British Muslims make up about five percent of the country’s population, but their religion has been disproportionately politicised and stigmatised by the media. That’s why, it was so refreshing to come across Khidr Collective, a magazine made by young British Muslim that recognises this need to have their own voice.
After a sold-out first issue, their second celebrates the way Islam brings families and communities together to heal and strengthen its members. From a stirring photo series of White Chapel, to poetry on misunderstood identities, we talk to editor-in-chief Raeesah Akhtar about the collective joy and warmth of their faith.
I really like how the magazine shares stories that can often been seen as mundane, like watching cricket with the family or thoughts a mother has about food and feeding. Can you talk to us about this approach?
Yeah, I think this was an important element to this issue – to celebrate the mundane things that people might find comfort in. Specifically with this issue exploring the idea of Shifaa’, or healing, we wanted to highlight the resilience found in these everyday acts, and that the process of healing doesn’t have to be something miraculous or extraordinary, rather it is exemplified through the survival of everyday life, which can be just as testing.
‘Funeral of the “authentic” Muslim Woman’ (below) is a great example of how the magazine shows complex, sometimes contradicting identities of people with the same faith. Why was it important to show that?
Yeah, I guess this is a wider aim of the magazine itself: to allow artists — be they writers, poets, illustrators or photographers – to take ownership of their own narrative, however complex or contradicting they may be. More often than not, Muslims – and particularly Muslim women – are so heavily scrutinised, boxed into certain categories and spoken on behalf of. This homogenisation of identities dangerously erases the experiences of so many, and is why it’s so important to platform these voices.
Can you talk a bit about this issue’s theme?
So ‘Shifaa’ is an Arabic word meaning a ‘cure’, ‘restoration’, or ‘healing’. We felt it was an important theme to unpack in light of a lot of heaviness that is being felt across many communities. As injustice and inequality continues to hit those most vulnerable in society the hardest, we wanted to celebrate the strength of individuals and communities in both everyday and ongoing hardships. So in a way this issue serves as an archive of people’s resilience, but one that hopes to have a practical element to it as well, so that others might be able to take something away from it – be that a resource, or simply, inspiration.
This issue is larger in page count. Did you receive more submissions after a successful first issue?
The first issue was received really well. We got a lot more people interested in the collective and the work that we are doing, as well as the first issue selling out and being stocked at bookshops in London, and even some in Europe. So naturally, we received a lot more submissions for the second issue. But also, the publication itself is biannual, so we felt that it was fitting for it to be of a more substantial size.
What did you do differently in issue two? Do you have any advice for aspiring magazine makers?
I would say for this issue we had a lot more processes in place, be that a regulated editorial flow, or more input and structure to the layout and design of each spread. Also, this issue (as with all future issues) had a designated theme, which allowed us more creative freedom and to form a narrative from page to page. All of these things are (hopefully!) reflected in the final outcome of this second issue.
For aspiring magazine makers I would say don’t be afraid to make mistakes, nor to experiment with different mediums, but to always have purpose and continually challenge what publishing looks like.
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