21 Kick-Ass Muslims Who Changed The Narrative In 2014
In a year of bad news, these Muslims kicked butt and took names.
1. Malala Yousafzai, who won the damn Nobel Peace Prize at 17 years old, making her the youngest laureate ever.
2. Ibtihaj Muhammad, who slayed as a world-class fencer AND fashion designer.
3. Reza Aslan, who criticized Bill Maher's Islamophobia and added nuance to media coverage of Islam.
4. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin, who reported fearlessly from Gaza despite setbacks.
5. G. Willow Wilson and Sana Amanat, who introduced the groundbreaking Muslim heroine Ms. Marvel to the world.
Who they are: An author and editor at Marvel comics.
How they changed the game in 2014: Wilson and Amanat collaborated to create Kamala Khan, Marvel Comics' first Muslim superheroine. The character was based on Amanat's childhood in New Jersey, which she discussed in an amazing TEDxTeen talk about the importance of media representation for young people.
Who she is: A geeky child of Pakistani immigrants from New Jersey with the power to shape-shift.
How she changed the game in 2014: Her book has been a massive hit for the majority-white Marvel universe, showing that the comic world is ready for more diversity, with a well-adjusted, spunky Muslim leading the charge.
7. Aasif Mandvi, who continued to explore a career beyond The Daily Show.
Who he is: Comedian, The Daily Show correspondent, and now author.
How he changed the game in 2014: In addition to continuing his role on The Daily Show, Mandvi released his memoir, No Land's Man, which explores his intersecting identities.
9. Rabia Chaudry, who tirelessly advocated for the innocence of Serial's Adnan Syed while working on interfaith, national security, and civil rights issues.
Who she is: A lawyer and childhood acquaintance of Adnan Syed who brought his case to journalist Sarah Koenig's attention.
How Serial changed the game in 2014: Chaudry was the catalyst for starting Serial, one of the first pieces of mainstream media that analyzes the double life of the children of immigrant Muslims. In addition, she blogs her own narrative in response to Koenig's accounts, as someone who knew Adnan when he was young.
10. Husain Abdullah, who prostrated in sujood after his second career touchdown.
11. The Muslim Writers Collective, which established a safe public space for Muslims to get creative.
Who they are: An initiative dedicated to cultivating a "vibrant literary tradition in Muslim America."
How they changed the game in 2014: The Collective started holding open mic events in New York in February 2014, which provided a previously unavailable public space for young American Muslim poets and authors to share their work within the community.
12. The editors and writers of the Love, InshAllah series, who captured the diversity of the Muslim community in their collected essays on love and sex.
Who they are: A group of American Muslim writers, led by editors Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi (pictured right).
How they changed the game in 2014: Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy was released in February 2014, giving a previously unseen, intimate look into often stigmatized subjects like dating, premarital sex, cheating, queer love, and more. They also run an active blog.
13. The founders of the new Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, which started important conversations on Muslim identity and racism.
Who they are: A group of activists, scholars, and social media experts looking to confront "anti-blackness and racism" amongst American Muslim communities.
How they changed the game in 2014: The group has moderated many difficult conversations on Twitter. For example, #DropTheAWord was a hashtag dedicated to ending the usage of an Arabic racial slur used against black people.
14. The Kominas and Riz Ahmed of Swet Shop Boys, who explored immigrant identity through the universal languages of punk and hip-hop.
Who they are: The Kominas are a longtime Muslim punk rock band, and Riz MC is one half of newly formed hip-hop group Swet Shop Boys along with Heems (formerly of Das Racist).
How they changed the game in 2014: The Kominas explored mental health in immigrant communities in "Banana" and a night with the raddest brown dad ever in "Disco Uncle." Meanwhile, Swet Shop Boys released the "Benny Lava" video, where Ahmed and Heems rap about Hindu, Muslim, Indian, and Pakistani identity on beaches and in dining rooms.
15. Wrestler Sami Zayn, who represented his Arab heritage proudly and avoided stereotypes common in the business.
Who he is: A Syrian-Canadian wrestler on NXT, the WWE's talent development show.
How he changed the game in 2014: Contrary to the history of portraying Middle Eastern wrestlers like the Iron Sheik and Muhammad Hassan as villains, Zayn, who recently won the NXT Championship, has consistently played a good-hearted underdog. The company has never explicitly stated whether Zayn is Muslim, but his name is emblazoned proudly in Arabic across his trunks and he even cut a promo in Arabic!
16. Noor Inayat Khan, whose courageous story was captured in the film Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story.
Who they are: A documentary filmmaker and app developer.
How he changed the game in 2014: The documentary highlighted many common issues in mosques which are rarely openly discussed — aging leadership, gender segregation and sexism, racism, and much more. Particularly, the film focused on young people and their increasing feeling of disconnect from mosques.
19. The Muslim Twitterati, who did almost too many cool things this year.
Who they are: A diverse group of pundits, activists, teenagers, imams, and more.
How they changed the game in 2014: Let's see... They participated in the conversation to get the offensive pilot for Alice in Arabia cancelled. They criticized ISIS with #NotInMyName, and then skewered the media's insistence that Muslims explain ISIS with the brutally funny #MuslimApologies. Other hashtags included #EmpoweredMuslimWomen, #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist, and #NotYourStockMuslim.