Written by Haleema Akhtar
I’ve never felt my identity hindered me. Perhaps I’ve just been incredibly naive? Maybe I’ve been blind to the reality of this cruel world we live in? As a young Muslim, Kashmiri woman, I guess my identity is politicised more than most. Never have I felt discriminated against because of it until I got more involved in Muslim-related activism. Ironic right? Trying to help to create change for my own community has resulted in me feeling like an outsider. How did this happen?
My goals have always been pretty ambitious, I’m the first to admit that they sound a little utopian. I want to put my efforts into creating a more just world, I want to call out injustice wherever I see it, in any way that I can do it. Until recently, I’ve always been hopeful. I have always wanted to change attitudes within my own community- now, I feel like it’s the last thing I want to do. I just feel like a victim. It’s exhausting. I should mention that I don’t think I’ve created this victim complex myself. I’m trying to reject it as much as I can. The constant fight, however, is tiring.
Let’s discuss my Muslimness. Being a Muslim woman is tough in two different ways. I guess the first is the racism that Muslim women who are visibly Muslim get. It doesn’t have to be an all out in your face racist attack. No. It can just be the empty seat next to you on the train whilst people choose to stand instead. I guess this can be seen as perfectly innocent, I’m sure that some people prefer to stand on the train. That is perfectly fine. But when it happens as often as it does, there is cause to be slightly suspicious. Perhaps I am sick of having to be extra smiley when I pass strangers on the street as if to say, ‘I’m not a threat to you’. Maybe I’m sick of the ‘does your dad force you to wear that?’ or the looks of pity on the faces of strangers. This, from the outside world, may be expected. So, what about when it comes from my own community? It comes through comments made by some Muslim men about my gender, about women being inferior to men, about the role of a Muslim woman being in the home. These small throwaway comments have an impact. Just because I’ve chosen not to fight every time I get a comment from a ‘well-meaning’ brother, doesn’t mean I appreciate them. I am more than my gender, I am capable of doing the same as my well-meaning Muslim brother. This beautiful religion that we share exemplifies this perfectly well. I am inspired by stories of Khadija, Aisha, Asiya, Nusaybah and so many more. I, like many other Muslim women, find reasons to strive in their examples. I know that being a woman is special and I know the rights that my religion has given to me. I strive to have the determination of Khadijah, the knowledge of Aisha, the patience of Asiya and the bravery of Nusaybah.
What I don’t need is a brother trying to ‘save’ me. My religion provides me with the tools to save myself. I don’t need a man to make comments about my gender as if it is a hindrance. I don’t need to be told that my life will be worthwhile when I’m married. I can make my life worthwhile myself, without any external help from a human. I have goals, I can achieve them alone. I don’t need my well-meaning Muslim brother to speak on my behalf. I don’t need analogies of women being diamonds that must be covered. Please, I am perfectly happy to cover because it is a command from my Lord.
I end with a quote that epitomises my religion and this struggle. This too, will pass. But, I think it’ll take Muslim women standing up, demanding our God given rights and refusing to be victimised by anyone…
‘Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.’ (Quran 33:35)
In the eyes of our Lord, we are one and the same.
Read more blogs written by Haleema here: https://haleemaakhtar.wordpress.com/