The media seems to know, all types of books from novels, to academic books claim to know...in fact, now that I think of it, it seems everyone these days knows what’s it like to be a Muslim woman!
We’ve heard it all, all the opinions, the theories, discussions and discourses, the comments about Muslim women. What we don’t hear often enough though is what a Muslim woman thinks it’s like to be a Muslim woman. Ironic, isn’t it?
It can become extremely frustrating listening to these people. I can’t help thinking, ‘Oh gosh! Not another person who doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to be a Muslim woman, talking about Muslim woman’. I mean, seriously, could you imagine what it would be like if I went around talking about, I don’t know, say, what it’s like to be a European male, when I have absolutely no idea what it’s like at all. It would be ridiculous right? People would question what makes me an expert in the field and they would undoubtedly argue that I cannot possibly know what it’s like to be a European male.
So why the double standard when it comes to talking about Muslim women?
Yes, sure it can be argued that research has been done on the issue and thus people are given leeway to talk. I have to agree that there is some research that is accurate, but surely every person talking about Muslim woman today has not taken the time to make an intense inquiry and rigorous examination into this topic before talking about it. It would be impossible for every person to do this given the fact that it’s extremely time consuming, costs quite a bit of money and requires the proper expertise.
So, does the saleslady in the shop who had to mention to my sister how sorry she feels for Muslim women wearing the headscarf, all the while abusing the word “shame”, qualify to make statements about us? Or, do the group of men who had to comment on my friends complete Islamic attire as we walked passed them in the shopping centre qualify to make statements about us? Have these people dedicated time to learning about the lives of Muslim women by spending time with us, or have they even just bothered to ask us our opinion? I think not!
So, what’s it really like to be a Muslim woman? Well, for starters, it’s really frustrating that we have to hear everyone and anyone talking about us like they’re experts in the field. What’s more frustrating is that they’ve got it all wrong! And it’s irritating that they hardly ever come to us to ask us what we think or how we feel, instead they’ve just taken it upon themselves to “liberate” us, when we don’t even want the “liberation” they’re offering. And, while we have come to love the way we dress because this makes us feel closer to our Creator, they’ve decided to take up issue with it, expecting it to be natural for us to want to shed the clothing that we’ve come to love. And what’s worse is that even when we try to speak to them, when we try to show them that we are educated and intelligent and perfectly capable of engaging in conversation with them, they turn their backs on us, and hear only what they want to!
So, I think it’s time we speak for ourselves, and so I’m saying with absolute conviction (and I promise you, no male oppressor is holding a gun to my head forcing me to say positive things about being Muslim), - so on my own accord I’m stating that I absolutely love being a Muslim woman! I love the clothes I have chosen to wear and when I go out in the street it makes me feel good to know that I don’t have to bother about males staring at me in the wrong way. I love the headscarf covering my hair, and I enjoy choosing which colour I’m going to wear with which outfit. I love that my religion, Islam, has afforded me enough respect and honour to insist that I be treated as a human being, and not an object of male desire. I love that people address me with respect, Muslims as their sister and non-Muslims as a virtuous woman. I love that I don’t have to go out and work because the males in my family know that it’s their duty to provide for me; at the same time, I love that I can go out and work because as a Muslim woman I am respectful of myself and others and I will thus behave in a fitting manner. I love that as a Muslim I am encouraged to gain knowledge in all areas as far as I possibly can. There are many things that I love about being a Muslim woman, but the thing I love the most is that owning up to my identity as a Muslim woman has brought me closer to my Creator, and in that way I am beginning to learn what true love is all about.