“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.”
It’s Not About the Burqa was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and it did not disappoint. One idea that comes up again and again in this anthology of essays by Muslim British women is the idea of superficial representation. Muslim women are being embraced by advertisers everywhere these days, but they are only welcome insomuch as they tap a new market for revenue. But as soon as one of these women wants to express an opinion—about global justice or racism or life—she is no longer welcome. This anthology pushes back against that kind of representation, and in it, seventeen women stand up and speak their truth.
Another idea that frequently comes up is that there is no single accurate representation of what a Muslim woman is: there are as many accurate representations of Muslim women as there are Muslim women to share their lived experiences. And this anthology reflects some of that variety, both in terms of the writers’ experiences with Islam and the subjects they write about. These women write about wearing hijab, the stigma around divorce, the need for open and honest conversations about sex and female pleasure, the importance of registering marriages legally, anti-blackness in Muslim communities, and mental health.
Personally, I found most interesting the essays that talked about the fake representation Muslim women are often offered these days and the White brand of feminism that supports all women, until they’re brown, black, hijabi, niqabi, or otherwise nonconforming.
I was also glad to see several women addressing the rock and a hard place that many sisters find themselves stuck between when they call out misogynists in their own communities but find themselves playing into the hands of Islamophobes on the outside.
It’s Not About the Burqa calls out and shuts down a media establishment that has reduced the existence of Muslim women to various pieces of clothing. I highly recommend this book of strong writing by strong women for everyone. Whether you’re reading to recognize something of yourself or to learn about a new issue, or whether you’re eager to hear from the women you’ve heard so much about already, this book will not disappoint.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