A new generation of American Muslim media puts women first



(RNS) – East London-born Rifat Malik was recently appointed editor-in-chief of a new American publication devoted to the work of Muslim women journalists.

“Muslim women are often vilified, obsessed with them, become the target of speculation or are infantilized in the media and sometimes within the Muslim community,” Malik told RNS.

Texas-based American Muslim Today hopes to change that narrative by putting women at the heart of the narrative.

The current editorial team is made up of six women, including interns, while the only men involved in the project are in technology and other support roles. While some external contributors are men, most of their content is written by women.

“The purpose of our publication is to offer a woman’s perspective,” said Malik. Not only on issues that affect women, she added, but also “those that have an impact on the Muslim community at large.”

The main purpose of the publication, she noted, is to provide professional coverage of news and topics of interest to the estimated 3.5 million Muslims in America, as well as those who live in other countries. Westerners.

The digital-only publication attracts 20,000 daily visitors to its web and social media platforms, a figure that is constantly growing. The growth of AMT and similar publications, such as Muslim Girl, suggests a change in attitude in the Muslim community in America – towards women and the media.

Rifat Malik. Photo via AMT

“I think today there is a change in the media industry at large with more and more women entering the profession,” said Malik. “This is reflected in the Muslim community. Last time around we had seven interns with the post. I think this interest and that of their families suggests a growing understanding of the importance of the media.

The first generation of Muslim publications in the United States tended to focus on a particular institution, whether it was a mosque or an academic Muslim association. The boundaries between reporting and editorials were often blurred. Few of them involved women in any substantial way. AMT is an example of a new generation of American Muslim media in the United States, striving to provide a higher standard of journalism.

Malik, who runs the publication, left the UK for a small town in East Texas in 2009. Malik expected a Texan version of racism and Islamophobia that she experienced as a Pakistani of British origin. Instead, she found the community tolerant and tolerant.

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“Unexpectedly for me, this was going to become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Malik. “Complete strangers would come by and say how adorable my kids were… As a dark-haired woman, I also felt respected and at home.”

She then moved to Dallas and said her initial positive perception of America only grew over time. Her children, she said, are having a very different experience from the one she had growing up near the city of Manchester in the north of England.

“It was such a contrast to my own upbringing, where we were called ‘WOGS’ and ‘Paki’s’ on a daily basis, and the white heads were throwing their dogs at us – even our school buses had a policy of informal segregation, with South Children. Asian in the front and white in the back.

As a child, Malik said she dreamed of being a journalist. Yet, as with many immigrant families on both sides of the Atlantic, his parents encouraged only three potential career paths: medicine, law or engineering. As she dutifully graduated from law school, she was shocked to find that her younger siblings still faced the racism she had faced as a schoolgirl almost a generation earlier. She found that their experience and hers differed greatly from British conceptions of a multicultural democracy. On a whim, she wrote an op-ed for The Guardian, a London newspaper. She didn’t expect to hear from them, but found the making of the play cathartic.

Muslim American logo today.  Image via AMT

A version of the American Muslim Today logo. Image via AMT

“To my amazement, I got a call a few days later from an editor saying they would publish the article. As a result, members of the local community reached out because the feelings echoed through them. A local television network news program interviewed my brother about his experiences. For the first time in my life, I was able to have a voice and feel worthy of being heard, ”she said.

Malik decided to refocus his career on journalism and did an internship at The Guardian and later positions with other British media. As Deputy Editor-in-Chief of EAST, a national newspaper for British South Asians, she gained experience in community journalism.

As editor-in-chief of American Muslim Today, Malik hopes to cover taboo and neglected topics, especially issues often uncovered involving women.

Recent stories include one about a Miami medical student seeking to raise awareness about breast cancer, and another features a British Muslim woman who developed a hijab that could be worn under a helmet.

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AMT also emphasizes mental health coverage within the Muslim community. Suicide, depression, and dementia are increasingly affecting a new generation of Muslim Americans, and AMT regularly engages counselors and therapists as external contributors to write on these issues.

“We have articles that involve certified therapists and experts in the field, which I think is a way for the publication to break down taboos and encourage those in need to seek health help. mental, ”said Malik.

“It’s not just about changing the narrative and speaking for ourselves,” she said. “This is, of course, important, but we believe it is also essential for this generation of Muslim Americans to build institutions, including within the media.”



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