“All my life I have been interested in women’s lives. I use my work in education, literature, and my writing as a platform to promote a better understanding about women’s lives. My endeavour is to combat the negative images that are often hogging news headlines about Muslim women for example. I often get fed up with stereotyped myths about them. In my novel The Holy Woman I explore the issue of the ‘hijab’, the veil, forever a topic of fascination in the western world and often seen as a tool of oppression. In reality, I can assure you,thousands of Muslim women are wearing it as a symbol of freedom – freedom from vanity.
Over the last few years I have interviewed over 100 Muslim women in five countries; in India, Indonesia, UK, Singapore & Pakistan on a number of topics. What I learnt was this; that each woman is unique and is a product of her world; home, generation, class, education background and social environment, in which she has been raised in. And I can assure you that after taping 35 hours of recording of interviews I have found – no Muslim woman fits into any ‘generic box’.”
These are some of my thoughts on what delights and dismays me about all women and their lives around the world.
It delights me;
-when I hear a woman has achieved academic success, gained a phd degree for example- what an achievement!
-when I see a women who missed out on education in her childhood take up learning for the first time as an adult
-when I see a woman successfully write her name for the first time, and see that look of achievement on her face
-when women are successfully managing different aspect of their lives, work and their roles as mothers and wives and daughter in laws..
-when I hear a woman has entered the world of work, in a field or vocation that she wants. Whether to sew at home or work as an engineer outside.
-when I hear of women entering non traditional professions as scientists, engineers, architects, pilots etc
-when I am enjoying myself in the company of other women, who share their lives experiences, and support and empower each other.
-when I see women in the media, as TV anchors, journalists, influencing thoughts, views, ideas, fighting for women’s rights and presenting positive messages about them..
-when I know that a woman has the right to choose her own partner, whether by falling in love or through an arranged marriage. It’s her choice and right as a human being.
-when a woman in full confidence has the freedom to walk out of her home and out on the streets with out any fear of harassment or having to be accompanied by a male relative.
-when women reach the top level in their profession and make a difference to other people’s lives and provide excellent role models and inspire other women.
-that girls and young women have access to good education in their local schools, colleges and universities
-that adults including women take up learning in later life, whether to upskill their maths or learn how to use a computer. For learning is for life!
-when I see women juggling different roles successfully.are respected and actively supported by their families and spouses.
-to see women as politicians and therefore having the power to make decisions at a national level and local level and be able to fight for women’s rights.
-when women assertively, without fear of reprisal stand up for their own rights and those of other women.
-to see women as mothers, sisters, and daughters providing positive role models for their daughters & children and sisters. My mother imparted so much knowledge and wisdom to me including about maintaining human relationships and cooking.
-when women of different faiths, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs promote messages of peace and harmony and respect for other faiths publically and to their children and challenge hatred of any sort..
-To see women in sport and taking active part in events in national and international sports events.
-when I hear that 80% of post-graduate students are women for example in the University of Gujrat in Pakistan.
-when I see women driving around on their motorcycles to work and everyday business in Indonesia.
It still dismays me
– when I see women become victims of abuse for their clothing, Muslim women for wearing the scarf Hijab in Europe & America
-when women remain silent in their homes and let others decide for them, in all matters relating to their lives and families
-when I hear of cases of women being raped in countries around the world, and through shame they suffer in silence, as Kaniz in my novel Typhoon.
-when I hear of horrific cases of acid attacks on women, such a beastly act!
-when I hear of women being physically,verbally and psycologically abused and bullied either by their spouses, in laws, children, workmates or friends.
-when a woman is forced to marry some one she does not want to and silently accepts the decision of her family
-when I hear of cases of Muslim women become victims of threats and actual triple talak, immediate divorce by their husbands when it’s totally against the teachings of their faith, Islam
-when people make stereotyped assessment about women by the way they are dressed as explored in my famous story- A pair of jeans.
-when women are deliberately belittled by their husbands, mother in laws or their own chauvinist sons.
-when women politicians fail to act for the best interest of other women and regard other women as rivals
-to see Muslim women constantly being stereotyped in the media as being opressed and suppressed.
-that I have to constantly debunk myths about the realites of Muslim women’s lives. I do so through my research to show that no woman including Muslim woman fits into any ‘generic box’.
-when I hear terrible cases of burning of women and brides in India for dowry matters.
-when I hear of honour killings of innocent women around the world and how society and family choose to remain silent.
-when I know that young girls like Malala was in Pakistan were prevented by the Talibans from gaining education.
-to know that education is not widely available to thousands of girls in devleping countries because there are no nearby schools.
-young girls are preyed upon and groomed for sex, including by male relatives and they suffer in silence
-how poverty makes women’s lives so miserable, constantly worried about feeding their children and about their welfare.
-when women’s lives are firmly controlled by their fathers, husbands, grandfathers, brothers and sons and all the decision making is taken by the men as by the father in my novel The Holy Woman
We need to continue to support and empower those women who are not so fortunate. It gives me great pleasure knowing that women lives compared to our grandmothers’ days are far healthier, wealthier and far better in every way. Lets celebrate that girls!!.