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Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi: Muslim Women Take Back the Mic on International Women’s Day

9 March 2012 Huffington Post 32 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

Muslim Women Take Back the Mic on International Women’s Day

Everyone has an opinion about Muslim women, even those — especially those — who have never met one.

As Muslim women born and raised in America, we are tired of hearing everyone — politicians, pundits, men and women of other faiths (or those not adhering to any faith) — talk about Muslim women without ever stopping to listen to what we have to say about our lives.

The narrative about Muslim women spun by others — and propagated in the media and popular culture — as silent, submissive and oppressed, is one that neither of us recognize in ourselves, the women in our families, or the women we have met over the years through our work within the Muslim community both in the United States and abroad. (Ayesha as a development consultant and Nura as an attorney.)

When we raise our voices to tell our own stories, we are silenced. We are either dismissed as outliers — educated and upper class Western-raised Muslim women with no grasp of the reality of “real” Muslim women — or brainwashed, because how could any intelligent woman defend Islam or call herself Muslim? In many cases, our experiences are negated or dismissed as inauthentic by virtue of comparison to the circumstances of some women in other countries, e.g., burqa-clad women in Afghanistan or child brides in Yemen.

What about child brides in Yemen?

There is no denying that there is subjugation and oppression of women committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam, the world over — just as we know there is injustice occurring everyday against women of all faiths, in all countries, in the name of religion politics, and ideology.

But the experiences of some Muslim women do not negate the experiences of others. The voices of Muslim women are diverse, and our individual experiences authentic. We must be placed in our own context without being smothered under an entire globe’s worth of geopolitical baggage. Just as the life of a Catholic woman in a village in Guatemala is very different from that of a Catholic woman in the village of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, so too are the lives, realities and experiences of over 500 million Muslim women across the globe.

In the last few years, Muslim women have begun pushing back against the monolithic “Muslim Woman” to celebrate the joys of our context and the challenges therein. We’ve seen a Muslim woman — Tawakkul Karman — win the Nobel Peace Prize for her pro-democracy work in Yemen, and another Muslim woman — Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy — win an Oscar for amplifying the courageous voices of acid attack survivors in Pakistan.

Here in the United States, the American Muslim community is coming into its own, and women are leading the way through their literary achievements, including anthologies and novels, plays and memoirs. As editors of the groundbreaking anthology “Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women,” we were privileged to hear the perspectives of hundreds of women who responded to our call for stories. These Muslim women courageously raised their voices to share their complex, joyful and sometimes painful love lives, thereby giving readers a glimpse of what it really means to be a Muslim woman in America today.

This International Women’s Day, Muslim women are speaking. Are you ready to listen?

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi are co-editors of the non-fiction anthology ‘Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women‘ (Soft Skull Press, 2012).

 Follow Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi on Twitter:www.twitter.com/LoveInshAllah
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32 Comments »

  1. who let them outta the kitchen???tell them to get th hell back in teh kitchen put their scarves on and cook my DAMN SANDWHICH!!!

  2. hope that stays like that! the more we “evolve” the more we hate!

  3. I don’t. No more opinion about them than any other women. I know some Muslim women, and they are very nice people. I don’t understand their faith, nor do I understand anybody’s faith, not having any myself.

  4. actually yesterday I went to a well known hospital in Conn my physician was a caring Muslim female doctor…let me tell you she treated me with so much respect & dignity that I loved my time in Urgent Care…I do love Muslim women. <3

  5. Absolutely correct!!!

  6. Bought this book last month. Excellent!

  7. what a crock…these women don’t speak for themselves….

  8. i think the same for all foreign women. i hope they are being treat like a jewel. they work hard and should be treated like a gem.

  9. Been visiting Dearborn for half of my life, never met any of the stereotypes.

  10. Micheal & Melisa you are 2 fine examplies of American idiots !! Just sayin

  11. at the end of the day – we are all human – no reason to hate what you do not understand – get to know the person or persons first before you judge them

  12. I love your site. I do support any culture that seeks for union and harmony and as I could see here, you guys are doing your best in order to achieve that. I wish from the bottom of my heart that this love of yours spread all over the planet and help our world to become a better place for us and our children.

    with Love,
    Stuart.

  13. and Melissa how do you know these women dont speak for themselves? its wrong to assume all Muslim women as being submissive meak women.

  14. About half of my English students are Muslims from Saudi Arabia. Some women wear the veil, some do not. One woman does not wear the hijab, but is observant. From my experience women who are Muslim do not fit just one mold. Like people all over they are diverse.

  15. i don’t think i look or act muslim, yet i love allah Allah and I love people who love.

  16. I live in an area with a high Muslim population. There are ultra conservatives and ultra liberals and everything in between. People who only see stories about the Taliban or are able to pic out a Middle Easterner only if they are in ultra conservative fundamentalist dress, make many wrong assumptions. Middle Eastern Atheists, explain that.

  17. Oh come on guys! If u read the actual teachings of Islam’ you’ll know that in Islam, women are the queens of the house.NO RELIGION GIVES AS MUCH RESPECT TO WOMEN AS ISLAM.

