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Breaking Muslim stereotypes

By Tiffani Tang
Correspondent founder and Rutgers University Political Science major, Amani Alkhat, visited the College to talk about the power of social media and how she uses it to spread the truth and break Muslim stereotypes.

Alkhat addresses Muslim issues. (Photo courtesy of Madeha Khalid)
Alkhat addresses Muslim issues. (Photo courtesy of Madeha Khalid)

“I don’t see myself on the news,” she said about how Muslim women are represented on television. “I never see myself on the news. Their creation (the image of Muslim women) is.”

Alkhat became restless with the way Muslim women are portrayed to the people — she wanted change but she felt helpless. That’s when she turned to the Internet.

In 2009, Alkhat created to expose how the modern Muslim girl goes about her everyday life. She wanted to prove she is more than a woman who hides her face in a Halal, a traditional headscarf that covers the entire face except the eyes.

If one looks up “Muslim woman” on Google images, one will be greeted with pages of women shrouded in black and wearing Halals that cover up the woman’s identity. Alkhat said this is the “type of picture (that social media) wants people to think of.”

“It’s all very one-dimensional,” she said.

Alkhat took it in her hands to write about being oppressed as a Muslim woman, and by doing so, she found herself being oppressed by the Rutgers newspaper, The Daily Targum.

Alkhat worked with the paper’s opinion column for two years. Her critics labeled her as biased and the Targums Board of Trustees demanded that she  write pro-Israel content, going against journalistic integrity.

She planned to reveal the Board of Trustees’ censorship in her goodbye column, but they refused to publish it. She ultimately decided there were only two options she could pursue: to “succumb to it” or “step over it.”

Alkhat chose the latter, taking her original column to the online newspaper The Huffington Post. The website published her goodbye column, exposing the true nature of The Daily Targum’s Board of Trustees. Soon after, it went viral.

“There are many ways to create your own voice,” Amani said. “We have something called the social media and the Internet.”

In other words, she is “taking back the narrative” in her own hands.

The Quran does not claim that women have to follow these stereotypes — there is no mention of a Halal or behavior models. This fight is no longer about religion. These stereotypes have been constructed by society and culture.

Alkhat was not afraid to acknowledge this. She faces criticism and death threats trying to stand up for what she believes in.

“I thought it was interesting,” sophomore international studies major Emma Kumpf said. “We don’t hear a lot from American Muslims.”

Alkhat’s presentation wasn’t solely directed at Islam as a religion — it also asked young women to raise their voices.

“This presentation was needed for women in college,” junior biology major Meher Ahmed said. “Muslim women shouldn’t be afraid to have a voice. We need a voice to break these barriers.”

That’s why Alkhat decided to take a stand.

“Social media is the primary weapon of war,” she said. “It’s a voice powerful enough to potentially change the world.”


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