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The Muslim Protagonist: Centering the Margin

Centering the Margin event graphic

Presented in collaboration with The Muslim Protagonist

Admission is open to the public. BUY TICKETS HERE>>

As readers and writers, we often grow comfortable staying within the text, blind to meaning that slips between words and voices lost in white space. This year, as part of The M Word series of public programs, The Muslim Protagonist will capture narratives on the margin.

Join us for “Centering the Margin,” an exploration of the ways language alters our perceptions of reality and our understanding of the world. Our speakers will investigate larger questions of race and gender and the intersectionality of the two from the perspective of poetry. We will not only address the challenges that come with centering stories on Muslim characters, but also question how one negotiates writing about a marginalized community without generalization or co-optation of its narratives. At a time of Islamophobia, anti-blackness, and xenophobia, we aim to amplify voices that are often lost. 

On Friday, March 31, we will hold an Artist Showcase, featuring a wide variety of Muslim and non-Muslim voices. The Open Mic is free and open to all with a FREE reservation

Symposium schedule on Saturday, April 1: 

“black women breathe flowers, too”

with Safia Elhillo, Ladan Osman, Afaq Mahmoud

Join us for an intimate conversation between female poets of the Black Muslim diaspora. In an exploration of immigration and identity, Safia Elhillo, Ladan Osman, and Afaq Mahmoud will consider what it means to be poets writing at the intersection of many marginalized identities. Just as the identities of these women are versatile, so too is their chosen vehicle of voice, poetry, a form of literature that transcends both boundaries and boxes. (Title quote by Nayyirah Waheed) 

Language and Technology: Tools of Reconstruction

with Rozina Ali, Jaymee Goh, Rebecca Hankins

Language and technology alter our perceptions of reality and our understandings of the world. Inspired by Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling”, this panel explores what it means to write in multiple languages, to look at the world through different lenses of technology, what gets lost in translation, and what gets discovered.

W(right)ing Ourselves

with Bushra Rehman, Shannon Chakraborty, Melody Moezzi, Hussein Rashid

To be Muslim in America is to either be invisibilized, or Otherized. To be Muslim in America is to be pushed into the margins, racialized, and Orientalized. How then can we, as Muslims, choose to write ourselves onto the pages of modern memory? Join us as Hussein Rashid, Bushra Rehman, Shannon Chakraborty, and Melody Moezzi delve into the challenges that come with centering the margin and the Muslim protagonist.


The M Word seeks to elevate, amplify, and celebrate the contributions of Muslim Americans to our country’s varied and inspiring cultural landscape. To help us, we are inviting audience members, online followers, panelists, and others—both Muslims and non-Muslims alike—to share their personal experiences with what it means to be Muslim in America.

For the chance to be featured by The M Word, please tell us your name and the city where you reside, and answer the question, “What does it mean to be Muslim American today?” Submit your video story with us on Facebook or in writing here

By submitting your story, you grant PEN America the right to use all still and motion pictures and sound recordings you provide in furtherance of its nonprofit charitable mission, including the right to advertising, promotion, and future marketing of PEN America and its activities via radio, television, video, DVD, the Internet, podcasts, PEN America publications, or any other use, by any means now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, throughout the universe.

The M Word is generously supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges program.

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