I’m the editor-in-chief of Muslimgirl.com, the largest website for American Muslim women where "Muslim Women Talk Back." I'm also the author of the just-released "Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age," out with Simon & Schuster this week, which gives a voice to growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America.

Proof: https://twitter.com/xoamani/status/788814156510158848

EDIT 10/22/16 @ 12:18 PM: Okay, so this AMA totally crowded up after I logged off. I was only online to do this for 1.5 hours on Thursday, and many Qs were asked or upvoted after I left (keep in mind that when I logged off, there were maybe 100 comments? At the time of writing this there are over 1200!) However, after seeing the discussion this sparked and the many unanswered questions that seemed to have spiked interest, I will be coming back online to continue the convo with you all. Just please understand that I'm currently in the middle of my pub week and thus can only come back to this when I have available time! Please keep an eye out for my continued responses, and yes, especially for those upvoted Qs!

Edit: Hey all, I'm LOVING our convo together, but sadly my editor is telling me it's time to jump off. Seems like good timing anyway since the trolls are starting to join us! 😜 I'll keep responding throughout the day so please don't hesitate to drop your Q and I'll get to it when I can. Thanks for having me!

P.S. I had limited time to answer some really deep Qs here, so I want you to know that many of the topics y'all have raised are ones I discuss more extensively in my book. Consider checking it out, and if you do, let me know what you think. You can find it here: http://muslimgirl.com/book

Comments: 1230 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

ObviousNerd572 karma

What do you think about conflicts with Sharia law and local laws? Should they both be respected? If the local law decides no action should be taken and the sharia law says otherwise, which should over rule the other?

Btw thank you for your AMA.

-edit- going to do an edit reply, 2 parts.

1) It was responded by someone in the Organization much further down in comments and I am going to provide the link they gave (it was #5) http://www.trueislam.com/eleven-points/ . I find this answer not totally satisfactory. Though it answers through religious freedom (part of sharia law is about practicing faith, like pilgrimages, charity, praying, etc), the other half of sharia law is about practical legal issues (which is what my question was really about) inheritance, marriage, child custody, warfare, penal punishments and divorce. The video also mentions "justice" but it seems to be a very murky word (https://youtu.be/en8laKo5bAg?t=29s). There are constant on-going discussions about what justice is and how to implement it all over the world.

2) I asked this question to learn more, I kinda feel like it hijacked the conversation and I am sorry for this because it seems to have taken the conversation in a negative direction. At the same time I think it would have been avoided had a definitive answer been given or at least an explanation about how complex sharia law is and how much it differs from place to place. /u/dragutreis reply gave the best answer for anyone interested.

Xoamani5 karma

OK so, this is one of those questions that got SUPER upvoted after I went offline on the morning of my AMA. As such, I feel it’s important to take the time to respond to it. I previously stated explicitly that I am not a scholar on Islamic jurisprudence. However, in the spirit of promoting a greater understanding of Islam in contemporary Western contexts (and basically to translate such an overwhelmingly hot-button and misconstrued concept as Shariah) I consulted a friend, the scholar and academic Professor Jonathan A. C. Brown of Georgetown University, who took the time to expertly explain it to me thusly:

The Shariah encompasses the totality of Muslims' duties towards God and other people. Most of its subject matter would never see the inside of a courtroom in the US or any Muslim country (e.g. prayer, fasting, ritual purity, manners towards parents, etc.) What is at issue here are the areas of the Shariah that fall under what we think of in the US as “law," e.g. civil law, family law, criminal law, property law.

1) The Shariah contains tremendous internal diversity (e.g. Can Muslims engage in interest-bearing transactions in a non-Muslim country? Some people say yes, some people say no; can multiple Friday prayers be held at different times on Friday? Most people say yeah, some people say no) with a relatively small number of fixed ruling (e.g. Drinking alcohol is prohibited, prayer is required, fornication is prohibited, etc.)

2) In legislating, a Muslim government is permitted to take advantage of this internal diversity within the Shariah provided there is some pressing need or it advances a common good, and on the condition that it not produce a Frankenstein's monster i.e. a legal ruling or connected set of legal rulings that create contradictions/conflict or that no Muslim scholar would accept (The best analogy I can think of right now in Western law would be something like tax evasion, when a corporation takes advantage of the laws of several different jurisdictions to end up with the result of paying no taxes or very little taxes.)

Similarly, individual Muslims — either living under a Muslim government but in areas of their private life, or living under non-Muslim government — can also take advantage of this limited ability to pick and choose areas of private law (contracts, marriage, etc.)

