A new startup will aim to help Muslim travelers find the things they'll need most when they leave home: places that welcome them.
Muzbnb, the latest peer-to-peer home-sharing service to emerge in the sharing economy, launches in June with a focus—it will offer lodging from owners who welcome Muslim guests. After all, in today's political climate, the apprehension experienced in visiting an unfamiliar city may be greater for travelers of the Muslim faith.
Just weeks before President Trump's controversial executive order banning visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Muzbnb founder Hadi Shakuur, a D.C.-based entrepreneur, announced Muzbnb's soft launch on the company website. The official launch will come in time for the observance of Ramadan, with a few hundred homes available for rent.
Shakuur established the company to fill a need in the Muslim community for safe spaces in travel. And while non-Muslims will be able to use Muzbnb, its hosts support the values of Muslim travelers, something that can't necessarily be said of other platforms in the sharing economy.
In addition to Muslim-friendly lodging, the platform will feature specific search filters unique to its users, such as proximity to mosques or halal eateries, availability of Qurans or Islamic literature, dedicated prayer spaces, and preferences for alcohol- and drug-free accommodations.
Based in Washington, D.C., the company intends to offer its services worldwide, and with an estimated 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, there is huge growth potential.
Nana Firman, a resident of Riverside, Calif., and founder of a group called the Global Muslim Climate Change Network, looks forward to renting from Muzbnb.
"I frequently travel alone for business with a heightened sense of self-consciousness," Firman said. "I have my antenna up all the time, and people often challenge me, especially when they ask me what I do for a living. They don't expect a woman in a hijab to be an environmental activist."
Though she can't prove that she has ever been discriminated against for her Muslim faith on mainstream home-sharing services, Firman once inquired about a property for rent on Airbnb and was told it was no longer available, despite being actively displayed as available moments earlier. "I post my photo with my hijab on all shared services, like Uber and Airbnb," she explains. "This is who I am. If you're going to reject me, I want you to do it right away."
The company's founder, himself a Muslim, said he wants to help travelers avoid those situations and encourage people to be "resilient in the face of doubt and bigotry" so everyone can "travel and explore freely."
As Shakuur says, the company is based on a simple truth: "Travelers of all kinds want to feel welcome and connected with the community—and Muslims are no different."
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