Aaisha’s Ramadan diaries: On Muslim women, samoosas, and “breaking stereotypes”

    Day 20: This one is going to be a bit of a rant.

    I am SO TIRED of the way Muslim women continually are represented, by themselves, and others, as though they are only capable of writing/talking about things like samoosas, marriage, baking, and childcare. And I am SO TIRED of the way this is considered to be a norm, while doing anything else is considered to be breaking out of the mound or worse, “challenging stereotypes”. Turn on Muslim community radio stations, or, page through a community magazine, and references to women, are related to the kitchen, conflict between mothers and daughters in law, women looking for spouses, and then mothering. There is a refusal to see women as something in themselves.

    To be clear, the idea of a “Muslim woman” is NOT a homogenous concept.

    “The Muslim woman” is not just a brown-skinned, headscarf-clad female. This may seem unnecessary to say, but too often – especially in a South African context – the term “Muslim” gets racialised to mean “Indian”. An issue I often find myself grappling with is the ways that communities of colour – and particularly my own community – internalise white, mainstream media narratives to construct insecurity around who and what we already may be.

    As a media studies scholar, I know what I’m talking about when I say this.

    And I’ve got plenty of life experience to back myself up here.

    Forget the White media narratives of Muslim women being oppressed. Why do we continue to put ourselves into boxes and only consider ourselves capable of certain things? And WHEN are we ourselves going to break away from this trap of “breaking stereotypes” when we do anything else that other people would consider normal? Is Muslimness a disability that when Muslims compete in sport or have fashion lines, they have to be considered as people “breaking stereotypes”?

    I have said this before and I will say this until oblivion: Muslim women, whoever and whatever you are, YOU are not a space to fight someone else’s bigotry. Whatever your space is – whether it’s your body and what you choose or do not choose to wear, or the things that you choose or do not choose to write about – YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING TO ANYONE. YOU’RE DOING JUST FINE AS YOU ARE, THANKS.

    If people cannot accept that Muslims are people who can do ordinary things like anyone else, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO SHOW THEM THAT YOU CAN.

    Muslim women, you are bold and fierce and enough as you are. Nobody needs to validate you.