Make way for Muslim Girl

Move over, YM: A new teen magazine is here.

Topics: Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

Watch out, Seventeen — there’s a new teen magazine on the racks. Muslim Girl seeks to reach out to, well, Muslim girls who feel left out of mainstream American teen culture. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it has a potential audience of about 400,000.

According to the Chronicle, certain aspects of the magazine — advice columns, fashion spreads — follow the same format as their secular counterparts. But the magazine’s content is decidedly different. On the fashion pages, models show little skin, and advice questions delve deeper than typical fare like, “How far should I go on a first date?” Instead, reports the Chronicle, advice columns ask readers to write in if they’re dealing with a “moral crisis or ethical dilemma,” or are “having trouble deciding the right thing to do.” One sample question mentioned by the Chronicle is from a teenage girl complaining that her parents won’t allow her to sleep over at her best friend’s house for the friend’s 16th birthday. “Why won’t my parents trust me, and why do they have such unfair rules for me?” the reader writes. The answer, especially compared with that of the typical teen magazine, is decidedly chaste.

But putting aside the obvious differences in content between Muslim Girl and, say, YM, I’m particularly intrigued by the idea that because Muslim girls feel stigmatized or underrepresented by American pop culture, they represent a niche market. According to the Chronicle, Muslim Girl’s publisher “believes much of its target market comes from affluent, well-educated families possessing untapped consumer spending power.” In fact, an April study by the United States’ largest advertising firms estimated the aggregate spending power of American Muslims at $170 billion. With figures like that, it makes sense to try to target Muslim teens.

Except, of course, that magazines’ money mostly comes not from subscribers (so far, Muslim Girl has close to 25,000) but from ad sales. And it turns out that it’s hard to sell ads if your target audience isn’t going to buy lots of makeup or revealing fashions. The magazine’s editor in chief, Ausma Khan, tells the Chronicle that Muslim Girl can’t accept “90 percent of the advertising you see in most magazines.” Add to that needing to appeal to an audience that has varying interpretations of what it means to be a respectable Muslim teen, and you have quite a challenge. But Muslim Girl still hopes to quadruple its subscriber base by the end of the year. And considering that the magazine makes a point of emphasizing strong female role models — running stories on the first female presidential candidate in Afghanistan, for example — we hope that it succeeds.

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and author of "101 Places Not to See Before You Die". She also runs a legally themed clothing shop called Illegal Briefs.

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