INDIANAPOLIS– Ten years ago, as a student at Hamilton Southeastern High School, Shajjad Shah found himself really struggling with his identity because he said he was “one of the only brown Muslims” in his school.
So, he took things into his own hands and created his own community on Instagram through an account called @MuslimsOfTheWorld.
It was intended to not so much share stories about the Islamic faith, but to share human stories about people who just so happened to be Muslim.
“It could be about a woman struggling with hijab. A Muslim man struggling with racism. A mother dealing with a child with autism or Down syndrome,” Shah explained. “Stories that anyone could relate to.”
Not only was that page a massive success but it snowballed into other projects like the new MOTW Coffee and Pastries shop that he and his wife, Fatimah, opened in the International Marketplace (at 4873 W. 38th Street) earlier this year.
We went to check it out and learn about their mission on this trip In Your Neighborhood.
“After 9/11, it was really difficult being a Muslim America. So, I started this page called Muslims of the World on Instagram but was just basically a collection of stories of Muslim people sharing the Muslim narrative,” recalled Shah.
Ten years and about 650,000 Instagram followers later, Muslims Of The World— or MOTW— has transformed into a book, a non-profit and now into a specialty coffee shop.
The shop sources their coffee through local roastery, Tinker Coffee Co., and features a diverse menu of coffee and smoothies.
Top-selling drinks with international flair include the Spanish latte and Yemeni chai.
“My wife is from Yemen. That’s kind of like it’s a Yemeni old coffee shop [drink],” he explained. “It’s a black tea with carnation milk. Really sweet. We can make it hot or iced. But that definitely sets us apart from a lot of other specialty coffee shops in Indiana.”
Another menu favorite is the the Biscoff latte.
“[It’s] made with Biscoff scoops of the Biscoff butter put into a cup with pumps of vanilla. It’s definitely really good,” he said.
The shop even makes its own syrups in-house, like lavender and cardamom.
And baristas can top off your drink with a bit of latte art.
When it comes to pastries, MOTW focuses on both French and Arabic options. So, you’ll find everything from macarons to baklava and the top-selling Yemeni honeycomb.
“You have Yemeni bread stuffed with cream cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds and then sprinkled with honey on top. So, it’s to die for,” Shah said. “Everyone comes to get that.”
Although the interior features, Turkish woodwork and beautiful Islamic architecture, Shah says this shop is for everyone.
“Even though it’s Muslims Of The World… MOTW, you’ll see even if you’re here on a busy day, most of the people that come and support us are not Muslim,” he said.
At its core, MOTW is about community, both locally here in the café and across the world through their charitable work in Yemen, Syria, Africa and beyond.
“Even just recently, a lot of people saw that we cycled in Indiana for Yemen. We raised about $212,000,” he noted. “[And] we’ve been able to raise millions of dollars for different humanitarian causes. That’s why our whole concept is coffee with a purpose.”
Four Things You Need to Know About MOTW Coffee and Pastries:
- Long before it was a coffee shop, MOTW got its start a decade ago who when then-high school student, Shajjad Shah, found himself struggling with his Muslim identity after 9/11. So he started an Instagram page called @MuslimsOfTheWorld and set out to break down barriers by sharing stories everyone could relate to, regardless of their background. “Before you know it, the platform just took off [and] 650,000 followers and 10 years later, we kind of transformed it into a book, a nonprofit, a convention platform… And now into a coffee shop,” said Shah.
- MOTW Coffee and Pastries is open Monday- Friday from 7am-5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9am-6pm.
- When you visit the coffee shop, you’ll also notice the other facets of the MOTW mission and brand on display, including a merchandise corner featuring shirts and a book co-written by Shah called “Muslims of the World: Portraits and Stories of Hope, Survival, Loss, and Love” as well as a pictorial wall documenting their humanitarian projects.
- Shah says MOTW is also a non-profit that has been able to raise millions of dollars for humanitarian causes since its inception. They are always working on new events and causes to support that the community can get involved in.
To learn more about Muslims Of The World’s mission, events, and other updates, follow them on Instagram.
While in the International Marketplace, check out these other local favorites: