This "Counter Islamophobia Through Stories" Initiative Is Just What We Need Right Now
Because attacks on Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent are on the rise throughout the western world, this "Counter Islamophobia Through Stories" initiative from KitaabWorld is just what we need right now. The diversity-in-publishing campaign wants to promote positive children's books written by and about Muslims. I've highlighted five of their choices below.
Islamophobia in the U.S. is worse today than it was on 9/11, aided in part by Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and further boosted by his election. In the U.K., the anti-Islamophobia watchdog group Tell MAMA reported a sharp uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the days and weeks that followed the Brexit vote. Tell MAMA Chair Shahid Malik says "[t]he statistics paint a profoundly bleak picture of the explosion of anti-Muslim hate both online and on our streets, with visibly Muslim women being disproportionately targeted by cowardly hatemongers."
Founded by Gauri Manglik and Sadaf Siddiqui, the online bookstore KitaabWorld aims to promote "the discovery and distribution of South Asian children’s books, toys and games [sic]." The founders tell The Huffington Post that their Counter Islamophobia Through Stories campaign is designed "to get more books representing Muslim children in homes, schools and libraries," adding that, when kids read diverse books, they "do not feel any sense of 'weirdness' about other children who may not look like them, or eat or dress like them."
Counter Islamophobia Through Stories has four themes it plans to promote through curated book lists. They are:
1. Muslim kids as heroes: stories that have Muslims as main characters, as positive models, rather than villains.
2. Inspiring Muslim leaders and thinkers: factual information about Muslim scientists, inventors, social change agents and so much more.
3. An introduction to Islam: books that teach the positive aspects of the Islamic faith, and remove negative stereotypes and misinformation popular in the media.
4. Folktales from Islamic traditions: old favorites that are sure to delight readers of any culture.
So far, only the list of books with Muslim kids as heroes is live on KitaabWorld, but Manglik and Siddiqui have already selected 45 titles for their newest initiative. Until Feb. 28, shoppers can use the code "KITAABWORLD20" to get 20 percent off the purchase of these books.
Here are five you should consider buying for the kids in your life.
1. 'The Hijab Boutique' by Michelle Khan
Farah is an Indian-American 5th grader living in L.A. Tasked with representing her mother in her school's International Women's Day celebration, Farah comes up short of anything she thinks will wow her classmates. Then she learns her mother's secret plan: to open a boutique that specializes in headscarves for Muslim women.
2. 'Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1' by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Pakistani-American student Kamala Khan and her friend, Nakia, endure a lot of racist and Islamophobic microaggressions at the hands of their Jersey City high school classmates. After learning that she has Inhuman genes, Kamala assumes the role of Ms. Marvel when her hero, Carol Danvers, becomes Captain Marvel.
3. 'A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic' by Lisa Papademetriou
This middle grades novel from Confectionately Yours author Lisa Papademetriou centers on two girls, Leila and Kai, spending their vacations on opposite ends of the globe. In their summer rooms, each of the girls finds a copy of blank book, and begins to fill it with her own words. Whatever one girl writes appears in the other's copy, and soon Leila and Kai are writing a novel together.
4. 'King for a Day' by Rukhsana Khan and Christiane Krömer
Big Red Lollipop author Rukhsana Khan's lovely picture book, King for a Day, features a young Muslim hero who uses a wheelchair. Malik is ready for the Basant Kite Festival this year, with a hand-built kite he's named Falcon. But a bully might ruin the day for everyone, unless Malik can find a way to bring him down.
5. 'The Librarian of Basra' by Jeanette Winter
Alia Muhammad Baker's library in Basra, Iraq burned in 2003, but not before the real-life superhero saved 30,000 books from its collection, including a number of priceless volumes. In The Librarian of Basra, Jeanette Winter explores Baker's mission to save her beloved books from the destruction wrought by occupying forces.