Diverse Books, Muslim Shelf Space, Non Fiction Books

It’s Not About The Burqa Edited By Mariam Khan – Book Review

Today is international women’s day so I thought that it would be the perfect day for me to share my review of this amazing anthology and how much this book is needed.

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Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When was the last time you heard a Muslim woman speak for herself without a filter?
In 2016, Mariam Khan read that David Cameron had linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the ‘traditional submissiveness’ of Muslim women. Mariam felt pretty sure she didn’t know a single Muslim woman who would describe herself that way. Why was she hearing about Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim, nor female?
Years later the state of the national discourse has deteriorated even further, and Muslim women’s voices are still pushed to the fringes – the figures leading the discussion are white and male.
Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It’s Not About the Burqa is poised to change all that. Here are voices you won’t see represented in the national news headlines: seventeen Muslim women speaking frankly about the hijab and wavering faith, about love and divorce, about feminism, queer identity, sex, and the twin threats of a disapproving community and a racist country. Funny, warm, sometimes sad, and often angry, each of these essays is a passionate declaration, and each essay is calling time on the oppression, the lazy stereotyping, the misogyny and the Islamophobia.
What does it mean, exactly, to be a Muslim woman in the West today? According to the media, it’s all about the burqa.
Here’s what it’s really about.

As soon as I first heard about this anthology being published, I knew I had to buy it as soon as it released. A book that is written by Muslim women about their experiences? Yup I need it! Just reading the introduction had me hooked!

It’s not about the burqa brings together Muslim women’s voices. It does not represent the experiences of every Muslim woman or claim to cover every single issue faced by Muslim women. It’s not possible to create that book. But this book is a start, a movement: we Muslim women are reclaiming and rewriting our identity.

Each essay is so powerful that even though some were more relatable than others I still loved them all because they all dealt with issues that I can relate to. They discuss so many relevant issues that Muslim women deal with, especially living in the west, from misogyny, racism to islamophobia and taboo subjects in the community and how each of them has been affected by it and how they dealt with it.

While reading the essays I would often stop and need to go talk to my husband about the topics that were being discussed. It reignited my passion about speaking out about so many issues that are so common with our communities. I felt heard and that I wasn’t alone in feeling like this.

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Some of my favourite essays were by Sufiya Ahmed, Nafisa Bakkar, Afia Ahmed, Jamilla Hekmoun and Mariam Khan. I resonated with these essays SO MUCH!

Sufiya was talking about Khadijah (ra) and how much Khadijah (ra) inspired her, I felt the same. Khadijah (ra) has been one of my role models since I was a teenager so it was wonderful to see someone else speak about her and how much she loved her. Khadijah’s (ra) life and all that she achieved made a huge impact in my life.

Above all, Khadijah (ra) taught me that I had every right to exist as I chose. Just like she did as the wealthiest merchant in Mecca.

Nafisa’s essay was so thought provoking and written so eloquently, in a way that I would never be able to express myself. She made me rethink the way I see diversity in the media, how Muslim women are shown in the media when it comes to brands wanting to show diversity. I loved reading her essay so much and it sparked many discussions with people I spoke to.

What is the point of being represented if it is only our image that is invited to the table?

Afia’s essay brought me to tears. She wrote about something that I had been feeling for a while yet I had no one to speak to about it. She wrote about how I feel when it comes to how I feel about the hijab and how “Muslim friendly” attire is shown to us and how all of this can affect my relationship with God. I felt so seen.

No, I don’t take kindly to my religion and ideology being co-opted and appropriated as a money-making scheme. I do not take kindly to aspects of my religion suddenly being acceptable, and not only tolerated but celebrating, only when a tall, white model is dressed in my ethno-religious attire.

Jamilla spoke about a subject filled with misconceptions and ignorance in the Muslim community. She spoke about mental health and what it means to be Muslim and have depression and anxiety. How people will tell you to just pray more and you will be fine and how you can’t possibly be Muslim and depressed. A notion that doesn’t actually exist in Islam. As someone who has anxiety, it’s a topic close to my heart and one that I still have difficulty discussing with people and going to a counsellor who doesn’t really understand my faith means it isn’t always helpful.

My mental illness does not define me. It might change my mood at times, but it does not change who I am, and, most importantly, it does not make me a bad person, especially in the eyes of God.

Mariam dealt with an issue that has been the cause of much argument in the Muslim community, feminism. I loved how she spoke about white feminism and how these women, despite claiming to speak for all women are silent or even against how Muslim women choose to dress. It is something that I have seen time and time again. How discussions amongst Muslim women are often co-opted by white feminists and islamophobes and so we can never really speak for ourselves.

If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of colour, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go and e know where justice is, because when we fight for justice we fight it for all people, for all our communities.

This collection of essays is so relevant and so needed in today’s society and I hope that more people will read it and it will spark discussions amongst people they know. Honestly everyone should read this book.

If you’ve read it then let me know what you thought!

8 thoughts on “It’s Not About The Burqa Edited By Mariam Khan – Book Review”

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