Muslim Women’s Voices: Amani Al-Khatahbeh & Susan Abulhawa

Amani Al-Khatahbeh talks about her new book, Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age. It’s about her experience growing up female and Muslim in America after 9/11 and how that led her to create muslimgirl.com, an online magazine by and about Muslim women.

Then we re-air our 2016 interview with Susan Abulhawa about her novel of a Palestinian family, The Blue Between Sky and Water. 

Amani Al-Khatahbeh

In the days after Trump’s win, US hate crimes against Muslims spiked. Muslim women wearing the hijab were especially targeted. In New York City, a female subway passenger, a uniformed MTA worker and an off-duty policewoman, all wearing hijabs, were assaulted. And since the first presidential debate in August of 2015, there have been 569 known Islamophobic attacks.

Ever since 9/11, the media, government and other institutions have created two narratives about Muslim women, both destructive and misleading. One says that Muslim women are submissive and oppressed and should be freed by do-gooding Western governments; the other says that Muslim women are dangerous terrorists hiding under their veils and must be objects of constant suspicion and surveillance.

The real people behind that constructed narrative are rendered invisible and mute, their many dimensioned multiplicity transformed into an inscrutable sameness. That’s a situation my guest Amani Al-Khatahbeh is dedicated to changing. She established the online magazine muslimgirl.com when she was still in high school. Its goal is to take back the narrative about Muslim women from a hostile and ignorant society.

When 9/11 happened, Al-Khatahbeh was just 9 years old. Soon after the attacks, the Islamophobic bullying of her and her family began. She spent years trying to be as unseen and unobtrusive as possible until finally, she’d had enough and MuslimGirl was born. The site’s tagline is Muslim Women Talk Back. The journal has seen explosive growth, garnering over 100 million hits in 2015 alone.

Since its founding, Amani Al-Khatahbeh has become a prominent and powerful advocate for Muslim women’s voices. Hear her reading an excerpt from Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age.

Susan Abulhawa
We’re talking today about Muslim women’s voices, taking back the narrative about themselves imposed by a hostile and uncomprehending society. One Muslim woman who expresses that voice powerfully through the medium of fiction is Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa.

We aired an interview with her in January 2016 about her novel The Blue Between Sky and Water. It’s a story of the naqba, or Catastrophe — the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland by the nascent state of Israel in 1948 — and their subsequent lives under Israeli domination and then occupation in Gaza. It’s also the story of one particular family, a family with strong women at its center. Listen to the full interview here.