Rutgers graduate Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh created an online media organization that now reaches millions of Gen Z and Millennials
By Shelby Vittek GSC’16
As a first-generation Palestinian American, Rutgers alumnus Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh intimately understands the sometimes-isolating experience of being Muslim in America. “My mom is a Palestinian refugee, and my dad is a Jordanian immigrant,” he says. “At a very young age, I was socially conscious about movements happening abroad and what my identity means in the scope of living in America.”
Al-Khatahtbeh SC&I’20 was a first-year student at Rutgers University–Newark when President Donald Trump signed the executive order that became known as the “Muslim ban” on January 27, 2017. The order banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States and suspended all Syrian refugees indefinitely.
After hearing from fellow Muslim students about their concerns, Al-Khatahtbeh, who transferred to Rutgers–New Brunswick before his sophomore year, wrote an article about the ban for a journalism class and sought to publish it in a Muslim publication. “That’s when I realized there was no mainstream media publication for the Muslim community,” he says. “This was a big issue. How am I supposed to warn my Muslim community about the dangers of the Muslim travel ban if there’s no platform for me to deliver the warning?”
That realization served as Al-Khatahtbeh’s a-ha moment to start his own publication. He jumped into action, scooping up the handle @Muslim on Twitter and Instagram. With help from Professor Steven Miller, director of undergraduate studies at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, he attended an intensive workshop in New York that focused on how to start a publication. “Journalism is not a traditional career path for Muslims,” Al-Khatahtbeh says. “At Rutgers, I was able to explore journalism, and found myself wanting to go into serving the Muslim community.”
In February 2019, while a junior, Al-Khatahtbeh officially launched Muslim, an online news and lifestyle publication geared toward Gen Z and Millennial Muslims. He started a weekly newsletter covering recent Muslim-related news and encouraged other Rutgers Muslim students to subscribe. “It started a snowball effect,” Al-Khatahtbeh says.
After graduating, Al-Khatahtbeh made growing Muslim his full-time venture. Today, the platform is approaching 50,000 newsletter subscribers. The publication has amassed a huge following on social media platforms, with more than 2.2 million on Instagram.
In 2021, Al-Khatahtbeh was the youngest person named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list, and the Knight Foundation, a national foundation that invests in journalism and the arts, awarded him a grant. Armed with the grant funds, he rented a studio in Jersey City, where his team has been filming content for video platforms such as Snapchat, where Muslim reaches an audience of up to 8 million weekly views. Next, he plans to build Muslim into a nonprofit media publication, following the model blazed by Juan González, a professor Al-Khatahtbeh studied under who is co-host of the nonprofit daily broadcast program Democracy Now!
Some might be surprised by the rapid growth of Muslim’s audience, but Al-Khatahtbeh isn’t. “People forget that Muslims make up close to one-third of the world’s population,” he says. “We are the most overlooked group. News that impacts the Muslim community deeply, things that have an effect on our daily lives, are too often overlooked by mainstream media outlets. So, our focus at Muslim has always been to deliver news that impacts the Muslim community and offer a whole new perspective of how Muslims are presented in the media.”
A version of this story appeared in Rutgers Magazine.