10 Muslim Women Tell You Exactly Why They Are #NotYourStockMuslim

“Saudi Arabia does NOT represent me.”

BuzzFeed spoke to 10 Muslim women who participated in the #NotYourStockMuslim conversation. They shared the personal stories behind their tweets with us.

 

1. Kaye M., 21, college student, intern, blogger, “not a survivor of the veil and #NotYourStockMuslim.”

Why she tweeted:


The Alice in Arabia movement that unfolded on social media, and the resulting cancellation of the show, encouraged Kaye M., who wished to be identified only by her first name, to start a hashtag that would make others aware of harmful stereotypes and assumptions about Muslims in general.

Kaye told BuzzFeed that as a YA writer she had seen several recent books that used Muslim stereotypes to add “exotic flair and drama.”

“I wanted non-Muslim writers to be aware of the diverse voices of Islam, so as to not fall back on said stereotypes and isolate their audience, or hold the belief of Islam being a homogenous religion based on only one voice (typically perceived as Pakistani or Arab),” said Kaye.

“For Muslims, I wanted to draw people together and allow them to share their experiences, and how those experiences countered racism and stereotypes.”

What she wanted to say:


“After 9/11, Muslim-Americans have been notably villainized in society. As a middle-schooler in the early 2000s, I used to attend day camp for horseback riding. It was inevitable on the first few days of camp that the arrival of my sister and I — clad in the normal riding gear except for our scarves — would be met with wide eyes, subtle scooting away, and awkward silence.

However, by the end of the week, they would figure out that, like them, we were girls who liked horses, and after we fielded questions, everything would settle into place. That tweet in particular was inspired by one girl I became friends with, who exclaimed that at first when she saw me, she was scared, but my sister and I were actually nice.

All of those kids had been watching the media that said all Muslims were evil, terrorists, and probably had a bomb hidden here or there on their person — and they took that to be the truth, even if those Muslims were two shy little girls like them.

It’s not just adults who face stereotypes. Children have to deal with them too, and the thought of young children was what led me to do something to talk about stereotypes.”

2. Sadia Arshad, 20, student at Boston University, “both East and West Indian, in a sorority, active in public health activism and reproductive justice movements, and #NotYourStockMuslim.”

Why she tweeted:


Explaining why she contributed to the hashtag, Arshad said, “Muslims are commodified, exploited, dehumanized, and degraded consistently in daily discourse and mainstream media, and I have no interest to catering to oppressive shit and fulfilling a trope that will continue to marginalize my existence.”

What she wanted to say:


“As I decided to become more active in feminist spaces in college, I quickly realized that feminism was code for ‘what white women need and want now at the hands of people of color, especially women of color.’

Discussions of male privilege were daily, but so were racial, Islamophobic, and class micro-aggressions, and this, in addition to being a student of color at a predominately white college, made me critically think about race, religion, and gender from a more non-white perspective than the dominant white academic complex. White women still fail to realize that they are never equal in a patriarchal society, but also continue to have more privilege and power than women of color will ever have.”

3. Nada Kittaneh, student at Rutgers University, co-founder of the AMiRA program, feminist, and #NotYourStockMuslim.

Courtesy Nada Kittaneh

What she wanted to say:


“I realized that though I did not grow up with traditional and academic feminism, I grew up with feminism in how my family treated and applied equal standards to each other.

Though I do not have any brothers to know if my parents would have applied a double standard on their children, my parents took an active role in making sure my sister and I had the freedom and agency to do as we desired, and no forms of patriarchy whether in culture, society, or family dynamics would stand in the way.

I posted this tweet because in addition to being true, Orientalism created a false notion that being both a Muslim and feminist are mutually exclusive. This tweet was not only to reject the stereotype of Muslims being inherently sexist, but to show that feminism has very much been alive for generations, prior to the ‘Arab Spring’ in Muslim households and not something that emerged from ‘daddy issues’ as some misogynists tend to put it.”

4. Sabina Khan-Ibarra, founder of Muslimah Montage, “mama, activist, lover of books, and #NotYourStockMuslim.”

What she wanted to say:


“Often, Muslim women are judged on how religious they are by whether or not they wear the hijab, head scarf. Or how tight someone’s clothes are or how much makeup one wears. No one’s spirituality/religiosity should be reduced to what they wear or how they look on the exterior.”

5. Ainee Fatima, 23, spoken word artist/poet, social activist, blogger, public speaker, feminist columnist, and #NotYourStockMuslim.

What she wanted to say:


“I tweeted about my younger sisters because there is much misconception about hijab, and they defy some of them while actively competing on their high school sport teams. Many folks treat Islam as if it invented patriarchy and misogyny when these institutions existed way before Islam came into this world. Those who have read about Islam and its early years know that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) aimed to eradicate these destructive behaviors and promote equality among the sexes, classes, ethnicities, and religions.”

6. Ayesha Mattu, 41, writer/editor of Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, “storyteller, organizer, mother of Third Space kid, survivor, and #NotYourStockMuslim.”

Why she tweeted:


Mattu’s personal motivation for participating in the #NotYourStockMuslim conversation was that she was a raising a young Muslim son in an “Islamophobic, racist America.”

“As Teju Cole said, the first move toward true equality is empathy — to have the
person you’re addressing understand that you’re just as complex and nuanced as they are, and that your stories are just as important as theirs,” said Mattu. “The idea that many people don’t see my son as fully human is frightening and is part of what fuels my writing and activism.”

