Inspired by MLK, This College Freshman is on a Mission to End Islamophobia

The daughter of Somali immigrants, Adobe Creativity Scholar Ahlaam Ibraahim has experienced first-hand the dangers of Islamophobia. That’s why she’s on a mission to use her creativity to change the narrative of what it means to be a Muslim in America:

After the recent election, I woke up at 3 a.m. and laid there, staring up at the sky and thinking about how my life was going to change. I was scared — a lot of minority groups were. I started asking myself “what would Martin Luther King Jr. do if this was his reality?”

Dr. King is a huge inspiration to me. He saw a problem with the system he was living in, so he did everything he could to make this world a better place for people like me. Civil rights leaders stood up during tough times, and their stories inspire me to keep my head up when times are tough for my community.

My name is Ahlaam, and I’m a Somali-American Muslim living in Seattle, Washington.

Muslims are a group of people who follow different traditions and have different beliefs from a lot of people in America. When someone is different, it’s common to see them unaccepted by mainstream society — and as time goes by, that awkwardness and misunderstanding can turn into hatred, also known as Islamophobia.

To fight against Islamophobia, my friends and I started an initiative called Global Islamophobia Awareness Day. It’s a day for young people to come together in a safe space, learn from each other, and help end misconceptions about about Muslim people. I mentor the youth hosting these events and design the curriculum they lead in these workshops.

It was during these Awareness Days that I realized how much journalists can do to do end Islamophobia. Words are powerful, and using my background in writing helped me educate people on the dangers of Islamophobia. Media is one of the main tools people use to be and feel educated about the world around them; most people trust the media greatly and don’t do their own fact-checking. Unfortunately, due to how the media reports on Islam, this often leads to many of my neighbors, classmates and colleagues hearing only one-sided, Islamophobic rhetoric. This is why I want to be a Muslim voice in the media and represent my community in a positive light. 

As creatives, I think it’s our duty to fight against islamophobia.

When I write, I write from my Muslim perspective and invite readers to think about new ideas. I like to be creative and help people understand perspectives that are different to their own. But navigating the world of media and finding your voice is really hard, especially for a young, black, Muslim girl like myself.

To all my fellow creatives around the world, never ignore your crazy ideas! Too often we lack confidence and doubt ourselves, but we’ll never know our true potential until we explore that crazy idea and see where it takes us. When I started Global Islamophobia Awareness Day, it sounded crazy and a lot of people doubted me. But I didn’t let it get to me — and now I’m planning Seattle’s third-annual event. If you have an idea, don’t overthink it. Do it.

Follow Ahlaam’s journey to end Islamophobia @ahlamrocks.