Ani Zonneveld and Blair Imani at the University of Michigan, “Minority Muslims in the Media”


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Event Description: “Minority Muslims in the Media” was a discussion of representation of Muslims, specifically women, in the media with Ani Zonneveld and Blair Imani*. This discussion was moderated by Critical Thinking Fellowship Fellow Halimat Olaniyan at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.

Ani Zonneveld is an immigrant, non-Arab, non-hijab wearing Muslim woman. She also founded Muslims for Progressive Values, a nonprofit, grassroots, human rights organization that embodies and advocates for social justice, women’s rights, LGBTQI inclusion, freedom of expression and freedom of and from belief globally.

Blair Imani is a convert to Islam and a queer, light-skin Black Muslim woman. She is also the founder of Equality for Her, a nonprofit educational platform for women and non-binary people, and the author of Modern Herstory, a book highlighting narratives of women paving the way for more women to be themselves.

Blair and Ani were asked to answer questions related to how media representations of Islam shape perceptions and affect their daily lives.

Blair spoke about how people treated her as a convert to Islam, then later as a queer Muslim woman and the expectations of the media. Many saw her as an outsider and others tokenized her expecting her to represent all queer, Muslim women. She spoke about her experience of being both hated and prized for her identity.

Ani’s intro highlighted the difference between search results for “Muslims” versus “Muslims for Progressive Values”. The contrast is stark. When you look up “Muslims” the images tend to be dull, predominantly of men, and only of fully covered women. But when you search “Muslims for Progressive Values”, the images change: you see colorful, diverse images of Muslims going about their daily lives. Ani also discussed the challenges of doing the work Muslims for Progressive Values around the world and how issues of safety limit their mobility.

*Ani Zonneveld was sponsored by the Critical Thinking Fellowship. Blair Imani was not sponsored by the Critical Thinking Fellowship and has no affiliation with CTF or the AHA Foundation.


Media Coverage: “Minority Muslims in the Media” from the Michigan Daily