It’s awkward for 17-year-old Yousur Alhlou when her girlfriends invite her to go to the movies. First, she has to ask them if any boys are going. If so, the devout Muslim politely declines the invitation; Islam doesn’t allow dating or any kind of romantic interaction between men and women outside of marriage.

“I don’t want to give one of them the wrong impression and you know, get things started,” said the San Jose High School junior. “But at the same time, I don’t want my friends to feel like they have to totally change their plans because of me.” She looked down at her hands. “So there’s a lot of times when I just stay home.”

A few weeks ago, Alhlou picked up a copy of the 6-month-old Muslim Girl magazine, a bimonthly aimed at helping her with the challenges of being an adolescent Muslim girl in the United States. Like how to remain true to Islamic values in a media-driven culture saturated with sexual imagery and celebrity pap — and few people dressed like you.

Inside the glossy magazine are stories and advice columns that address the issues and questions that Seventeen magazine won’t tackle, at least from the perspective of religiously focused Muslim teenagers like Alhlou.

The magazine is an attempt to reach out to a racially and ethnically diverse audience that feels culturally isolated. Editors estimate that roughly 400,000 Muslim teenage girls live in the United States, part of the estimated 6 million to 8 million Muslims living in the country. The magazine’s Toronto-based publisher, execuGo Media (some of the small editorial staff is in Chicago), believes much of its target market comes from affluent, well-educated families possessing untapped consumer spending power. . .

Muslim Girl is heavy on stories about strong female role models, like a feature on the first female presidential candidate in Afghanistan, and stories about how teenage Muslims, while maintaining their faith, are participating in typical American activities — a Muslim Girl Scout troop in Mormon-heavy Utah; Muslim girls who are cheerleaders. . .

The editorial challenge, said Muslim Girl’s Khan, is to be inclusive to the many different interpretations of Islam, in addition to showcasing the different racial and ethnic Muslims.


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