3) Third, (and what I believe to be the most important point in the context of this question...) Muslims are required to follow the commands and laws of their respective governments, provided that it is not commanded that they must do something that is agreed upon as prohibited in the Shariah.

For Muslims living under non-Muslim governments, their legal status in the eyes of the Shariah is that as guests/visitors we have agreed to abide by the laws of the land as a condition for their presence there. For example, if the government of the United States ordered Muslims to do something that was prohibited by their religion, then the majority opinion in the Shariah is that the Muslims would be forced to leave. (A minority opinion is that they should obey the law even though it causes them to violate God's law, because it at least allows their continued presence there.)

So: 1) Muslims can't do anything the US government prohibits. 2) There is no question of Muslims implementing Shariah criminal law in the US since, even in Muslim countries, this can only be implemented by the government. 3) What remains is areas of civil law and family law, and here Muslims are free to engage in Shariah-compliant contracts or marriage/divorce agreements provided they don't violate US civil and family laws. Regarding marriage, Muslim marriage contracts fall easily within the realm of the acceptable in US states, with several states already having recognized Shariah marriage contracts as binding on the parties. When US family law courts have rejected these marriage/divorce agreements, it's either been because the family law court considered the agreement unfair (Maryland case) or because it considered it to be a religious matter out of the hands of the court, not a legal contract (NJ case).

Thank you ObviousNerd for asking this great question and presenting the opportunity for us to have a dialogue about something that is clearly confusing for a lot of people who don't understand it! Regardless of how it was taken by other Redditors, I know you asked it with that intention and for that I'm grateful for your participation here.

gergedansever185 karma

Isn't it a little bit incosistent to believe in a religion that oppress women and try to merge the identity of girl/women with this belief? I mean why don't the muslim women think about the gender inequalities in their own belief system?

Xoamani-135 karma

This is exactly the sentiment that we seek to defy: that our religion oppresses women. There are many forces that oppress us in different parts of the world, but it is not inherently the religion of Islam. To the contrary, one of our religion's founding principles is gender quality, as well as racial equality, economic equality, etc. -- aka, what we would refer to in modern times as feminism. Thus, if you're asking about our belief system, being a Muslim and being a feminist are two things that should go hand in hand.

Lebneneh158 karma

Is it true that Muhammad had sex with Aisha when she was 9 years old?

Xoamani58 karma

So, I'm not a scholar, but Aisha's age at the time of the consummation of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad is an issue of contention. What we do know is that it was after she hit puberty, which was the socially acceptable marker of a "marriageable" girl at that time. She certainly was a child when she was married, as child marriage was a norm 1400 years ago. Muslims today do not use Aisha as a precedent for contemporary marriage, and she is celebrated as a foremother of Islam for the leadership role she grew into as the prophet's closest companion.

SexySultan69176 karma

Doesnt that pose an issue though? That a prophet that is supposed to be the "perfect" human being that was tasked to bring a timeless message to all of humanity married a 9 year old simply because it was socially acceptable for that time? You'd think he'd set a new standard to usher in a new era of respect for women.

Edit: That may have come off as aggressive but I was merely trying to raise a point to start a discussion on what you think. No animosity here.

Xoamani109 karma

No, you make a good point. If anything, I would use this as proof that Islam was intended to shapeshift with the times and progress with the societies in which it's practiced.

Kaer_Dadet125 karma

What're your thoughts on the several "honor killings" that have taken place in Canada and US?

How have these actions affected your work?

Ex. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2061842/Mohammad-Shafia-murdered-daughter-honour-killing-said-hed-again.html

Xoamani-150 karma

Honor killings, in all their forms, make me sick to my stomach. I say "in all their forms" because the term is only ever applied or given attention in situations concerning Muslims. Meanwhile, we neglect the endemic of domestic violence that has become the top killer of women in the Western world. When jilted lovers, cheaters, etc. murder women in the West, we never call them honor killings, even though that is exactly the premise of what they are. It speaks to the violence that women across the board have to endure at the hands of men, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. However, the rhetoric around honor killings is another example of the politicized double standard that Muslims experience by Western media that implicates religion rather than patriarchy.

Swarlsonegger117 karma

If you only cherrypick the stuff from the religion that is according to your moral compass, don't you think it would make more sense to define a new term for people like you, to distance yourself from the fanatics?

