By Jason Lemon
We talked with Hend about her online commentary and who she is outside of the virtual world. She’s been dubbed the “Queen of Muslim Twitter,” but insists it’s not true at all.
Hend Amry is perhaps as modest as she is also prolific. The Libyan-American, who currently resides in Qatar, shoots out a constant stream of tweets commenting on social issues and breaking news, all with a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. She slays the Islamophobic and racist trolls with her stunning wit.
We talked with Hend about her online commentary and who she is outside of the virtual world. She insists she’s a “pretty boring person,” but we’re sure that’s just her modesty.
You’ve talked a lot in past interviews about your activism on Twitter, but offline, what do you enjoy doing? Who is Hend Amry outside the realm of the virtual world?
I DO NOT EXIST OUTSIDE OF THE VIRTUAL WORLD. OK, not really. In my day to day life I’m a mother of two girls, aged 9 and 13. I work as a freelance writer and keep pretty busy … in between tweeting.
People often think I live a really exciting life because I’m so effusive in my commentary, but my favorite activity is reading quietly, watching a good movie or spending time doing art projects with my kids. I find that the small things in life are what give the most pleasure, and I try to savor the small things.
As I understand, you live in Qatar right now. Having lived in the Arab world and in the West, how does it compare? What are the differences you’ve experienced?
As a Libyan-American, I’ve had the distinct honor of being a life-long misfit, neither fully Arab nor fully American, by many standards. I’ve learned to appreciate the benefits of this cultural mutt status, such as fitting everywhere, even as I fit in nowhere.
I was born and grew up in the States, but have lived – first in Dubai and now in Doha – for the past nine years or so. The experience of living in the Gulf has been wonderful in many ways, and gave me an opportunity to learn more about the region, if not my actual homeland, and that’s been a really valuable and eye opening process.
What propelled you to become a social media activist? Was it something you planned?
First of all, I never refer to myself as a social media activist, not that there is anything wrong with the term and it’s really very generous of anyone to say so. I think we are all activists when we comment on the news of the day, and bring attention to events that require our consideration.
I really see myself as carrying on a conversation with people from around the world. Sometimes that conversation is fun and funny, sometimes it’s sad and painful, other times it’s frustrating and even angry. But it’s never dull.
You’ve been dubbed the “Queen of Muslim Twitter”. How do you feel about that name? And in reality, you tweet about a lot of social justice issues, not just those that affect Muslims.
It’s not true at all. But bless Laila Alawa for using that title in an interview I gave for the Tempest, because it has stuck. If I ever launch a lucrative “Muslim Twitter Queen” product line, I’ll have to give her a percentage of the proceeds.
As for my tweets, they do cover a wide range of topics, not just Muslims. Social Justice can’t be just about your own defined identity group. You either care about all human life equally or you are a political pundit. Also, I’m a Muslim and proud of it but that’s not my only identity.
Just like anyone else, Muslims are professional people, artists, parents, friends, writers, singers, soccer players – we have a vast array of interests, hobbies and identities.
In these crazy times of Trump and Islamophobia, what would you say to other Muslims like you? How can they fight back against the hate and misconceptions?
I’d say the same thing to Muslims as I would say to anyone facing bigotry, discrimination, or any challenge. First and foremost, believe in your own worth as a human being. Surround yourself with positive people. Commit to hope and empathy and forgiveness, no matter what the world throws at you.
And above all, don’t let anyone decide how you are going to feel today. That’s your decision alone.
You said in a previous interview that you weren’t shocked by Trump’s victory. How do you feel when you see all the protests against Trump and his policies? Does it give you hope?
I believe it’s a universal human drive to seek peace and stability, so it’s no surprise that there has been such a strong response to Trump’s dramatic and traumatic impact on our well being.
Success may not come today or tomorrow, but people will always fight for what’s right, and I’ve been inspired to see so many doing just that.
What do you think are the biggest challenges Muslim women face today? Is this different in the Arab world as opposed to the West?
Muslim women face the same challenges that face all women. Depending on which Arab country you are referring to, women face added challenges arising from local cultural practices or conservative interpretations of religious laws.
But there have been many reasons to have hope, with development indicators showing higher education levels and delayed marriage ages across the region. The question now is how governments will respond to the demands for equal rights and equal opportunities.
If the unprecedented political upheaval in many countries is any indication, the status quo is not going to be enough anymore.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers or share about yourself?
I wish I had some exciting secret to share with everyone but alas, I am a pretty boring person in the real world. My endless dad-joke world exists only online. I just hope no one minds that I live a double life.
Jason Lemon Managing Editor