"Relieving, scary and chaotic," is how it feels to run a Muslim publication in the era of Donald Trump, the current U.S. president infamously known for his bigotry.
"The death threats surely don't help but it's a reminder that what we're doing is needed, especially when Muslims are being ostracized and not able to take part in the conversations and narratives we see in the media," explained Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh, the 21-year-old Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Muslim.co.
Muslim is a "fresh, vibrant and relevant" publication and magazine that targets Gen-Z and millennial Muslims anywhere they may be. From Hollywood stories to sectarian discrimination, going through the website's homepage is a colorful journey of emotions.
"I came into university wanting to be a journalist and cover entertainments, but during my freshman year Trump was elected. Instead of writing about Zendaya's latest outfits on the red carpet or The Weeknd's latest album, I found myself having to write about my Muslim community in all my classes," Al-Khatahtbeh said.
It is then that he realized he needed to center his work on this misrepresented group in hopes of passing on the microphone - one with a cutting edge - to those unheard. Come 2019, the platform had already built its social media presence along with a periodically sent newsletter. A year or so later, Muslim took full form with the addition of two letters and a preceding dot.
For their first magazine cover, acclaimed actor Ramy Youssef flashed a wide smile and spoke to Lead Editor Ameena Qobrtay about Muslim representation in the media and the second season of his eponymous Hulu series.
"I believe Ramy Youssef was the best first impression we could have had when launching our publication. He's in a weird predicament where his Muslim identity is very important to him, but he faces so much criticism for everything he does," Al-Khatahtbeh said.
"His show on Hulu ignites so much conversation that is needed within the Muslim community and it always leaves a mixed reaction with the crowd. Muslim is like that, too. Our articles can tackle some subjects that make the Muslim community uncomfortable, but it doesn't hurt to speak them," he continued.
The New York-based publication is all about novice perspectives and under-the-table topics. Just like Youssef, Muslim offers seriousness unaccompanied by a black and white homepage, instead it pivots around youthful looks and their blue and yellow signature tags.
"I think we need to shake the table in this ideology that Muslims have to present themselves in a certain way – our platform is meant to be refreshing. Seeing sheikhs with long beards and kufis are intimidating to Muslims and non-Muslim readers, a lot of people shared their gratitude that we are very fresh in our approach," Al-Khatahtbeh explained.
According to him, creating an approachable identity can instill willingness in people to connect with the publication. "[O]nce they connect they see that we do cover serious topics and have amazing reach."
Being Muslim has no one rule or criteria under its umbrella, and can "encompass many, many things."
"[T]here is not one way of being 'Muslim' in a world of vast cultures and experiences, and of course centuries of history and development," a main aspect to focus on according to Al-Khatahtbeh. Those with any level of religiosity and miscellaneous personal beliefs can find themselves mirrored through the publication.
Believers of the Islamic faith have been misrepresented countless of times in Western media and productions, which has continuously led to Islamophobic attacks based on a fragment of the entire image.
In one instant, "Muslim" characters in movies or series are portrayed so uniquely that only a handful of Muslims can relate. In another, flushing an airplane toilet twice in a row before take off has led to the cancelation of the flight.
The deeper you dig, the more outlandish headlines pertaining to Muslim-related incidents you find.
"We're always the subject of conversations, but Muslims are never at the table or given a chance to speak," Al-Khatahtbeh said, explaining how his publication is for Muslims and those unfamiliar with the faith, but is driven and written by Muslims.
"[E]very viewer will have to hear from us for a change and not from someone speaking on our behalf. We have a voice, and we have been speaking for a while now. It's time to listen," he continued.