What she wanted to say:


“If Muslim women are stereotyped as oppressed and silent, Muslim men are confined with the labels of frightening and oppressive. When people think of Muslim fathers in particular, the first image that comes to their mind may be one of violence. I wanted to challenge that with this tweet, showing my wonderful father’s loving embrace of my choice in an unexpected partner.”

7. Aisha C. Saeed, Pakistani-American writer, mother, lawyer, reader, dreamer, and #NotYourStockMuslim.

Why she tweeted:


Based on the blanket stereotypes often heard on the news, social media, and in passing comments on campus and at work, Saeed said the conversation about the way Muslims are perceived in the media and by her fellow Americans is “a conversation we need to have.”

“There are more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, and we are overwhelmingly not the stereotypes broadcasted,” said Saeed. “These Twitter conversations may not change everyone’s perceptions, but they do help raise our voices and show the world, I hope, that we are not just one entity, we are not just the negative news stories, and that Muslims are a part of the diverse humanity all around us like everyone else.”

What she wanted to say:


“I wrote about how I met my husband in the book Love InshAllah and about the presumption some had that I was pressured into marrying him because of our semi-arranged marriage.

Many people presume that the people who enter into a traditional South Asian marriage are coerced in some way. While that does happen, and the topic of forced marriage is near and dear to my heart and is the basis of one of my novels, this is not my personal situation.

This tweet was written to highlight that arranged marriages are not synonymous with forced marriages and should consequently not be perceived as such.”

8. Mirzya Syed, 23, mentor coordinator for youth in foster care and teen moms at a nonprofit, writer, woman who does “not aspire to look like Jasmine, and #NotYourStockMuslim.

Why she tweeted:


While Syed acknowledged that Twitter cannot single-handedly defeat prejudice and dismantle stereotypes, she said that the power of such hashtag conversations was in the community of writers, activists, academics, journalists, moms, dads, and college students, who are taking control of their narratives, and recreating it.

“I feel that whereas a few years ago, many in our community felt hopeless and pessimistic, doomed to trite stereotypes of violence and misogyny because of events completely beyond or control, now, finally, we’re coming to terms with our power, especially the power of our voices and our words,” said Syed, who co-founded The Muslim Protagonist initiative at Columbia University.

What she wanted to say:


“I’m sick of tertiary story lines (tertiary because producers think Americans can’t handle Muslims as main characters) where the only depth the Muslim character has is the question of whether they are ‘Western’ or ‘traditional’ as their one defining trait.

If they don’t drink or they pray, then they must be extremist and must not like America or be American. Alternatively, the ‘good Muslims’ or the ones that aren’t ‘extremists’ are the ones who drink alcohol because nothing says ‘I love America’ better than getting drunk or something.

So really what you end up having are not characters but caricatures. And on a personal level, yeah, I’m very much American, and no, I don’t drink, but sometimes I feel like when I’m invited to a happy hour I have to be weird about it because I’d be judged if I told them straight up that me going is pretty damn pointless.”

9. Arnesa Buljusmic, 24, writer, investment counselor who “wears pantsuits with her hijab to work because she’s #NotYourStockMuslim” (except when she’s actually dealing with stocks).

Why she tweeted:


Buljusmic said she decided to contribute to the hashtag because she was fed up of people treating her as a caricature instead of a real human being.

“At this point, we have become so dehumanized by the media that we are no longer even looked as real people,” said Buljusmic. “I wanted to contribute to showcase that what you see in the media is not an accurate representation of who I am as a Muslim woman.”

What she wanted to say:


“The stereotype and narrative of Muslim women is that they are quiet, submissive, oppressed, and afraid. I am very disconnected from that. My personality is bubbly. I’m outspoken. I am anything but quiet. This stereotype has been hurtful to me as well. Non-Muslims are often shocked at my ability to make jokes, laugh loud, say outlandish things, and be who I really am. Because who I am is not who they think I should be due to the stereotype surrounding Muslims and especially Muslim women.”

10. Eman Cheema, 19, student at University of Toronto, event coordinator with the Social Justice Office of St. Michael’s College, “not oppressed, and #NotYourStockMuslim.”

What she wanted to say:


“Growing up, there were a lot of things that my brother could do in public spaces that I couldn’t. There were a lot of things the boys in my class could do but the girls couldn’t. I struggled to understand why I couldn’t play certain games, read certain books, listen to certain music because I am a girl. Gender roles have been my reality as far back as my memory goes. Where my teachers said I could not do something because I am a girl, my parents said I should if I want to, so long as I don’t harm anyone. Where aunts and uncles limited my socializing to the girls only, my parents told me I could play with whomever, so long as I was safe.

My parents have encouraged self-confidence, self-awareness, autonomy, equality, and critical thought ever since I was little. As I grew older, I began to consume feminist literature. I had my doubts in the beginning, so I read even more. I began identifying as a feminist, and my parents supported my decision wholeheartedly because it reinforced concepts and values they had been trying to instill within me since my childhood.

There is this widespread misconception that feminism is not compatible with Islam. I disagree. My Muslim parents disagree. The equality of men and women is mentioned in the Qur’an, in hadith. I reject and try to investigate any ‘interpretation’ that argues otherwise.”

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