Feminism refers to the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes. As simple as this definition sounds, one cannot speak up on this issue without receiving some retaliation. In a world pervaded by white feminist ideologies, revise your feminist outlook and make it more intersectional. Read this review of It’s Not About The Burqa – a compilation of essays by Muslim women, edited by Mariam Khan.
WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?
“We are not asking for permission any more. We are taking up space. We’ve listened to a lot of people talking about who Muslim women are without actually hearing Muslim women. So now, we are speaking. And now, it’s your turn to listen.” // Mariam Khan
‘It’s Not About The Burqa’ voices 17 Muslim women living in the West. They talk freely about the issues associated with feminism, faith, sexuality, race, mental health etc. narrating their real-life stories as well. As the words Islamophobia and Feminism clash together, we see how Muslim feminists are constantly caught between radical Islamists and race supremacists. Such that, they cannot voice their opinion without offending either of the two.
In 2016, Mariam Khan read a statement by David Cameron linking the radicalization of Muslim men to the traditional submissiveness of Muslim women. She thus realized it was high time Muslim women addressed the world without any filter. The world needed to know that there was more to Muslim women than just hijabs, burqas and what society had allowed them to be. In her essay titled ‘Feminism Needs to Die,’ she dissects the loopholes of White Feminism. She explains how it doesn’t accept her identity as a Muslim and a person of colour. Mariam Khan, thus questions what being a Muslim woman in the West is about today. And, she feels certain that unlike what the media portrays, it’s not about the burqa.
WHAT DID I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK?
“So when the idea of banning the headscarf and veil is confined to the dustbin of history when legislations stop policing the Muslim community for religious observance when Muslim women – both traditional and non-traditional are equally and fairly represented, then I’ll buy into the idea that there are tolerance, diversity and holistic acceptance of Muslim women.” // Afia Ahmed
Being a fiction buff, I do not frequently encounter non-fiction books which hit me like a rude awakening. Therefore, this book was another one of my attempts to challenge my ideas about feminism and grow as a reader. And for sure, I discovered the various intersectionalities which really make feminism work. The beauty of this book lies in those spaces between silence and chaos. Each and every woman talk about their experiences as a Muslim feminist in a different spectrum, and with so much patience. Yet, the strength in their voices is what keeps the reader engaged.
The book often mentions double standards in beauty ideals associated with Muslim women. Nafisa Bakkar argues that Eurocentric beauty ideals have created a default Muslim woman. Such that, despite aiming for representation, a section of Muslim women ends up feeling ostracized. I found this argument quite strong because it shows how vast and diverse the body of Muslim women is. Giving more representation to them would help people move ahead of the hijab-binary and realize that there’s no one way to be a Muslim woman.
It’s Not About The Burqa is insightful, thought-provoking, aggressive, a bit sad and even funny at times. It’s one of those books after reading which, you rise up as a different person. You feel well-informed and add another distinct lens to your vision. Even though we just heard the voices of Muslim women in the West who may have the resources to do so, as compared to their counterparts in the Middle-East, I think this is quite a headstart. So pick up this non-fiction book to do a check on your feminism and see if it’s really intersectional.