Muslim Girl’s founder and editor-in-chief, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, took the stage with former president Bill Clinton this past weekend during the opening session of the annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) event in Berkeley, Calif. The panel, in keeping with the opening plenary’s “Courage to Create” theme, also included Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, Egyptian revolutionary Wael Ghonim, founder of Pinterest Ben Silbermann, and Cady Coleman, a female astronaut for NASA.
The full event can be viewed here.
Panelists discussed their various endeavors with the former president, as well as how they found the courage to create their projects and share their personal messages in the first place. The CGIU conversation was productive and covered a large range of issues.
The chance to participate was a tremendous honor for Muslim Girl, and offered an important platform for our marginalized voices — however, there were still a handful of teachable moments for all parties throughout the course of the conversation.
Further along in the conversation, citing the words of the French artist to describe the efforts that go into creating sites like Muslim Girl, Clinton said, “Henri Matisse said, ‘Creativity requires courage.’” This was the perfect opportunity for the panelists to have a discussion about the privilege that comes with our various positions in society, and Amani offered her take on how it affects our perspective.
“Saying that we need the courage to create almost comes from a privileged place. For a lot of communities of color, we don’t have the choice to have courage or not — because a lot of times, it comes down to survival.” -Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
The event was also a crucial opportunity to have a high-profile, in-depth discussion about how the current political climate impacts the lives of everyday Muslims.
“A lot of the domestic and foreign policies in our country fall on the shoulders of communities of color in very adverse ways,” Amani said.
The conversation also gave us the chance to point out many of the disastrous policy mistakes that are made on both the national and international scale. In keeping with the theme of elevating marginalized voices, Amani noted that, “When it comes to Muslim countries and the Muslim community, policies disproportionately impact Muslim women and children the most.”
Clinton agreed with this assessment, and took the time to make an important statement against Islamophobia and the current presidential campaign rhetoric of fear-mongering, commenting that “I think it’s crazy, the way we’re behaving right now.”
Further on the topic of international politics, the panel fielded questions for the panelists from Twitter. One tweet asked, “How can we better achieve cooperation worldwide to solve the common problems that plague the developing world?”
With regards to other people in the world, the CGIU crowd was also treated to a brief, yet candid discussion about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. In spite of its recent successes at universities across the nation, BDS is still facing major opposition from legislators, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to the former secretary of state’s husband was thus the perfect window to note the historical hypocrisy of opposition to BDS, and that even though “it’s a movement that we see a lot of state and federal policies try to outlaw…we literally revere these types of movements that have happened in our history.”
On a more personal level, Amani detailed the struggles of Muslim youth around the world. “For many Muslims, we grew up during a time of the highest levels of Islamophobia in modern history,” she said. “That took place in our formative years. We went through puberty under a complete assault on our identities.”
“We should never shy away from our personal stories. We need to have the courage to put it forward. It’s those stories that make us human, empathize with each other. It’s how we can truly change the world.” -Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
Still, despite the adversity today’s younger Muslims have faced growing up, Amani remained optimistic as she described Muslim Girl’s vision for the future, saying, “I believe I am moving the [consciousness] of a long line of Muslim women speaking truth to power.”