Munira Khalif, a young hijab-wearing Muslim woman, was recently chosen by the State Department to serve as U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations. Writing at Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer -- a well-known expert and lecturer on Islam -- said that her appointment is a "demonstration of the State Department’s determination to 'empower' Muslims and show our 'diversity,' so as to refute the jihadist narrative that the U.S. is at war with Islam, which will keep Muslims in the U.S. from becoming 'alienated' and joining the jihad."

Spencer, who has written books about Islam and the defensive wars known as The Crusades, wrote that the idea of Khalif's appointment is "based on the assumption that Muslims turn to jihad because of the injustices suffered by Muslims at the hand of the U.S." "He went on to say, "...and so if the U.S. is nice to Muslims, the jihad will end." This reasoning, he wrote, ignores the teachings about jihad found in the Qur’an and Sunnah commentaries, "and so is doomed to failure, but that doesn’t keep the deep state State Department wonks from trying and trying, again and again."

In a statement released by the State Department, Khalif -- who is of Somalian parentage -- sought to describe herself:

"My name is Munira Khalif, and I was born and raised in Minnesota. I study Economics and minor in Government at Harvard University. As a Somali-American, I grew up aware of the reality that not all children have the opportunity to attend school—especially girls. By no fault of their own, millions of children are deprived of the opportunity to advance their own lives and that of their families and communities.

"There is an African proverb that exclaims, 'If you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a nation'. Education has the power to transform — not only individuals — but our world. With this in mind, I co-founded Lighting the Way. The youth-run organization focuses on making education more accessible for young people in East Africa — especially girls. Lighting the Way works to provide scholarships, build libraries, and sponsor teachers. In addition, I served as a Teen Advisor for the United Nations Foundation campaign Girl Up. Girl Up mobilizes American girls to empower and support the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls in developing countries to be safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Through Girl Up, I have had the opportunity to speak on the importance of girl’s education at the United Nations Head Quarters on the first inaugural Malala Day and to lobby alongside other youth advocates to pass the Girls Count Act.

"I applied to be the next U.S. Youth Observer because I believe in the power of young people to bring forth immeasurable change. Often times, international institutions like the United Nations can seem daunting. In turn, we believe that our voices don’t matter. But the reality is that the United Nations needs a diversity of voices to be able to solve the complex issues of the world. More importantly, when issues that affect young people are being discussed it is intrinsic that we have a seat at the table. As the U.S. Youth Observer, I will work to ensure that young Americans have a seat at the table. I will leverage my platform to amplify the voices, ideas, and concerns of young Americans at global policy discussions.

"As the year unfolds, I look forward to connecting with young people from across the country to hear about the global issues that are at the forefront of their minds. I hope that over my tenure I will be able to instill a sense of global citizenship. We live in a globalized world and our futures and lives are more interconnected than ever before. Being a global citizen means caring about not only what is happening within our own borders — but also outside of them. Because the problems of others can quickly become our own. We must speak out where others have been silent.  We must take action where others have stood still. We must shine our own light in the hopes of illuminating the way for others."

Khalif's Twitter account is private. She is associated with Light the Way, which is an entity of which she is a co-founder that advocates for educating girls in the Horn of Africa. Her Twitter account is also associated with another entity entitled A World At School. 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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