To everyone who might buy this, expecting to read a series of Islamophobic incidents one after another, think again. “Muslim Girl” is not merely a memoir of a girl growing up in a racist, bigoted society. It is a narrative of Muslim women speaking up for themselves. It is clearing up misconceptions that arise due to media outlets and government officials talking over women. It is an argument for a cultural and philosophical shift that would explain why we carry a certain mindset and point of view. Most of all, it reflects true challenges of making such an intellectual change possible: institutional resistance and physical danger being a few.
Some background: I started following al-Khatahtbeh on social media networks after being a member of the audience at CGIU (Clinton Global Initiative University). She stressed the importance of Muslim girls dictating their narratives themselves, a message that (as a second-generation immigrant) strongly resonated with me. “Muslim Girl” presents anecdotes that provoke afterthought, one example being Amani’s family’s relocating to Jordan due to Islamophobia. Is this what the United States has come to and is this the country we want to be? Even in American high schools, we see whitewashed narratives dominate that frame events as black-and-white; our nation remains faultless in textbooks, despite the reality being quite the opposite. A few anecdotes from the Koran reveal how progressive Islam actually is–contrary to most media commentary— by encouraging discipline and compassion. But perhaps one of the most moving narratives was that of Muslim girls taking back their narrative into their own hands, and not just from mainstream media but from Muslim men as well. When Trump rambled about his Islamophobic policy, they chose not to actively cover him and give him more attention. When hate crimes increased as women wearing the hijab were targeted, they published a safety guide for women. As hate continued to increase, they sought to reconcile their individual differences and bridge gaps as a community.
And those stories delivered the most uplifting motif of the book: a sense of hope for the future.