Inspiring Muslim Girls: Ausma Khan
If you’re a Muslim girl growing up in North America, you can feel isolated and alienated at times. Fortunately, however, Ausma Khan is striving to inspire, celebrate, and enlighten young Muslim females with Muslim Girl Magazine. The publication tells the real-life inspirational stories of North American Muslim teens and college students. It also focuses on education and empowerment through its series “Women to Watch,” which profiles Muslim women who are making positive contributions to the world. Additionally, the magazine has features on popular culture and the arts. As Editor-in-Chief, Ausma, 38, hopes the magazine will not only inspire Muslim girls, but also reshape the public’s perception of Muslims by dispelling misconceptions and fostering dialogue between communities. She wants Muslim girls to grow up and be empowered to participate in and shape important public debates. To learn more about how Ausma is inspiring Muslim girls, check out this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Muslim Girl Magazine
Editor in Chief
Osgoode Hall Law School
Ph.D. International Human Rights Law
University of Ottawa
LL. M., International Human Rights Law
University of Ottawa
University of Toronto
B.A., English Literature & Sociology
Muslim Girl Magazine
Editor in Chief
Canada Bay Consultants
About the company
Muslim Girl Magazine is published by ExecuGo Media, a company that publishes “media that matters.”
We have offices in New York, Chicago and Toronto. We are distributed throughout North America and can be found at Barnes & Noble and Borders in the United States, and in the Indigo-Chapters chain in Canada.
Our vision is to celebrate, enlighten and inspire Muslim girls. We are committed to telling the stories of real Muslim girls in a celebratory and life-affirming spirit. We want to connect young Muslims who may feel alienated or isolated from one another and to empower them by showing them the inspirational achievements of other Muslim girls like themselves.
We also focus on girls’ education and empowerment by profiling a series of very impressive Muslim women as “Women to Watch,” including Mishal Husain, Dr. Massouda Jalal, Zainah Anwar and many more.
Another important aspect of our editorial vision is to focus on the Muslim contribution to and perspective on the arts, as popular culture and artistic expression are two areas where Muslims are seriously under-represented. These areas help shape popular perceptions of Muslims, thus it’s important for us to speak up and define ourselves.
Finally, Muslim Girl Magazine has a broader vision. We believe that by sharing stories about Muslim girls and women, we are educating a much larger audience and clearing up misunderstandings and misconceptions people may have about Muslims. We are engaging in a broader dialogue between communities and we hope we are helping to shape the national conversation about Muslims.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
As the Editor in Chief, I work with a very talented team to develop story content and visuals for each issue of Muslim Girl. We set an editorial calendar for the year and then seek out newsworthy stories that will interest our readers. I work with writers to ensure that each story fits within the parameters of our editorial vision and with our Creative Director and Publisher, to ensure that the high standards of the publication are met in every department.
I liaise with other groups and organizations on Muslim issues and stories, assist in marketing Muslim Girl and handle press interviews and sponsorships that the magazine has an interest in.
I also write some of the magazine’s content and edit all the text that appears in the magazine.
Every day I learn something new and have to lend a hand in a new area, which is what makes publishing such an exciting and exacting experience.
Most notable milestones
January 2007: launch of our premiere issue to an extremely positive reception.
March 2007: a six story special feature on the challenges faced by girls and women in Afghanistan.
April 2007: profiled in the New York Times Style section.
May/June 2007: an exclusive interview with Congressman Keith Ellison and his daughter Amirah Ellison.
What’s the niche?
We are the first publication to tell the stories of North American Muslim teens and college students. We have a uniquely North American perspective and address the issues most on the minds of Muslim girls in North America.
What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is to follow through on an editorial vision that is substantive, thought-provoking, and meaningful to our audience while remaining true to Islamic values and respectful of differences of opinion.
What’s in store for the future?
July/August 2007: commemorating the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre with Bosnian-American Muslims.
Focus on girls across the country who embrace change.
September/October 2007: our Ramadan Special Edition, a blockbuster!
Expansion to other titles and new markets.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Know the issues facing the Muslim community and keep story content fresh and relevant to the lives of our primary audience.
Keep educating yourself about industry standards and trying new things even if there’s no guarantee of success.
