- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

DENVER (AP) - Laila Alawa didn’t expect much when Amal Kassir walked onstage to perform spoken-word poetry at Wellesley College.

“She looks like a typical Muslim girl, very calm and very sweet,” said Alawa, a Muslim American activist and blogger. “I was honestly doubtful because I’d heard other poets, and they weren’t that powerful. But when she got up on the stage, she blew me out my seat.”

My Grandmother always had dinner on the table.

Even when the tyrant put checkpoints outside her door,

her defiance made mealtimes a battle her family would always win.

Kassir, 18, is a product of the suburbs. Her parents own two Middle Eastern restaurants in metro Denver, and she grew up in Aurora, attending Smoky Hill High School. As a Muslim girl, she is defying the stereotype of Muslim women as shy, soft-spoken and powerless. She’s an activist in the fight to end the Syrian civil war, and winning an international poetry-slam award gave her a platform for promoting her humanitarian work.

“I was always outgoing,” said Kassir. “I realized I was smart and that I could dominate a stage, and have an influence rather than be influenced.”

Now a junior at the University of Colorado Denver, she says her passion for making the world a better place sometimes diverts her from buckling down to study for classes such as geology and physics.

When not attending classes, working at her bank job or helping out at the family business, she travels the country performing at various events - and in the process, she’s breaking the stereotypes of Muslim American women, especially those who wear head scarves.

I represent the political party

that stands on behalf of the half naked Barbie.

I represent the woman of the 21st century

and this woman has everything … except for her dignity.

She recently hosted the annual banquet for Islamic Relief USA in Aurora. She started the nonprofit Project More Than Metaphors to raise money for humanitarian assistance in Syria. Later this year, she will perform in Australia and Lebanon, and she often performs at colleges around the country.

“She’s extremely talented, and the way she expresses her ideas is very powerful,” said Racan Alhoch, who first met Kassir when she traveled to Washington, D.C., to perform at a rally he hosted on the anniversary of Syria’s revolution.

Story Continues →