Story by Abby Siegel, News Editor
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.com and author of The New York Times Editor’s Pick, “Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age,” spoke Nov. 21 at Murray State on issues impacting Muslim American women.
Faculty Hall Room 208 was full of students, professors and community members listening to Al-Khatahtbeh share passages from her book that focused on “one Muslim woman’s walk of life post 9/11” and discuss issues like Islamophobia and the political climate.
One passage focused on her childhood, recalling when she denied identifying with her religion on the school bus when asked by a friend.
Another passage focused on the first time she was called a racial slur at age 9.
As a Muslim, Blake Parker, junior from Lexington, Kentucky, said he was unable to relate to Al-Khatahtbeh’s experiences as a Muslim, but he was able to relate to her experiences as a black person.
“When she asked the crowd when was the first time you were called your first racial slur, I said 11,” Parker said. “It hit me that, although I haven’t experienced anti-Muslim bigotry, I have felt anti-black bigotry.”
Parker said he attended the event because he had heard of Al-Khatahtbeh on social media and had read some of her articles online.
“I thought it was refreshing because living in the United States you get the idea that these Muslim women are veiled and quiet reserved women,” Parker said. “But Amani is someone who speaks her mind and is very, very open about how she feels and is able to articulate herself in a fashion that is understandable for everyone.”
Christy Huck, junior from Louisville, Kentucky, said Al-Khatahtbeh’s talk was an eye-opener.
“For me, growing up a white, privileged person, I’ve never encountered that kind of thing,” Huck said.
Al-Khatahtbeh discussed bullying she experienced throughout school and how important it is for the teacher to address it, as many of her teachers and guidance counselors neglected to.
With future plans to be an educator, Huck said she found that the talk shined light on the importance of the classroom culture.
“It gave me tools and ways to implement love and diversity,” Huck said. “It makes me want to be more understanding and kind toward everybody.”
Al-Khatahtbeh said her purpose of writing her book was for Muslim women to be able to see their identity in literature as it is rare for a Muslim woman to walk into a bookstore and see themselves as characters in books.
With her book, Al-Khatahtbeh said Muslim women can recognize their identity in “neon letters” as they are printed on the cover.