Jenan Matari: Carving Out A New Space

Jenan A. Matari is the Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer for MissMuslim, an online platform that covers a range of topics  for women. Here, she shares her story on the need for creating a space for conversation and dialogue, and how this journey came about. 

 

I was so tired of being censored. There are so many great websites out there run by Muslim women – but most of them are still so “conservative”. We could talk about business and politics and technology and domestic affairs until we were blue in the face, but God forbid we talked about what it’s actually like being a Muslim woman in America.

 

The culture clashes. Our dating lives. Mental health issues. The importance of visiting the gyno. There was no place to talk about these things. Things seen as taboo within our own community. Why is it so inappropriate for a young woman to discuss her period or go get a pap smear? Why can’t a new mom openly converse about her struggle with Postpartum Depression without being judged or tagged as a “bad mother”? Why must a young Muslim woman in an interfaith relationship be made to feel like the love and support she receives from her partner will never be acknowledged or blessed by God because said partner is not Muslim?
That doesn’t fly well with me. I don’t really care about “rules,” I am all about “intention.” If your intentions in life are “good” you will be rewarded with “goodness.” If you go through all of the motions of religion – pray, fast, cover your hair, etc. – but your true intentions are selfish or not “good,” then does that even really count? I don’t necessarily relate to the stereotypical image of a Muslim woman, but I am still a dedicated Muslim. I am not covered. I fast during Ramadan but I don’t always pray. I still count.

 

I needed a space to explain that to people and show them how many different images of a Muslim woman there are. We are such a beautifully diverse demographic of women and we should be showcasing that – not trying to suppress it and only accept those women who fit the mold of “the perfect Muslimah.” There’s no such thing. No one is perfect – we all need work.
I have been judged for most of my life and unfortunately it has mainly been by my own community. In a way I felt alienated because the moderate Muslim women, the ones who were “like me,” kept quiet out of fear of that exact feeling. Of course we receive backlash, daily, from people who disagree with our message – but that proves how necessary and how needed a space like MissMuslim really is. The website was created around the idea of developing a ‘safe space’ for women with all levels of religiosity to feel at home and be supported by other women – to bring us together in a time where we all seem to be divided. It’s a place that is free of judgment, with a team of women who elevate each other. It was created to make sure that no woman ever feels alone in her struggles again. A place to feel empowered.