By Arsalan Iftikhar
Exclusive | The Crescent Post
May 10, 2011
Recently, The Crescent Post spoke with some of the American Muslim women highlighted in the new book, I Speak for Myself, which is a collection of 40 personal essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. It is a showcase of the true diversity found in American Islam.
The Crescent Post recently asked a diverse cross-section of the women featured in I Speak for Myself the following question:
“What is the one thing that you wanted people learn about Muslim women in I Speak For Myself?”
Here are some of their answers for The Crescent Post:
Sevim Sabriye Kalyoncu:
“I hope that through reading I Speak for Myself people will learn that women (and men) can still be American even when they recognize themselves as Muslim. Furthermore, readers should see that these American Muslim women come in all shapes and sizes. Some may dress more liberally, behave more openly, or maybe even refer to their religion less frequently than some other Muslim women do, but not only are they still Muslim, their religion is still an important part of who they are. Likewise, there are some women who are easily recognized by everyone as Muslim who are working to serve their country, this country, the United States of America.”
“Muslim women are a mosaic of personalities, cultures, and ethnicities. No one is like the other, but many of us can relate to one another. What unites is our faith, and even that has different meaning to each of us.”
Dr. Zahra Jamal
“As a feminist, social anthropologist, and Muslim American, I have long valued listening to the voices of others and seeking to understand them from their own perspective. We all make sense of and attribute meaning to our worlds in different ways; there is no one way to live, nor one way that is necessarily better than another.
I believe that all of humanity issues from the same Divine soul, and it is through our diverse expressions of living in this world that we can learn from one another and leave the world a better place. Shifting social and political circumstances have sometimes rendered me as ‘the other.’ Despite the occasional moments in which others have silenced, misread, or ignored certain aspects of my identity it is in the space of this volume that I speak for myself. It is through my contribution that I allow others to listen to my voice, as I have long listened to theirs. In so doing, I seek to highlight the very humanity that has been guaranteed to us by the Divine with the hope that in listening to one another, we can build a better future together.”
“Islam should not be confused with culture or society. Islam promotes peace, not oppression and violence.
Muslim Americans are simply Americans who happen to be Muslim. There is nothing in Islam that contradicts American values.
The hijab is not a political statement- it’s a personal decision, and an empowering one. And here in America, whether one chooses to wear it or not, the fact that it IS a choice is promoted by Islam. Islam states that you should do things for the right reasons, and if you are forced or coerced, it’s un-Islamic. The rights of women as Muslims are upheld by the freedoms given to them as citizens of this nation. No contradictions here.”
“There is so much focus on how we dress, from Saudi Arabia to France. Governments and people throughout the world are either desperate to save us from oppression or shelter us from corruption. It’s all too clear that we’re seen so superficially; we’re defined so simplistically. The media always seems so preoccupied with hijab as this image of what it means to be a Muslim woman. But there’s so much more to us than a layer of cloth. If there’s one thing I hope people take away from this book, it’s the understanding that Muslim women are not hiding in the shadows, we’re not afraid to make our voices heard or to stand up for ourselves. We’re active citizens of American society, who don’t act in compliance to any one way of life, whether it be the supposed liberating Western norms or the supposed conservative Islamic ones.”
“Look at us as who we are, not who you think we are. We are often talked about and even over, but here’s a chance to hear from us.
The point of this book isn’t to prove ourselves. I don’t want to just “shatter stereotypes” by showing others that we can be smart and talented; the statistics showing us as one of the most educated, accomplished groups in America, and even the world, speak for themselves. We can be intelligent, passionate, pretty, generous, high achieving– or not. But we all have a story worth sharing. We are not voiceless entities of nothingness. If that is all you think of when you meet a Muslim woman after reading this book, then we have accomplished something.”
Join the 40 ladies of I Speak for Myself in a dialogue at www.facebook.com/ispeakformyself