WASHINGTON, 3 June 2007 — A new publication is aiming to break negative stereotypes about Islam and to help young Muslim women feel confident and optimistic about being Muslim in America.
Muslim Girl was launched in January with the headline: “Enlighten, Celebrate, Inspire.” The bi-monthly magazine targets hundreds of thousands Muslim teenagers in North America who want a magazine that reflects their values, ambitions and goals.
Muslim Girl is the latest of several new magazines catering to Muslim Americans. Each targets distinct demographics — teenagers, professionals, mothers, secular Muslims, but each also aims to take pride in who they are, and what they believe.
Muslim teenage girls have said they are delighted when they discover Muslim Girl, because it features young Muslim American women who stand out in academics, the arts and sports. It also gives them ideas for modest fashions they can wear. Being comfortable with Islam is certainly one of the goals of Muslim Girl, says editor-in-chief Ausma Khan. She describes the monthly publication as a magazine for young Muslim women whose faith means a lot to them, but who are just like other teenage girls in America. Khan created the magazine as a way to serve what she says is a huge community that needs more positive representation in the mainstream media.
Khan — a writer, human rights lawyer and activist — said in a recent interview that she left a teaching position at Northwestern University to become editor in chief of the new magazine. “Most representations of Muslims in the media are negative,” she said. “Muslim Girl Magazine challenges those perceptions by telling the stories of Muslim teens who are proud to be American and who contribute to American society in so many positive ways. This is a chance for their voices to be heard. We want to reach as many people as possible by telling the stories about American girls who are Muslim and getting other communities to see them as part of American life, as teens that they have something in common with and to clear away misunderstandings, and hope for a better dialogue,” said Khan.
The premiere issue of the Muslim Girl magazine featured girls who have joined the Peace Corps and volunteered in Indonesia. Advice columns tackle everything from boyfriends to divorced parents to anti-Muslim discrimination. Khan says, “We’re showing hijab-wearing basketball players alongside contemporary fashion designers and artists. We want to dispel the notion that Muslim teens conform to one particular model. Veiled or unveiled, Muslim girls participate fearlessly in sports, the arts, international travel and their local mosques.”
Regular departments range from Qur’an Notes to Hot List reviews of TV shows like The CW Television Network’s “Gilmore Girls.” And a special feature on the hit show “24” directly confronts a huge problem — the association of Muslims with terrorism.
For those beyond their teens, there is Azizah, which has been on the market for seven years, and calls itself the voice for Muslim women.
Azizah, which means “dear” in Arabic, offers articles on health, travel , food and spirituality, but also tackles tougher issues — from custody battles to AIDS in the Muslim community, to inheritance laws, to “how to spot men who marry for Green Cards.” Other recent stories in Azizah have dealt with issues like autism, breast cancer, leadership, fashion, marriage, and a whole gamut of subjects reflecting the diversity of Muslim American women.
Both Muslim Girl and Azizah were launched as a counter-balance what most American Muslims feel is the stereotype of oppressed and uneducated Muslim women — fueled largely by reports on Islam and Muslims from overseas.
“Islam and Muslims are reported on in this country through the lens of Middle Eastern politics. So we see the Muslim woman as the Arab woman,” Tayyibah Taylor, 54, Azizah’s publisher and editor, told reporters.
A mother of five, Taylor studied biology and philosophy at the University of Toronto. She studied Arabic and Islamic studies at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before working as an administrator at the Islamic School of Seattle, Washington. “Azizah is a forum for our voice,” she said of Muslim American women. “By presenting positive images and portrayals it gives us permission to aspire to things, to break out of self-imposed limitations.”