Amaly Yossef: The Artist Behind the “I Am Muslim And…” Campaign
The popular Humans of New York photo project, featuring interviews with thousands of people on the streets of New York City, is a testament to the mix of empathy and thick skin required to engage with strangers.
“It can be emotionally, mentally and even physically draining,” says Amaly Yossef, a Master of Social Work candidate at Saint Louis University, and the photographer behind the “I Am Muslim And…” social media campaign. She asks Muslims to finish the sentence and pose for a photo.
Some choose to be silly, some religious and others political. Amaly smiles as she
talks about how children light up with they see her photos, laughing and pointing
out people they know.
“It’s a positive reflection of their community. It’s something they don’t often get to see in the mainstream media.” She recalls working with a group of adolescent boys right after the presidential election; she relied on her social work skills to guide them as they reframed their emotions into a positive light: “Love Trumps Hate.”
Amaly and her younger sister, Aminah, who does more of the behind-the-scenes work, began the campaign in 2015 to help fight the rise of Islamophobia. Today, they’ve grown their Facebook and Instagram communities to more than 1,200 people. They receive photo submissions from all over the world -- from Muslims and from non-Muslims who want to show their support.
And yes, it is tough dealing with negative online comments: there’s no getting around that, she admits. But the photos have helped bring people together in ways she never thought possible. So, most days, the positive outweighs the negative.
“As a Muslim woman, as a social worker, I continue that fight. If I can touch just one person who thought negatively, then I’ve done my job,” she says.
Amaly presents the photos in black and white, to give the campaign a sense of unity. “You can still see the diversity, but it highlights the connection between all of us,” she says.
To date, she has not contributed a photo of herself to the campaign, but she does speak at public events. For now, Amaly is curious to watch the campaign grow organically.
Published: March 1, 2017