December Book Review By JoEllen McNeal
Muslim Girl, A Coming of Age By Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was nine years old, eager to have her class picture taken at Bowne-Munro Elementary School in East Brunswick, New Jersey, when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. The date was September 11, 2001. Overnight her family and her Muslim religion became “the enemy.” Muslim Girl is a deeply moving and harrowing account of what it was like to be a young Muslim girl growing into adulthood under the shadow of 9/11.
“All my life I’ve been conditioned to feel ‘less than,’ Amani writes. Being raised into a society seemingly at war with Islam, Amani struggled with a sense of extreme inferiority for most of her early life. She was crippled by fear of the taunting she would face if she dared to speak –“hello, I’m here. I’m a person too.”
When she was thirteen, her family took a trip back to her father’s native homeland in Jordan. It was there that she began to experience a rich culture founded on the true peaceful nature of Islam instead of the fearful Islamic stereotypes portrayed in the American media. She returned from the trip inspired to speak her truth and quit hiding her faith.
What follows is the amazing and moving story of Amani’s journey from a frightened and silenced girl to founding MuslimGirl.com, the number one Muslim women’s blog in the United States as well as providing commentary on social, cultural and political issues to CNN, Al Jazeera, the BBC and being featured in the Forbes “30 under 30” list. Amani, in finding her own voice, created the platform for other Muslim women to connect in sisterhood and has become the voice of Islamic women in the United States.
Amani shares with us her own struggles and fears along the way – the Islamophobia that she has faced on a daily basis, how Muslims are only one hate crime away from life or death, how she keeps speaking out because she cannot “allow another generation of little girls to grow up being told they don’t belong, that their bodies are less valuable, less human.”
Amani’s message is an urgent one. It is an extremely important antidote to the Islamophobia that is festering in our country today. Her story will make you weep, get angry, feel outraged and feel ashamed. And, it will also educate you and leave you with a sense of awe for this young woman who managed to break through years of culturally conditioned inferiority to find her own powerful and necessary voice.