Humans of New York, one of our favorite photoblogs, was started in November 2010 by photographer Brando Stanton. What started as an effort to take candid portraits on the streets of New York – accompanied by short & intimate interviews with every day people – has turned into a global phenomena. Brandon is currently on 50 day, international trip in partnership with the United Nations, in an effort to gather portraits & stories and raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals- so far he’s visited Iraq & Jordan and is soon to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Vietnam & Haiti.
Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah Montage, Coming of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MYRising features.
I remember thinking of you in a way that good Muslim girls should never think of good Muslim boys.
Your mouth. I don’t think that I have ever kissed a man with lips so soft and so gentle. The corners of your mouth were almost submissive beneath the commanding way that I have had to teach myself to kiss men like you, men who make my stomach ache. It was almost as if your lips understood that I needed to feel powerful beneath your weight. You allowed me to be whatever or whoever I said I was, that was what was so beautiful about you, that in the infinite ways you could judge me or shame me out of my skin (in the way that Muslim Men often do), you chose not to, and you only ever asked that I extend you the same courtesy.
I know that people will read this and have a lot to say. They’ll probably start off by blaming my father, for allowing his daughter to fear God so little, that she would shamelessly write about kissing a boy beneath the stars one night, or sitting on his bed, or in his lap or talking on the phone with him all night until Fajr. I’m sure there will be people who read this and say; “Doesn’t this girl know that the fires of hell are so hot, that they will burn those lips right off of her face and then what will she write about?”
But the truth is, people will always have a lot to say, and I will always have a lot to write about, so they can speak, as long as I can write.
Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month. Tune in on Twitter to join the #MuslimYouthRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah Montage, Coming of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MYRising features.
“If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?”
Our bodies held on to each other while Twelve-to-Six whispered, “Of course.”
That day we didn’t go to our usual spot in Prospect Park to make out. We would walk deep into the greenery because I was always afraid that my father or some Bengali uncle or aunty would spot me without a bra and catch a glimpse of my luscious 36 double Ds.
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Two and a half years ago, I left my financially comfortable global marriage for an expired passport and economic uncertainty. It was the saddest and bravest decision I’ve ever made. The US economy teetered in the worst recession since the Great Depression. There was no alimony, and I had not worked in twelve years.
The fear of “what ifs” loomed in monstrous proportions. I had no soft spots to land and no deep-pocketed family members to help me start over. Leaving meant leaping into a terrifying yet potentially poetic abyss.
Marriage had furled me tight. I couldn’t celebrate my complexities, and I longed for a different rapport with my spirituality. I felt like a fat and undesirable failure, and how I experienced my identity within the relationship wasn’t what I wanted to be out in the world.
When you find that you can’t locate yourself in a significant part of your known world, you have a spiritual obligation to make a new map. I jumped wide and fierce into the unseen with no compass.
I started an anonymous, now defunct blog. I had one published book and an anthology essay out in the world, but this secret writing felt unusually invigorating. My hands shook with unspoken truths so badly that I had find release. The words dribbled from my fingers as their own life forms. The writing was raunchy, irreverent, and always deeply personal.
I wrote about everything and everyone, although identities were kept secret. I admitted how I felt undesirable and then documented with questionable discretion the men who proved otherwise. But in those debilitating moments of post-divorce trauma, when nothing seemed to exist except fear and self-loathing, writing offered sanity and empowerment.
Sometimes, the best survival kit is one that includes only hope, prayer, and writing.
When my husband, Hadi, and I lived in Guadalajara, Mexico, I volunteered at an internado for girls. It wasn’t quite an orphanage. Most of the children had a parent or a grandparent who were unable to care for them due to poverty or addiction. I believed then that my motivations for volunteering were selfless. It had nothing to do with the loneliness of living in a foreign country or being away from family for the first time. I simply had time on my hands, and I wanted to make a difference.
I did not know then that I was stepping into a bottomless pit of need, that the longer I volunteered there the more layers and layers of things I had no power to fix I’d uncover. The homes the girls went back to on the weekend were broken, the discipline system at the internado was broken, their schools were broken, their friendships with each other were broken, their shoes were broken, and their hearts had been broken time and time again.
During those years, I felt guilty for everything. My bed, my space heater, my shower, my clothes, my washer and dryer, my childhood, my education, my parents, my husband. I had so much. Too much.
Eds. Note: This powerful poem was inspired by @ImPalestine’s tweet: “I look forward to surviving. If I don’t, remember that I wasn’t Hamas or a militant, nor was I used as a human shield. I was at home.”
like you were at home/
making a taco or kissing your aunt on the cheek
worrying about being childless at 35
when the roof was blown off
like I was at home
thinking about the students I teach
the one with no mother who always asks me
what I am mixed with
the one with clumps of grease in her hair
and long stilt legs who asks me for my email address
and smiles at me for no reason sometimes
what if she was gone?
What if she yelled but no one heard her
over the ambush of sound and bodies
the smoke choking the streets
the blood funneling through drains
we are just little girls with questions
wanting our mothers to pick us up
we are just single mothers without enough money
to buy a hamburger for our children
we are grandfathers with bad legs and whiskey smiles
we are grandmothers working at a donut shop
with pasty hands and glazed eyes
we are dark haired and dark-skinned people in a traffic jam
on the 110
at an Israeli checkpoint trying to go to the doctor
or have a baby
we are Aleya and Malik
our father was choked to death on a street corner
by plain clothes cops laughing that he couldn’t breathe
our mother was making baklava when fire
charred her hair and froze her hot
our brothers were watching that Drake video on youtube
our sisters were modeling with their shirts up
in the mirror and smearing lip gloss on their fingers
our spirits were dancing
while the killing was going
until it was us
Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She is a 2007 graduate of UC Berkeley, and also attended Howard University’s MFA Film Program, where she was the recipient of the 2009 Paul Robeson Award for Best Feature Screenplay. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of Calarts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing programs; the only student in the institute to graduate with this distinction. Her short film Two Bodies has screened at festivals across the country, including the Pan African Film Festival, Outfest, and Newfest at Lincoln Center. Her writing appears in the critically acclaimed anthology, “Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.” She also writes for Shadow and Act on the Indiewire Network, and Bitch Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2012 Princess Grace Foundation Cary Grant Film Award for her thesis film, Deluge, which had its world premiere at the 4th Annual New Voices in Black Cinema Film Festival at BAMcinematek in March 2014. She was recently selected to participate in the 2nd Annual Sundance Screenwriters Intensive with her script, Noor. She is currently in development on two feature films.
Youth are using YouTube to express creative narratives of identity and belonging, often with a focus on satire and comedy. We want to introduce you to a few channels we enjoy.
What Muslim entertainers are YOU watching on YouTube?
One of the more vivid young female Muslim personalities on YouTube:
California’s Yousef Saleh Erakat has a 501K following!
and Afghan-American Qias Omar!