  18. Look, in the end we are all striving 4 heaven,right? And Islam has said ; ”Heaven is under the mother’s feet”. Daughters are said to be a shield against the fire of hell. Islam has given women a really exalted position.

  19. It not an opinion of Muslim woman but on a faith that wont let them drive work be put to death for being raped and can be beaten by their male relatives.

  20. Look, Melissa, I’m a Muslim woman and I’m speaking! SMH

  21. Michael, please remember that Islam *does not* permit these abuses – patriarchy does. Muhammad’s wife used to work as a trader – she had a business. She was an independent businesswoman who paid Muhammad commission for work. While you read about Salafism, which prevails in Saudi, remember that there are billions of Muslims who enjoy a moderate and just way of life. I have never been better treated in my life than by my Iraqi huisband, who does housework, loves to cook and supports my work as a journalist.

  22. @ Michael Wadley, a faith that doesnt let them drive? You are a moron. Do you think the Qur’aan says “Women are prohibited from driving”?? You’re obfuscating religion and culture. That’s like saying Christianity permits prostitution because there are prostitutes like Rachel O’Kelley in the USA. Two birds, one stone.

  23. Islam does not oppress women, just like Christianity does not oppress women in the US. Totalitarian governments use Islam as an excuse, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually Muslim. There is nothing Islamic about oppression. Islam teaches that God hates oppression and stands on the side of the oppressed. Horrible things happen in the name of Islam, just like some people would say that the US wages a “holy war” in the name of Christianity in the Middle East. That doesn’t mean that Christianity is oppressive. Governments oppress. People oppress. Not religions.

    I’m a Muslim woman and I speak for myself. Thanks so much for this article.

  24. Dude, DO NOT confuse REGIONAL NORMZ AND IDEALZ WITH RELIGIOUS IDEALZ!!!!!!

  25. Let’s hear what these Muslim women say about Sharia Law….they may be practicing it…and if they don’t practice it…what do they think about it

  26. Michael Jarvis Stone
    Muslim women don’t have to wear hijab in front of their men.
    Melissa
    It’s like you WANT muslim women to be put down. You’re the crock.
    Michael
    Oh please. That’s Saudi Arabian idiocy at it’s finest. Muslim women are in fact allowed to work, get educated, and drive. Every other Muslim woman in the world does these things. Explain that.
    Jim Nuzzo
    Depends on the Sharia. First, sharia MEANS law, so saying shariah law makes people look funny. Anyway, the Shariah in the Middle East is waaaay off the laws in the Quran. This contemporary shariah we have now was created years after Muhammad died, waaay after the last Caliph (Ali) died.

  27. Michael Jarvis Stone
    Muslim women don’t have to wear hijab in front of their men.
    Melissa
    It’s like you WANT muslim women to be put down. You’re the crock.
    Michael
    Oh please. That’s Saudi Arabian idiocy at it’s finest. Muslim women are in fact allowed to work, get educated, and drive. Every other Muslim woman in the world does these things. Explain that.
    Jim Nuzzo
    Depends on the Sharia. First, sharia MEANS law, so saying shariah law makes people look funny. Anyway, the Shariah in the Middle East is waaaay off the laws in the Quran. This contemporary shariah we have now was created years after Muhammad died, waaay after the last Caliph (Ali) died.

  28. Uhh Jim, no one here is trying to instill Sharia law, seriously, you sheeple believe anything you see on TV. That so called Muslim Judge that dismissed the assault charge 1)wasnt Muslim 2) Dismissed the charges for a LACK OF EVIDENCE. The fact that you people are so afraid of sharia law subverting US Constitutional Law is hilarious. What do you care what we think about Sharia law anyway?? If we say we don’t want it, your ilk says “Don’t believe them they’re practicing Taqiyyah.” I never even paid attention to issues like Sharia and Taqiyyah until the Islamaphobes started crying about them.

  29. Uhh Jim, no one here is trying to instill Sharia law, seriously, you sheeple believe anything you see on TV. That so called Muslim Judge that dismissed the assault charge 1)wasnt Muslim 2) Dismissed the charges for a LACK OF EVIDENCE. The fact that you people are so afraid of sharia law subverting US Constitutional Law is hilarious. What do you care what we think about Sharia law anyway?? If we say we don’t want it, your ilk says “Don’t believe them they’re practicing Taqiyyah.” I never even paid attention to issues like Sharia and Taqiyyah until the Islamaphobes started crying about them.

  30. Can’t we all just get along? Sheesh.

  31. Check out theamericanmuslim.org. Folks there seem to definitely want separate sharia courts for muslims here.

    The judge misjudged, there was evidence, he just didn’t want to see it. Maybe the silly atheist had bad legal advice. It is worse than absurd to let people go scot free when they have assaulted someone, even mildly.

    Religious ideals are exactly that, ideals. It is clear to most of us that islamic scriptures can be interpreted to mean that it is ok to kill the rest of us, destroy our cultures, etc. The milktoast millions support the toothy murder boys to do that.

    Shall violence rule, or law? Or as long as it is islamic, does it even matter?

  32. Nice article. You go my Muslim sisters! Keep your faith in Allah strong! :-) (oh, and i’m not a Muslim, i’m a Sikh)..:-) ~There is ONE God.~

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