The Muslim Protagonist: Centering the Margins

Columbia University March 31st-April 1st


The Muslim Protagonist 2017: Centering the Margin

Columbia University, 116th Street, Broadway, New York | March 31st - April 1st

Language. Hyphenated Identities. Representation. Despite their power to shape society's perceptions, none of these are examined enough by the mainstream. Often, we grow comfortable staying within the text, limiting ourselves from seeing meaning that slips between words, and from hearing voices lost in white space. This year, The Muslim Protagonist will break the structure to capture narratives on the margin. Join us in a conversation on “Centering the Margin,” to explore how language alters our perceptions of reality and our understandings of the world. We will investigate larger questions of race and gender and the intersectionality of the two from the perspective of poetry. Our speakers will not only discuss the challenges that come with centering stories on Muslim characters, but also question how one negotiates writing about a marginalized community without generalizing and participating in co-optation of its narratives. At a time of Islamophobia, anti-blackness, and xenophobia, we aim to amplify voices that are often lost. Together, let’s center the margin.

About Us

The Muslim Protagonist is an annual literary symposium of Muslim and minority writers, artists, and thinkers at Columbia University, hosted by the Columbia Muslim Students Association (MSA) and opened to participants of all backgrounds, ages, faiths, and cultures as a means of facilitating dialogue, networking, and inspirational as well as practical tools for pursuing “literature as an agent of social, intellectual, and spiritual change.” The event is not an event exclusively for Muslims, “minorities,” or Columbia students/faculty — everyone is welcome.

Meet the Organizers


Friday, March 31st

7:45PM Open Doors Barnard College James Room
8:15PM - 9:15PM Performances
9:15PM - 9:30PM Short break
9:30PM - 10:00PM Open Mic!
10:00PM Socializing session

Saturday, April 1st

10:00AM - 10:15AM Opening Remarks
Quran recitation and welcome from The Muslim Protagonist Organizers
International Affairs Building 417
10:15PM - 11:45PM “black women breathe flowers, too”
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.
12:00PM - 1:15PM Language and Technology: Tools of Reconstruction
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. Join us for this talk with Rozina Ali, Rebecca Hankins, and Yusuf Nuruddin.
1:15PM - 2:15PM Lunch Break!
Lunch will be served at this time and we will have Dhuhr Prayer
2:15PM - 3:30PM Workshop Sessions
3:45PM - 4:15PM Break
We will have a short break for book signings and Asr prayer.
4:15PM - 5:30PM Writing Ourselves
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.
5:30PM - 5:45PM Ending Remarks
5:45PM - 6:15PM Networking session

Contact Us

For more information contact us at

© Columbia Muslims' Student Association 2017