Next Wave Muslim Initiative
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We are immensely proud to announce the release of NWMI’s youth-produced book, I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections By Muslim American Youth. In collaboration with Shout Mouse Press, ten NWMI teens have published an original collection of stories, essays, poetry, and art that confronts anti-Muslim discrimination and explores what it means to be young and Muslim in America today. We hope you will share copies of this book with your schools, libraries, and neighbors and further these teens’ efforts to humanize American Muslims at a time our community needs it most.



Samaa Eldadah • Noor Saleem • Imaan Shanavas • Bilal Saleem • Salihah Aakil • Leyla Rasheed • Ruqayyah Aakil • Fatima Rafie • Iman Ilias • Ayah Noor

During an era characterized by both hijabi fashion models and enduring post-9/11 stereotypes, ten teenagers came together to explore their American Muslim identities. These teens represent the tremendous diversity within the American Muslim community, and their book, like them, contains multitudes. Bilal writes about being a Muslim rocker. Noor reflects about speaking in multiple tongues. Samaa creates her own cartoon Kebob Squad. Ayah responds to online hate.

Through poems, essays, artwork, and stories, these young people aim to show their true selves, to build connection, and to create more inclusive and welcoming communities.



Shout Mouse Press Workshops

During the summer of 2018, Shout Mouse Press began intensive art and writing workshops with ten young artists and writers of NWMI. These teens represent the tremendous diversity that exists within the American Muslim community, from race and ethnicity, to sect, to the number of generations lived in the US, to they way they choose to approach their faith. The talented team of art and writing coaches included award-winning author Hena Khan and artist Sobia Ahmad.


Photo Credit: Lana Wong, Shout Mouse Press


Excerpt from the Afterword

…This girl standing before you
asking you to understand
different and dangerous are not synonyms.
Promising you that no matter how loud you shout,
“Hey, you terrorist!” at her back,
she won’t respond
because she’s told you already
that is not her name
— Salihah Aakil

All teenagers struggle to find their place in the world. For American Muslims, that struggle includes navigating multiple layers of identity as Americans, as Muslims, and as black and brown youth. The last couple years have been momentous for American Muslims. Ibtihaj Muhammad made it to the Olympics. Stores in the mall like Apple and Gap feature Muslim women in hijab. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were elected to Congress. Yet incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes have risen. Hate seems to have emerged from the shadows with a new visibility, amplified through social media and forces of unrest.

While this is a challenging time, it is also a unique time filled with possibility. We at Next Wave Muslim Initiative are immensely grateful for this opportunity to let our youth’s voices be heard. And we are grateful to these courageous young people for stepping up and giving us a glimpse into their world. NWMI shares in the vision of Shout Mouse Press that, through sharing stories, we see both the humanity and the diversity of the next generation of leaders. The result will be—as Salihah’s words command—that we turn our backs on degradation and division, and instead, we learn each other’s names.

Mona Rahnama Eldadah
Co-Founder, Next Wave Muslim Initiative


Book Launch

BBC interviewed the NWMI teens and covered our exciting launch party at Busboys & Poets in D.C.



We had been given an opportunity to show who we are because for so long nobody believed us when we told them.
— — Salihah Aakil, Introduction
But how could individual people be expected to be sympathetic? Most of them had probably never even met an Undergrounder. And never would.

But you did.
— Imaan Shanavas, The Undergrounders
I didn’t know
what my name was
and I found myself
speaking in unnatural tongue
when I longed to
breathe flowers.
— Noor Saleem, Forgetting to Remember Myself
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MEETING Ilhan Omar

Authors of I Am the Night Sky met U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar and gave her a copy of their book. Rep. Omar spoke about her unexpected route to becoming a congresswoman, and encouraged the students to be themselves and to continue using their voices to work for those that are most forgotten.