Posted in Non-Fiction

It’s Not About The Burqa – Edited by Mariam Khan

“We are not asking for permission any more. We are taking up space. We’ve listened to a lot of people talking about who Muslim women are without actually hearing Muslim women. So now, we are speaking. And now, it’s your turn to listen.”


Blurb: “In 2016, Mariam Khan read that David Cameron had linked the radicalization of Muslim men to the ‘traditional submissiveness’ of Muslim women. Mariam felt pretty sure she didn’t know a single Muslim woman who would describe herself that way. Why was she hearing about Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim, nor female? Years later the state of the national discourse has deteriorated even further, and Muslim women’s voices are still pushed to the fringes – the figures leading the discussion are white and male. Taking one of the most politicized and misused words associated with Muslim women and Islamophobia, It’s Not About the Burqa is poised to change all that.”

Disclaimer: Mariam Khan is a dear friend but this does not mean that I will not review this book honestly.

Trigger Warnings: emotional abuse, talks of anxiety and depression, islamaphobia.

In our current political climate, and the age of social media, it is impossible to escape the many “divisive” conversations circling in endless news cycles and talk shows. For some of us, people like me, we are able to to turn off the TV, delete our apps and take a break until we feel comfortable enough to recharge and return to them. But Muslim women do not have that privilege. A lot seems to be said about this group of women, and very rarely are they given the platform to speak for themselves.  Activist Mariam Khan decided that it was time for Muslim women to get a say and presents the book It’s Not About The Burqa which is a collection of essays from seventeen Muslim women (herself included) covering many topics for being a Queer Muslim woman, to marriage and divorce, to defying exceptions.

It is not my place to talk on behalf of these women or about their experiences in detail as I cannot relate to these as a white woman. Instead, just like my review of The Good Immigrant, I will share some of the essays that taught me a lot:

“Immodesty Is The Best Policy” by Coco Khan focuses on the modesty expectations for Muslim women. She shares stories about her strict aunt, and her cousin who had to give up dancing because it was seen as “parading herself in front of men.”

“On Representation Of Muslims” by Nafida Bahkar tackles the media representation and how its fine in context of cute Christmas ads and other commercialised aspects, but once those minorities use their voices to get change, they are cast aside. She shines a light on how representation in the media is not as important as dealing with everyday islamaphobia.

“Feminism Needs To Die” by Mariam Khan focuses on the idea of White Feminism (feminism geared more towards issues such as gender pay which has become the overall “known feminism) and how it hurts minorities: that in order for things to change feminism needs to become a more intersectional place for all women.

“Eight Notifications” by Salma Haidrani handles social media when being a journalist and how she had an eight notification rule which caused her much anxiety. If she posted a new article and received eight notifications on Twitter, she knew that it was probably people sending her vitriol.

These are just a handful of the stories that can be found in this collection; many of which will resonate more with other readers than they did with me. But as Mariam Khan says in the introduction: “It’s Not About The Burqa brings together Muslim women’s voices. It does not represent the experiences of every Muslim woman or claim to cover every single issue faced by Muslim women. It’s not possible to create that book. But this book is a start, a movement: we Muslim women are reclaiming our identity.” 

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A proud Hufflepuff who talks about books and also tries to write them.

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