Yes, you read that correctly. I, Hoda Abdolrazek, am an Author and Editor for MissMuslim and I do not agree, ethically or morally, with 100% of the content that we publish on our site. You’re probably wondering then, why do I associate myself with the publication? Why am I still here? Why don’t I go start my own site, which is what some readers told me to do after I wrote a piece about my experience at Taraweeh prayer this year – why don’t you just open your own Masjid then?
Let me first tell you how it all began and how I came to write and edit for this platform. In college, I met a girl named Jenan Matari. You may know her as the MissMuslim Editor-in-Chief, or as I like to call her, my boss ass Editor. Jenan was quiet and shy, pretty polite and because of social media norms back then, we became instant Facebook friends. She was, in my narrow-minded opinion, Americanized. I use that term loosely because it means different things to different people. I could tell Jenan probably didn’t grow up around a lot of Arabs but, ironically, I met her at the school social clubs for Arabs and Muslims. I admired that she was clearly drawn to her culture, but I could just tell she likely grew up in a town where there were not a lot of Muslims – just like me.
Jenan and I stayed connected on Facebook years after I graduated college in 2012. I followed her on Instagram too, where I liked posts about her job when she was at Victoria’s Secret and a bunch of her travel photos. In June 2016, Jenan wrote this piece in response to something that was published in Seventeen Magazine about a girl who was taken to Palestine and married off as a child bride. I remember reading the Seventeen article and feeling so frustrated that this was the narrative so many people would be reading. When I saw what Jenan published, I felt relief.
Finally, someone is sharing a narrative of what it usually is like being a Muslim American, phew!
I had always felt that the Muslim American narrative was written by the hands of someone who had no idea what we were really like. The narrative was that of stories similar to the girl who shared a story about becoming a child bride that got more attention than I would have liked. Reading it made me cringe. It was a sad story, but I knew that it would leave a sour taste in the mouths of readers who had never interacted with Muslims before. I had started my own personal blog a few years prior in hopes that I could share the not-so-glamorous-difficult tales of “dating” as a Muslim American. I wanted to share what my personal experiences were in hopes that I could reach and relate to my predominately non-Muslim friend base.
I had liked MissMuslim on Facebook when the page first launched, not realizing what it was. It was not until this piece in June 2016, nearly three months later, that I realized she had started an online publication. I contacted Jenan immediately and pitched the idea to her of writing a column called, “Happy Hour Hijabi.” I wanted to share on the platform how my experience as a Muslim, American, Egyptian, woman, Techie, and Hijabi navigating corporate America is already complex. Add on all those layers and it’s overwhelming!
Jenan welcomed me with open arms.
A month after I wrote my first two pieces for the column, my brother passed away in a fatal car accident. I could barely get out of bed most days, let alone find the strength to write anything. Jenan was patient and understanding of my situation. And six months later when I was finally ready to write again, she and Jehan reviewed, edited, and scheduled my piece, a special tribute to my brother, within 24 hours. Writing that piece was extremely therapeutic for me. It was a huge milestone in my grieving process and the outpouring of love and support I received from readers who were complete strangers gave me solace during one of the hardest times in my life.
MissMuslim gave me a voice and a platform to share my stories. My real and raw emotions. I was putting these words out in into the cyber world for fellow Muslims to read and relate to, but also for many non-Muslims to also read and relate to, too. More importantly, it was a way for the world to see that Muslims have the same struggles other faiths and cultures have as well.
Then came my internal struggle. On multiple occasions, I have cringed as I read pieces by our writers and guest bloggers. Some pieces just don’t sit well with me because they go against my understanding of our faith. A thousand and one thoughts go through my mind, should I quit, should I stay? I choose to stay, and I stand even stronger by that decision today. Here is why.
While I do not agree with everything we publish, I do agree with our mission, which is giving a voice to Muslims around the world to share their experiences. MissMuslim is not a scholarly site. And we do not, nor have we ever, claimed to be. We are an online publication. We share real stories written by real people. And while these things may not align with my morals, ethics, or Islamic beliefs that I was taught, as a Muslim, my duty is to show compassion to others, to show love and respect and to pray for those who may be on a wrong path. Islam is perfect. Muslims are not. I have often found myself in cyber arguments defending our writers or explaining something to our readers. I find this mentally and emotionally draining. I keep having to constantly remind others, and sometimes myself, we are sharing stories from Muslims; we are not here to write fatwahs.
MissMuslim gave me a voice and a platform to share my stories.
So, a reminder to our readers, and maybe even some of our writers: the mission of MissMuslim is to share real stories. They may not be “religiously correct,” but they are things that many Muslims and non-Muslims are struggling with and can relate to. Whether it’s interfaith relationships, infertility, navigating corporate America, or dealing with the pressures of our cultural upbringing while assimilating into western culture – there’s a story that every reader can relate to.