Published in 2019, ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’ is a collection of essays about feminism, queer identity, Islamophobia, and stereotypes—all written by Muslim women and compiled by the author, Mariam Khan. The book talks about issues faced by women which aren’t represented in media and headlines and gives women a chance to speak for themselves.
Muslim voices are neglected and shunned time and again, and their problems are instead debated upon by men who are often white and heterosexual.
Many European countries, including Austria, France, and Germany, passed laws that banned women from wearing a face veil in public. Mona Eltahawy writes “To be a Muslim Woman in the so-called West, where Muslims live as a minority, often beleaguered and subjected to the violence of racism and bigotry, is to stand in the middle point of a see-saw, engaged in a perilous balancing act of telling the rock of Islamophobes and the hard place of the community to f*ck off, all the while trying not to fall off”. The book also talks about misused terminology and redefines religion and love for the hijab.
As females living in a contemporary world, we are expected to take care of our households, and be good daughters, wives, and mothers, even if that is far from our dreams and aspirations. Coco Khan talks about her mother’s friend’s daughter, Afia, who was an incredible dancer and had the opportunity to become a professional, but after hitting puberty, her body underwent changes and she was no longer allowed to dance. “Imagine if she was allowed to be seen, to take up space, and exist in her full capacity. Imagine if all women could do that,” writes Coco. Afia’s dreams were crushed all because the modesty of a woman is all anyone obsesses about.
Mona also recounts a critic who wrote about her, saying that she is “too loud, swears too much and goes too far”, and that is pretty much what everyone assumes about a woman who is independent and confident enough to speak her mind. The patriarchal society expects women to be ‘much less’ rather than ‘too much, and to be modest and polite. It demands that all women should stay within their limits and be tamed.
It troubles misogynists more than anything to see a woman speak about her issues, about her own experiences. ‘It’s Not About the Burqa’ gives representation to Muslim women of colour, and they explain what it is like to be a Muslim living in the West through essays which are funny yet angry.