Joyce àA­mani

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.

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