Muslim Teens Bring Diversity To School Libraries
When they couldn't find books with characters like them, they did something about it.
When two Muslim sisters in Michigan were given an assignment in school to research inspirational figures in history, they headed to the library. The teenagers searched for books on the people they heard about growing up, the women who are known as heroes in their culture.
Sadly, there wasn't one book in the library about Muslim women, or even had a Muslim woman as a lead character.
"That was the first time we realized that there was a lack of representation and diversity in the books we had access to," Mena, one of the sisters, told the Detroit Free Press.
After, Mena and her sister Zena reached out to the PTA of Rochester Community Schools to ask for funding to add more books about Muslim women to the school's media center.
When the school agreed to their request, the girls spent hours doing research to find books with Muslim characters. They made lists and categorized the titles by reading level and genre.
The sisters ultimately helped to add 200 titles to several schools in the Rochester Community School District.
After the success of their mission, they decided to start a non-profit to help other schools and institutions add more diversity to their libraries. After giving donations to local schools, 'Girls of the Crescent' started getting requests from all over the world. They have sent books to schools in Morocco, Hong Kong, France and England.
"We have a donation that's ready to ship to Nigeria as well so we're really excited about that," Zena said. "We hope we can continue to reach people around the country and the world."
Now that they've helped stock libraries with Muslim books around the globe, the sisters have taken on a new project – adding their own title.
Mena and Zena are working on a biography of 50 inspirational Muslim women, spanning from the Islamic Golden Age to present day figures.
"It goes back to fourth grade when we couldn't find those books, so we decided to write one of our own," Mena explained.
The book will cover notable Muslim women such as Raha Moharrak, who climbed Mount Everest, and Ibtihaj Muhammad, better known as the first woman in hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympics.
As the girls write their book, they will continue to add more books to their growing list of Muslim titles. They often take recommendations and encourage people to reach out to them with any suggestions.
A peek at their website shows how far Girls of the Crescent has come. As the organization's 'About Us' page states, in addition to being books lovers, Mena and Zena are "two Muslim girls who are striving to make a difference in the world." Looks like they're doing just that.