The View In the Mirror

By Naazish YarKhan

The Shema in the Torah, starts: (Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! Likewise, Jesus said: (Mark 12:29) “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one”. Likewise, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He, God, is One. / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all. (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). The Unity of God, love of Him, and a love for his creation form a common ground upon which Islam and Christianity (and Judaism) are founded.

But that’s not what the media covers, nor is it the message anyone sees when they read the news related to Muslims or Islam, or when they read blogs on the topic, or when they learn of another suicide bombing.

According to Business Week, Jan 2007, “59% of Muslim adults in the U.S have college degrees, compared to 28 % of all American adults. Surveys show that the median family income amongst Muslims exceeds the national average of $ 55,800. A 2004 Zogby International Poll, reports that one in three Muslims earns more than $75,000 annually.”

But this too is not the stuff of most news reports. It’s just not juicy enough for sustained play in the papers. And that’s where a magazine like Muslim Girl steps in, (

In Muslim Girl Magazine (MGM), Muslim girls see themselves – both hijabi and non-hijabi. We see ourselves portrayed as normal. We are portrayed as beautiful, as smart and as capable and it’s a breath of fresh air. It reflects the experience of teenage Muslim girls from all over the Muslim world – Bosnia, Africa, Palestine, Egypt, India. It shows Muslim girls a mirror to what they know exists in the Muslim world they live in.

And for a change, it’s not selling you bad news. It’s fashionable, it’s trendy. “Being able to find modest clothes and yet being trendy at the same time can be an uphill battle,” said one girl I spoke with. “ The magazine lets you see that you can be a fashionable yet modestly dressed Muslim,” she said. For many hijab wearing Muslim girls, MGM is a support group of sorts. For still others, it is a source of information to share with their non-Muslim friends. (Incidentally, my son, who is only five, is now hankering for a magazine for Muslim boys!)

Most importantly, a magazine like Muslim Girl, gives Muslim girls a voice. It reflects thoughts echoed by many teen girls in dorms and at dining tables across Muslim America and Canada. In it, Muslim girls see themselves and for once, find that they are no longer the invisible minority, or the minority which is visible only when another bomb falls. For parents too, it is many things. For starters, it’s a better alternative to Cosmo or YM magazine.

But it’s not just teenage girls who are reading the magazine from cover to cover. Yours truly here, does the same! I’ve also just finished reading another young adult novel – Does My Head Look Big In This. The writing is great, the pace never dulls, but I see and hear myself in it and that’s what keeps me turning the pages.

Another must read for Muslims and Non-Muslims alike is Being Muslim. I remember in college, having a friends’ dad say that Muslim women had no rights. At the time I didn't have a come-back because I didn't know much about Islam. But it was what pushed me to learn, so that I could defend my faith if I ever had to do it again. BEING MUSLIM allows teens and adults to do that. I talked to the author, Haroon Siddiqui, as to why he wrote the book. For one, the book talks facts about contemporary issues facing Islam and the West these days. Once readers have an understanding as to what's going on in Iraq or Afghanistan or in their backyard, they can argue their case with eloquence and facts instead of being tongue-tied or reacting defensively or being in denial. For instance, yes, in today's worlds, most terrorists are Muslim but that doesn't mean all Muslims are terrorists. In another age, and another era, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland were at it, and in another time Kamakazi's were the main terrorists.

Being Muslim is ammunition for every reader who has ever been put on the spot post 9/11, or anyone who has had to shoulder this collective guilt every time an act of terrorism occurs. It is the book for those with questions about the West and Islam.

Anne Frank in her diaries wrote that when a Jew is at fault, all Jews are held accountable and when a Christian is at fault, it's the fault of just that one Christian. Islam is going through that period now. Former Secretary General of the U.N. Mr. Kofi Annan, had the good sense to see through the smoke and mirrors and point out that acts of violence by Muslims were rooted in anger at U.S. policies and not because of the freedom’s enjoyed by America, as the current administration and the media have led the people to believe.

God willing, these negative times will pass and when they do, as they most certainly will and when society finds the next scapegoat, God willing Muslims will raise their voices against it. Having been at the receiving end of it, we know how unjust and far from God’s way it is.