Xoamani-43 karma

-taps mic- Is this thing on? The things I'm saying are the same things that Muslims have been repeating to the world over and over again ever since the narrative of who we are and what our religion stands for was hijacked from us. But people still aren't listening. We're not cherrypicking here -- we're celebrating the basic principles that Islam is founded upon.

The fanatics make up such a minuscule minority of our religion. They can be the ones to gtfo and define a new term for themselves.

scumbagrussia93 karma

How do you feel about Wahhabism and the Saudi Regime?

Do you wear a Hijab?

Would you ever consider marrying someone outside of your religion?

Xoamani80 karma

The Saudi regime is a political authority that has no God-given religious ordinance, yet has laid claim to common understanding of Islam. I don't think any Saudi leader is more entitled to interpreting Islam that any one of us.

Yes, I wear a headscarf - check the proof pic :) Also, it's cool to point out the term "hijab," while widely used to refer to the headscarf, is actually an Islamic principle of modesty that far surpasses just a fabric on the head! Not many people, Muslims included, realize that.

PM_me_yer_SQUANCH91 karma

Some people say that fundamentalist Islam is a big problem, when it seems like, at its core, its the fundamentals of Islam are really the problem.

How do you go about changing an entire religion's views on women's rights/homsexual rights/ non-believers rights?

Xoamani-74 karma

I mean, I disagree with the premise of your question. It doesn't matter what it "seems like" to you, and you posing the question of changing an entire religion based off solely your opinion, which seems to not be backed by research etc, is a microcosmic example of how failed foreign policy in the Middle East happens on a larger scale.

toomanyblocks67 karma

What are you doing to make Muslim girls feel more comfortable talking about relationships, sex, and their sexuality?

Xoamani23 karma

By openly and unashamedly talking about these things on MuslimGirl.com! :)

Hellcowz44 karma

Amani, Do you ride a war bear?

Xoamani32 karma

I do not, though I promise I'm even harder to subdue.

scumbagrussia39 karma

How much traffic does your website see from other countries, particularly in the Middle East?

What do you hope to accomplish with your platform?

Xoamani44 karma

This year we saw our audience expand globally, so now half of our traffic is U.S.-based and half is international. The Middle Eastern city of Dubai is our third-largest city of readership, after New York and London. Our goal is to increase the media representation of Muslim women and elevate their real voices and narratives in the mainstream.

scumbagrussia30 karma

Do you believe there is only one true prophet?

Do you feel there is room to accept other people's religious and spiritual beliefs?

Xoamani44 karma

Not only do I believe there's room to accept other people's religious and spiritual beliefs, but it's incumbent on Muslims to be accepting of all religions as well, given that we believe there is only one God and thus they all come from the same source. There's one really momentous chapter in the Qur'an that roughly translates to, "To you is your religion, and to me is my religion." Plus, you'd be surprised how many elements of other religions actually go hand-in-hand with Islam. Like there are still many people that are unaware we believe in and revere Jesus, peace be upon him, as a prophet as well.

R_Pudding28 karma

What is your stance on expressing religion in a workplace or public function?

Xoamani21 karma

I don't know what you mean by "expressing religion," as many people use that as a coded phrase for simply practicing religion. And in that case, I wholeheartedly believe in everyone's right to freely worship as they need to. That means accommodating hijab for work uniforms, allowing Muslims to pray their five daily prayers so long as it doesn't create an undue burden on the employer, etc. Same stance for any religion.

rambaz71021 karma

Where do you see Islam in 50 years?

Xoamani31 karma

Well, what I'm witnessing right now among young Western Muslims is a trend towards seeking our own interpretations of Islam as it applies to our lifestyles. It's a conscious shift away from following sheikhs and old fatwas religiously. I think it's pretty awesome, since the entire premise of Islam is to use reason and our direct, personal connection to God to think for ourselves.

secondalwaysfollows20 karma

I tend to disagree with that considering that the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said that you should learn the Quran from those that have knowledge about it. The prophet pbuh told the sahabah, " the Prohet  said, ‘Learn the Qur’aan from four people, Abdullah Ibn Masood, Salim Maula Abi Huzaifah, Ubayy Ibn Kaab and Muaz Ibn Jabal"

Islam is not for anyone to interpret the way you desire

Xoamani-7 karma

Sure, but your point proves that anyone can educate themselves about the Qur'an and interpret it for themselves.

rambaz7106 karma

Do you think young Western Muslims will enter the clergy (sorry if this is the wrong term, I'm not Muslim) and issue fatwas that are more 'Western' in nature? Or do you think fundamental Islamic thought will play less of a role in how young Western Muslims go through life?

