It’s not surprising to me that Muslim Girl’s tenth year of existence happens to land on one of the most pivotal election years of our generation. I count it as one of many serendipitous and unreplicable junctures in our journey that affirm why we exist at this moment.
If we wanted to measure it by presidential elections, MG was born during the first year of America’s first Black president, when I was in high school and still gazing upon a horizon of graduation, college and soon-to-be young adulthood. It was the year after I finished college that a phony came on the scene and afflicted our country and the world with the idea of a Muslim Ban. Our teen dream officially became a company in the year of the presidential elections that would set the caged-children tone of the rest of the decade.
Thankfully, this space has never been about the freaking president. On the contrary, MG is and always will be defined by the women who make it up, our own MG generations of contributors and team members weaving different walks of life into a new DNA that defies the media-programmed image of the “Muslim Girl.” Our faces are interchangeable in the eyes of foreign policy and as a result our harmonized intonations are potent. We can’t be contained as one homogenous group, but as long as they keep trying to sweep us into one then we will make our voices impossible to ignore.
When MG established its first collegiate chapter when I was a freshman at Rutgers University, it was only a dream that we would have the Muslim Girl Foundation today, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to empower marginalized Muslim women on college campuses with monetary scholarships. The first time we became a talking head on the news, one of our chapter presidents called to remind me that that was what we always dreamed of: to be the ones speaking on our own behalf. Enlisted in the quest has been a sisterhood that was first nurtured by a volunteer force of women, and quickly grew into a freelance editorial team helming contributors from all over the world. Our movement is the momentum of legions of some of the most inspirational women I have had the privilege of crossing paths and uniting with, all of whose touch prints have sculpted our legacy into its current form.
Suddenly, we became aware of the conclusion that I had been searching for when I was a teen outcast that jumped on the Internet: we have a whole #MuslimGirlArmy behind us.
Landing on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list marked a new era for Muslim millennial startups — from fashion labels to phone apps and beyond — but it also came in the volatile climate that compelled us to publish our Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women. A year and a half later was when our community was rocked by the hate crime on Nabra Hassanein, which was before the killing of Nia Wilson and after the murder of Our Three Winners, Our Three Brothers, Mustafa Mattan, the Hindu man that was pushed onto the subway tracks for 9/11, and countless others.
When our journey brought me to fulfilling my own childhood dream of writing my first book, “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age,” I wrote that Muslim Girl has become a real-time chronicle of the evolution of our identities during one of the most pivotal moments in our modern history. Fearlessly deep-diving into topics that were once taboo for Muslim women has changed the landscape of our conversations forever. In keeping with our legacy of refusing to allow the outside to dictate our narrative, I choose to measure our course by the moments that were only fairytales when we were little girls.
The Tens have brought us milestones that have taken my breath away, with one of only the most recent being the rise of our first Muslim congresswomen that have blown political doors wide open in ways I never imagined seeing in my lifetime. It’s not rare to see hijabis in magazines now — and on the cover — and we gained ground in the commercial market in ways that make the biggest haters pay attention. The unmistakable noise of launching #MuslimWomensDay, now the biggest global campaign to amplify Muslim women’s voices, became our viral smoke signal that even when all the odds are stacked against us, Muslim Women Talk Back.
These moments have been beaded together by the heartbeat of a call to action that literally beckons our generation to inherit the Earth and save the world. In many ways, we got through the heightened adversity of the last decade by reassuring ourselves that things are different this time around. Those alienated kids we once were grew up to become our own heroes and establish the institutions we didn’t have. We’ve found a form of identity in our collective coming-of-age that the War on Terror robbed from us. We been thruuuuu it, and we’re just old enough now to claim the torch and ignite the match to guide us home.
It has been through my leadership to MG that I’m entering the new decade completely affirmed in my hope for our generation and the one that comes after us. The #MuslimGirlArmy is fortified not just by the girls and young women that have read us, written for us, supported us and even rode for us in Facebook debates and Twitter controversies like the real badasses they are; but, our community has also grown, both literally and figuratively, by the allies, partners and friends that have risen up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us on the frontlines. This is our time to manifest our little girls growing up with different dreams than we did.
We’ve been talking back loud enough to make them listen, and in the Twenties they’re going to hear us roar.