March 27 is Muslim Women's Day -- a day to celebrate Muslim women
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh says it is a day to "change the culture around how we talk about Muslim women"
As a young girl growing up in New Jersey in the wake of 9/11, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh concealed the fact that she was Muslim to avoid negative judgment from her peers.
When she was 13, her family relocated to Jordan – her father’s homeland – because they were concerned about rising violence against Muslim communities in the United States.
Living in Jordan proved to be a transformative experience – Al-Khatahtbeh grew to love her religion, and began slowly reclaiming her identity. But the family returned to the US when her mother was taken ill and wanted to be with her relatives in New Jersey.
Back home, Al-Khatahtbeh found that Jordan had changed her attitude to her country of birth and she chose to wear the hijab as a mark of defiance against Islamophobia. She felt angered to see how the Middle East – and particularly Muslim women – were misrepresented in the news.
So, at 17, Al-Khatahtbeh started a blog in her bedroom. She paid $7 for a domain name – MuslimGirl.com – to carve out a space for young Muslim women to take back the narrative.
Now, eight years later, MuslimGirl has tens of thousands of followers across its social networks. 1.7 million people visited the website over the last year, according to Al-Khatahtbeh.
On March 27, 2017, MuslimGirl launched the first official Muslim Women’s Day, to celebrate Muslim women and amplify their voices.
This year it’s happening again. The theme is “Muslim women talk back to violence.”
CNN spoke with Brooklyn-based Al-Khatahtbeh, now 25, about the idea behind Muslim Women’s Day, and how the narrative around Muslim women is changing.
Why is it important to create a platform for young Muslim women?
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: “Growing up [in the United States], by the time I was leaving elementary school, we were already embroiled in two wars in the Middle East. And even today, we elected a president largely based on assumptions of the Muslim community. A lot of these policies impacting Muslims worldwide are largely based on a lot of misinformation.
One of the reasons why MuslimGirl became such a necessary space is, first of all, to cultivate a presence for our voices in the media in the hope that … it will make it more difficult for that misinformation to lead to those policies.
One thing I’m really proud of with MuslimGirl is that we have never attempted to cater to any specific outside audience… And in a very beautiful way, naturally, half of our audience became non-Muslim – people outside of our religious background that started to come to Muslim Girl as a resource.”