Xoamani11 karma

Good question. I can't speak on behalf of my generation's individual decisions, so I, too, am excited to wait and see. One of my good friends, a 24-year-old Muslim woman, just entered prison chaplaincy with the intent of making space for the compassionate and merciful premise of our religion. Some of our younger public imams as well, like Imam Khalid Latif of the Islamic Center at NYU, has become a powerful voice advocating for Islam's inclusivity and acceptance. It'll be interesting to see where we go from here. Though, it's important for me to note that it's not about being more "Western" in nature, but more true in nature to the foundation Islam was built upon.

murphyomyer18 karma

Where do you see the middle east going over the next fifty to a hundred years? Are you optimistic for democracy and peace? And what do you believe to be the missing elements which cause these things to be elusive.

Xoamani-21 karma

Ah, my friend, that's the golden question, isn't it? Sadly, imperialism has taken a huge dump on the Middle East. My hope lies with the people's autonomy, though I fear the day will never come that competing outside interests won't keep empowering horrible governments or harmful factions at the expense of the people's security and peace.

cahaseler18 karma

How's it been handling this election season?

Xoamani35 karma

This election season has been devastating for us. Like, a civil rights group actually said anti-Muslim bigotry hasn't been this bad since immediately after 9/11. After Trump's Muslim ban comments last winter, our staff actually felt compelled, for the first time, to publish a "Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women" just to navigate how to survive the media frenzy. On the anniversary of 9/11 this year, a Muslim woman was set on fire in the street right here in Manhattan. It was one in a wave of hate crimes against Muslims in NYC in September alone. Being so visible in public, Muslim women are the ones bearing the brunt of today's hateful political rhetoric.

ObviousNerd11 karma

What advice would you give non-muslim men that were/are interested in dating a muslim woman?

Xoamani20 karma


Sisiwakanamaru11 karma

Do you want to translate this book to the other languages? So for the people in my home country can read it easily.

What are some of your favorite tv shows?

Thank you

Xoamani15 karma

It's already started getting translated into other languages! It's my dream for the book to be as widely accessible as possible.

I bingewatched both seasons of Narcos twice, stopped religiously watching House of Cards after the third season sucked, love anything Shondaland, and my guilty pleasure is crappy reality television.

IAmTimeLocked7 karma

Season 4 of House of Cards is a masterpiece though.

Xoamani7 karma

Damn you have low standards, leave now


Casualtyy7 karma

Have you ever received any serious threats?

Xoamani30 karma

It started happening last year as we started to gain more and more visibility. One of the first moments that I realized, "Crap, some people are really not going to like us for what we have to say," was when someone found the address of the hotel I was staying at and threateningly tweeted it at me if I didn't stop what I was doing.

ieatfunk7 karma

I learnt a lot about Muslim culture and religion in school, UK education seemed to handle it well and I feel pretty privileged to have a good education on the subject.

But what is one thing you wish you could tell every person about Muslim culture?

Xoamani11 karma

That's great, because I still remember receiving an "educational" handout in my history class in high school not too long ago saying that all Muslim women are oppressed in Islam and forced to cover from head to toe. That's probably the thing that I really wish everyone would know, that Muslim women aren't oppressed by the religion, and insisting upon that misguided assumption disempowers us even more by DQing our voices from the conversation. That misconception also justifies outside military intervention in the Middle East that further devastates Muslim women disproportionately, as well as vilifies Muslim men and culture by extension.

Chtorrr4 karma

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

Xoamani6 karma

Making sure I do the narrative justice. My story is honestly the most privileged of experiences of Muslim women in our post-9/11 world and it was important to me that the reader remembers that, even as they read the shocking moments of Islamophobic encounters that I had myself.

The most difficult part to write was definitely retelling my memory of 9/11 from when I was 9 years old. While I was writing that chapter, I rewatched old news reels from the live coverage of that day and it cut me deep. I started crying in the middle of the Dunkin Donuts I was writing it in. It reminded me how alive 9/11 still is for so many of us, that over a decade later it still hurts that sharply. That's when I wrote the line, "The truth is that 9/11 never ended for Muslims."

ElegantCossack1 karma

Why are the muslim names so religious?Is there name that is neutral?

Xoamani21 karma

Religiously, most Muslims have Muslim names, and there are Muslim names that also sound not... Muslim...? Like Adam, Jenna, etc.