Mir writes: “I am an emancipated Muslim woman. There is no contradiction in this.”
This is a sentence that I did not realize was necessary until I arrived in Canada about 8 years ago. I have come to understand that the western world associates islam - specifically muslim women - with a lot of things that are not specific to islam. This is why books like this one are so important.
I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I don't know how to explain them fully. There were many things that I loved and a few things that I did not like but at the end of the day, I learned something while reading this book, it made me ask questions and it made me think about something differently. These are the things that I expect out of a good collection of essays.
So... on to those aforementioned thoughts:
I will start by saying that this book is not about the burqa. I know that's what the title says but I have had to explain a few times that this book is about muslim women and their experiences rather than the burqa or the hijab alone. The clothes of muslim women have been a hot topic of discussion for many people - especially white feminists- who are convinced that these headscarves represent cages. This book talks about this topic but it talks about so much more.
What I like about the book:
This book is non-muslim friendly.
I would actually argue that this book is more beneficial to those who do not know a lot about islam. I say this all the time: If your feminism is not intersectional, then it is not feminism. In order to be an intersectional feminist, you need to educate yourself on the lives of women who have a background that is different from yours and this book is a great way to learn about a diverse group of women who have a similar faith.
I grew up with a muslim father and a christian mother so I am no stranger to the religion but I do have a lot to learn. I have read other books by muslim women that were written for us and so they did not take the time to explain certain concepts or certain words that could be foreign to others. This book does not assume that the reader already knows this or that. It also has a glossary for the arabic phrases and names that many may not be familiar with.
This book is honest
One of the things that I was worried about going into this book was actually addressed in the very first essay. Islamophobia is real and so stereotype threat. For this reason, I was worried that many things would be sugar coated.
Often, muslim women feel the need to downplay or hide the wrongdoings of our men for fear of giving more ammo to those who are so eager to demonize them. The first essay in this book talks about this struggle so clearly and forces the reader to face the fact that men, and sadly women, who use the word of God to uplift the patriarchy exist in every religion and calling them out on it does not speak badly about islam as a whole. All it does is tell the truth, something that we MUST do.
"Muslim women are caught between a rock - an Islamophobic and racist right wing that is eager to demonize muslim men, and to that end misuses our words and the ways we resist misogyny within our muslim communities - and a hard place: our muslim communities that are eager to defend muslim men, and to that end try to silence us and shut down the ways we resist misogyny".
This book explores a lot of issues
There is obviously no way that this short collection of essays could explore all of the issues in muslim communities but I feel like it addressed a great deal of topics that are very important. One of the reasons I did not give this book a star rating is because I don't think it's fair to judge someone's life experience and how to chose to speak about it whether you agree with the conclusions they come to or not.
The western media, muslim men, christian women and many other groups of people have spoken on issues that are specific to muslim women but rarely do we actually see actual muslim women with large platforms talk about it in the mainstream. There are a few stories in this book that talk about the hijab - what it means to different people, what it represents, the joy it can bring, the struggles with it, misconceptions about it and the fact that it is being used for corporate profit ( token minorities).
This book discusses the homophobia in our communities, faith, the idea of model minorities, mental health and so much more.
On to what I did not love: The Black representation
As I mentioned, there are a lot of topics that are covered in this book but I felt like the issues of the black muslim communities were missing. I understand that this book can not cover everything but the fact is that as of 2010, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world and over 30% are in sub-saharan Africa. So without even taking into account the population in the diaspora, there is a large portion of the muslim community that is black and that faces a unique set of issues as a result.
I think that this book could have done a better job highlighting the racism within the muslim community and also, the struggles of not only being a black woman but also, a muslim woman.
All in all, I would absolutely recommend this book. I love seeing stories by women of color and this did not disappoint. This book particularly touched me because I am at a point in my religious journey where I am questioning and relearning things from a different perspective and funny enough, I found quite a few answers in this book.
I hope that this is on your list. If not; add it, read it and then tell me what you think!