Aye Write 2019: ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’ Mariam Khan, Amna Saleem’ review Mary Irvine

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Aye Write Festival 2019  3 p.m. Sunday, 17th March, Mitchell library

It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race – Mariam Khan, Amna Saleem

When, in 2016, Mariam Khan read David Cameron’s comment that linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the ‘traditional submissiveness’ of Muslim women, she felt she should do something about this commonly held, and frequently misunderstood, belief about the rôle of Muslim women.   In particular Mariam was talking about British/Western Muslim women. She did acknowledge there would be a different narrative in different cultures and she did, if I understood correctly, differentiate between culture and religion.  Believing that these women should respond to Cameron’s assertion she invited some of them to produce a written reply. The result was ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’ a book of 17 essays which Mariam edited. The essays were chosen to cover diverse types and woven together in this anthology. These are women addressing problems of modern day society, relating their own experiences and voicing opinions as people. She took pains to point out that not all the essays started from the same stance but felt the book was the beginning of a movement.

At Aye Write Mariam read the introduction of the book to set the context for the discussion. She was supported by Amna Saleem, writer and broadcaster, who read from her essay, ‘Shame, shame, it knows no name.’

‘Now we are speaking, it is your place to listen.’

The discussion left anyone listening with much to consider. And what can I, as a person, do about the situation? Two facts stood out, it is a majority of white men who lead this discussion re the role of Muslim women and mostly white middle-class women in the MeToo movement. Above all the message for me was treat each person as a person first and foremost. All the rest comes later. 

Asked whether she thought the book would spark any change Mariam replied there was a lot of support. Already positive results were leading to questions being asked. It’s a start…

Mary Irvine, March, 2019

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This section: Aye Write Book Festival 2019, Book and Event Reviews, Books, Talks, Poetry Events, Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene

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