Launched in January with the tagline "Enlighten Celebrate Inspire," the bimonthly magazine targets what editor-in-chief Ausma Khan says are 400,000 Muslim teenage girls in North America who, like other teenagers, want a magazine that reflects their lifestyles and aspirations."We want to tell the stories of Muslim girls who have grown up in America," said Khan, 37. "We want to give them a voice and a forum where they can see themselves and connect to other Muslim girls, but also demonstrate how much they're part of the fabric of American life."
"By extending the scope of what people understand about the religion, it may be easier for them to contextualize events and understand where Islam is coming from and how its evolving, as opposed to through political events that tend to distort the religion," said senior editor Firas Ahmad, who likened his magazine to The Atlantic Monthly.
"What we're trying to do is provide alternatives to what we think the mainstream media might be missing."
Chowrangi, on the other hand, was founded in 2005 by Pakistanis tired of being defined in one dimension.
"The whole point of Chowrangi was to get beyond the image of Pakistanis as only Muslims, and to celebrate the incredible cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the Pakistanis," said Nuzhat Ahmad, 36, the magazine's physician-founder. "There was an intense frustration about how the media portrays Pakistanis as this monolithic group and sort of stereotypes them into bearded people burning the U.S. flag. The true picture is actually completely different."
The magazines have something in common with many others in print: financial pressures.
"Like any magazine we've been on the brink of collapse several times in the last few years," said Ahmad, the Islamica editor. But Islamica's chances of surviving, he added, improved with the recent arrival of a publisher and a switch to a nonprofit model.
Muslim Girl hopes to make money from advertising. FOX and Oxford University Press have bought ads, and Khan believes more big advertisers are on the way.
"One of the great untold stories here is that the American Muslim market is where the Hispanic market was five years ago, on the verge of major break-out, and there's enormous potential to market to this audience," said Khan, who left a teaching position at Northwestern University to run Muslim Girl.
A 2002 survey by Cornell University found that 90 percent of Muslim households earn about the U.S. average, while a 2004 Zogby International poll found that one in three Muslim Americans earns more than $75,000 per year.
This month, Barnes and Noble, which also carries Islamica, announced it would carry Muslim Girl in all but about 20 of its nearly 700 stores.
Azizah has mainly relied on Muslim-owned businesses for advertising, especially from the fashion sector. "We felt that it was very important for Muslim businesses and Muslim designers to be showcased. If not here, then where?" said Taylor, who with a partner launched the magazine without bank loans.
While many Muslims have welcomed the magazines, there has been criticism. Some Muslims have complained that Azizah only features women who wear the hijab, or head scarf, as cover girls.
Taylor's response: "We wanted the magazine to be instantly recognizable, kind of iconic as a Muslim women's magazine. And even though many Muslim women do not wear hijabs in public, when they stand to pray, they all do."
"If I have an African American woman or a Pakistani woman on there without (a) hijab, it might be any Pakistani magazine or any African-American magazine. But with a woman who's covered, people know instantly."
©2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved.