"I’m in total shock that it’s become socially acceptable for people to be so outwardly racist," she says. "I’m in disbelief that a prospective presidential candidate can say such racist and horrible things, [counter] to American principles."
But for Al-Khatahtbeh, Trump’s comments – earlier in his campaign he suggested a mass ban on Muslims entering the country – represent "a lot of deep-seated resentment that millions of Americans harbour". She adds: "Every Muslim person who wears a headscarf is one hate crime away from a life or death situation."
Facing up to the threat
This might feel like an exaggeration to anyone who doesn’t stick their head above the parapet for a living. But Al-Khatahtbeh has had to brush off threats, online and offline, almost from the beginning.
Her subject matter is perfect fodder for the rising tide of trolls who, with little threat of real-life consequences, are free to set up temporary social-media accounts, hurl abuse at their targets and then disappear.
Al-Khatahtbeh is a woman, vocal feminist and Muslim, all three of which seem to set off a particularly virulent online crowd. She describes the online harassment as "horrible", but adds that increased levels of negativity mean the message is getting through, however unwilling a certain subterranean section of the internet is to hear it.
"It’s the double-edged sword of social media and the internet – the same platform that gives us a fighting chance can also be used to harass us," she adds. "It does [have an] impact [on] us personally."
A voice for Muslims
Al-Khatahtbeh is, in some senses, one of the lucky ones. She lives in the US, had a good education, went to college and has strong support from her family. Does she feel under-qualified to speak for Muslim women in, say, Algeria, or Syria?
She acknowledges that the site is geared to a Western audience, pointing out that articles are published in English: "I do have a different lived experience, it’s privileged, and I have experienced a different set of issues.
"I’d never accurately represent voices of Muslim women in African countries or in Arab countries – they are very distinct."
But, Al-Khatahtbeh adds, being an American Muslim has its advantages, such as having access to policymakers. "That’s how MuslimGirl’s been influential – it elevates the voices of Muslim youth," she says.
Even without regional coverage, the site has recorded a 500% increase in its Middle Eastern readership (Al-Khatahtbeh won’t reveal site numbers), expanding beyond its home audience. Half the site’s readers are now from outside the US.
Seven years in, she is finally mulling business models for MuslimGirl; beyond the seed-funding, she is also exploring other revenue routes such as sponsored posts and product placement. She will use the money already raised to invest in video production and, potentially, podcasts.
So what’s Al-Khatahtbeh’s advice for entrepreneurial types at brands and agencies, thinking about doing their own thing or shaking up things from within? "There is hard work and sacrifice behind the scenes," she says. "In my generation, the number of entrepreneurs has risen so highly in this age group that it seems like success comes easily.
"But it takes hard work and sacrifice, and it can take everything you have in you to push it forward. Make sure your heart’s in it, because it’s the only way to go far."
(This article first appeared on CampaignLive.co.uk)