• The Feminist Times

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BURQA, SAREE, JEANS, SHORTS, ETC.


Our braincells need an intellectual workout to self-educate, re-


educate and un-educate from things our culture and society has

been predominating our rigid minds. I read “It’s Not About the

Burqa” a year ago; it consists of seventeen essays of self-experience

written by Muslim women of different cultures and origins. They

were not just Muslim women but black, South Asian, POC,

immigrants, etc. In 2016, the then British Prime Minister David

Cameron linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the “traditional

submissiveness” of Muslim women. This made Mariam Khan, the

editor, set herself to find Muslim women’s voices who can tell their

stories better than non-Muslim people, including hers.

This quote from the first essay aptly summarizes the rooted

problems in our culture and community:

“Too often, ‘community’ is synonymous with men, and too often

those self-appointed male leaders are the ones who determine what

is ‘too far’. In fact, the word and concept ‘community’ is much like

the word and concept ‘culture’: for example, a popular way to rein in

people – read ‘women’ – is to tell them that they must not oppose a

behaviour or way of being because it is part of the ‘culture’ or what

the ‘community’ wants. Who determined that it was culture and who

speaks for the community? Men and men. That is the simple answer.

The more complicated answer is men and men and a system –

patriarchy – that enables and protects them at the same time as it

socializes women to internalize the dictates of patriarchy and to

accept them as culture and as community. If women created culture

and community, we would not be accused of ‘going too far’.”

I remember reading in Fiona Tolan’s “Feminisms” that how women

are psychologically trained to accept patriarchy since birth; this is

why we see our mothers and grandmothers accepting and acting as

the advocate to patriarchy because they have been ‘educated’ like

that by the ‘community’ and the ‘culture’, and obviously, by their

mothers. The reason I consider this book important is because it’s

not just about the Muslim women but the entire community of

women.

In her essay, Nafisa Bakkar says, “If our feminism is not intersectional

then we run two risks: that we will never escape this idea of the

default being male, and that we dilute our faith in our attempts to

mould Islam to make it more palatable to outsiders.” It is widely

believed that Islam is everything Arab and anything Arab is Islam; this

is the type of “Arabization” that is wrongly represented for Islamic

people and has to be recognized.

It was the essay of the editor Mariam Khan that enticed me the

most. She talked about “White Feminism”, the white privileged

women and its impact on marginalized ones. She says, “I believe we

should all exclusively identify as intersectional feminists; in doing this

we are allowing ourselves to recognize how power structures overlap

and reinforce each other and how feminism today is dominated by

white, cis-gendered, middle-class, able-bodied women who refuse to

acknowledge the multiple layers of oppression women of colour

have to go through. If White Feminists want to be a part of the

narrative they will need to de-centre themselves and their views of

empowerment to include women of colour, trans women, non-

binary women, gender-queer people and women of faith.”

I don’t think I can cover all the topics these essays are positioned on,

I put out the apt quotes here because they are collectively speaking

about all the other essays. Each of the essays are essential and I’d

not be surprised to see them in the curriculum of universities in

future. It’s not about the burqa that you wear, or hair-beads or

sarees or salwar suits, skirts, etc... it’s about YOU!

- Aayushi Jain, I am a final year Master’s student in English at GGSIPU.

I am a book reviewer and share my love for books on Instagram:

@_penandpapers. When I'm not reading or photographing books, I

journal and write. I also work as a part time Editor for

www.bookishsanta.com.

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