Guiding principle in life
Live a life committed to the Islamic – and universal – values of justice and equality for all. And where you falter, seek refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the Creator.
Don’t let others distract you with discussions about the trivial or obsessions with the rituals of observance. Focus on the major themes of the Qur’an and live accordingly.
Yardstick of success
Response from the North American Muslim community. Do they find our magazine to be an authentic reflection of Muslim values and priorities? Are Muslim girls enlightened and inspired by Muslim Girl?That’s the best measure of how we’re doing.
Number of people reading or referring to Muslim Girl Magazine.
Ability to affect people’s perceptions of Muslims for the better.
Ability to bring major advertisers on board.
Goal yet to be achieved
Appearing on the Oprah show!
Meeting and interviewing my personal hero, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Shirin Ebadi.
Best practical advice
Patience, tact and a presumption of good faith are the best tools for working with any professional team and with the people you want to profile.
The determination to learn new things can overcome any knowledge or skill set deficiency.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
From my parents, “you’ll excel at anything you choose to do.”
From my husband, “I really believe you can make a difference with this project – and writing is what you’ve always loved.”
The best example of good conduct and dedication to others began for me at home. My parents are my role models and have shown by their example how to live meaningful lives with a higher purpose. My mother is an unstoppable force of nature, fearless and selfless. My father is undoubtedly the world’s best listener and has been a lifelong dispenser of sage advice.
My mentors in academia are Professor Dorothy Moore and Professor Marek Tufman – two excellent teachers who motivate and inspire their students every day. They make students care about what they’re learning and help them take knowledge beyond the classroom.
My heroes are Dr. Chris Giannou, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, Aung San Suu Kyi, Kenneth Roth and all those who fight in the trenches with human rights movements around the world.
What motivated you to get started?
The desire to make a difference in the world and specifically to help empower a generation of Muslim girls who will grow up to participate in and shape the meaningful debates and issues of their times.
Like best about what you do?
Meeting wonderful new people and hearing inspiring stories on a daily basis. Learning from those I work with, people with remarkable talent and insight.
Like least about what you do?
Lack of hours in the day to fit in all that Muslim Girl wants to accomplish.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer. Specifically, a mystery novelist.
What was your first job?
Selling chimney toppers by telephone. I was a dreaded telemarketer.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Reading. Spending time with my vast assortment of nieces and nephews.
Person most interested in meeting?
Dr. Shirin Ebadi. She is a human rights lawyer who has worked systematically for women’s and children’s rights all her life, at great personal cost. She does so from within the Islamic tradition, as a believer in Islam and as a believer in justice and equality for all.
She is a woman of immense moral integrity and a shining example of the difference that one person can make in her lifetime.
I would love to know how and why she embarked on her struggle for change and what advice she has for women around the world who want to follow in her footsteps.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
From a business perspective, I’d love to know Graydon Carter’s insights on publishing Vanity Fair. The magazine has a fascinating mix of celebrity interviews and hard-hitting journalism, so I’d like to know he achieves that balance.
I’d also love to meet the writers Mahmoud Darwish, Fatima Mernissi, Assia Djebar and Julian Barnes. Unfortunately, the chance has passed to meet greats like Frank Herbert, Pablo Neruda and Nizar Qabbani, but they were all on my wish list.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I wrote my first play at age 11.
- I love science fiction and fantasy and am a huge Harry Potter fan.
- I’ve studied Arabic at Bir Zeit University.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
No question, it’s “Dune” by Frank Herbert.
Girls’ education in Afghanistan. Schools for girls around the world. I support the International Development and Relief Foundation and the Central Asia Institute founded by Greg Mortenson.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
If you’ve got a great story idea or are a fascinating Muslim girl who would like to be profiled in Muslim Girl Magazine, please write to us.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
- Professional writers with a specific story to pitch.
- Advertising sales representatives who know the Muslim community well and who have a proven track record in sales.
- Media that is interested in a story on our magazine or in any of the stories featured in our magazine.
- Libraries, schools, conferences, panels and events on Muslim issues, specifically issues that affect Muslim women and girls.
- Organizations or ventures that would like to partner with Muslim Girl in developing exciting new ventures and products.
- Muslim women who stand out as “Women to Watch.”
Interview by Saba Nasser
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez