Thousand And One Nights

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Posted April 1, 2020 from United Kingdom
Thousand And One Nights

 

 

I was searching for some images online, for an article on Muslim Women. It came as no surprise for me that I could not find a proper image. Instead, hundreds of pictures of burka-clad women covered in black from head to toe flooded in.

Black burka-clad woman of no identity is the famous stereotypical image attributed to Muslim women.

You are labelled and judged even before you articulate a word.

The ‘otherness’, and ‘alienation’ generally Muslims and particularly Muslim women feel is so intense and on the increase by leaps and bounds The term ‘Africa’, generates a notion of an uncivilised, illiterate and poverty-stricken cluster of people. The greatest misconception about Africa is that it is one country and Africans share a Homogenous Culture.

Likewise, the expression ‘Muslim Women’ is often correlated to tags such as oppressed, subjugated and behind the times. Muslim women are not a homogenous, fixed group which can be boxed in. Muslim women like all women, have diverse identities derived from diverse backgrounds, holding different values and views.

“Do not trust elitist versions of history and science which respond to dominant interests, but be receptive to counter-narratives and try to recapture them,” says Orlando Fals Borda, a renowned sociologist who developed a research methodology known as participatory action research.

Media and literary representations do not do justice to the diversity, uniqueness and complexity of Muslim women.

Aftermath of 9/11 and the USA’s War against terrorism, framing of Muslims in mainstream media drastically changed resulting in a change in people’s attitudes towards them. Feelings of alienation and otherness have increased within the Muslim community tremendously.

Sexism is widely prevalent in Muslim society like in any patriarchal society in the world. There is no denial in that. However, Western popular culture paints Muslim women with broad strokes; they are projected as either the victims or the rebels fighting against victimisation. But in reality, Muslim women are faced with two challenges

1. The Struggle within their own communities against sexism 2. The battle against so-called saviours who are prejudiced and ready to go to any heights to liberate and save Muslim women from oppression.

“Power exists as long as the group stays together against the “others”… Exercising power over other people affects them, through action or inaction…whether or not those who exercise power are aware of the success or consequences of their practices and whether or not the other party is aware of the power being exercised over him or her. ” Professor Philomena Essed says.

In a world order where Muslims are increasingly classified as the ‘other’, there is no wonder, the identity and the distinctiveness of Muslim women has no name.

Though religion is a static component which unites all the Muslims around the world, they live in diverse cultural settings, speak different languages, follow distinctive lifestyles.

Many people, may bracket together Islam with the Middle East, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region. The fact is more Muslims live in India and Pakistan than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region.

Cultural groups across the world have distinct models, and we tend to measure every society against the western models of culture and identity. Middle East, East Asia, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America, each of the regions, have unique localised models of cultural behaviour and artefacts.

Our cultures differ, the nuances and the unmentionable sensitivities vary.

However, the grand narrative portrays Muslim women as the oppressed vulnerable group. Replacing the grand, universal narratives with small, local narratives is very important. The social transformations in Muslim societies must begin within. They should be given the opportunity to interpret themselves, without having to be represented by the West.

I was amazed to realise that for many Westerners, Scheherezade was considered a lovely but simple-minded entertainer someone who relates innocuous tales and dresses fabulously. In our part of the world, Scheherezade is perceived as a courageous heroine and is one of our rare female mythological figures. 

-Fatema Mernissi

You all might have heard about the beautiful Thousand And One Nights stories. Sheherazade was an intelligent woman who used stories to change the mind of the king, to save her life as well as the thousands of other women.

Muslim women also possess such thousand and one micro-narratives instead of one grand narrative.

 

 25 July 2018

 

 

Comments 15

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paiges
Apr 02
Apr 02

I love this piece! You make great points, and I hope a lot of people read this and start to look beyond stereotypical portrayals and explore different narratives.

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 02
Apr 02

Thank you Paiges, true we tend to overlook alternative stories.

Jill Langhus
Apr 03
Apr 03

Hello Shameela,

Thanks for sharing your powerful post, for educating us, and also for encouraging more open-minded thinking, too. You have a very strong voice. I hope you keep using it:-)

Hope you and your family are well!

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 03
Apr 03

Jill Langhus,
Thank you very much for all the support.
We all together will raise our voice!

Jill Langhus
Apr 03
Apr 03

You're very welcome, dear. Indeed!!

XX

Hello, Shameela,

I was born and raised in the second largest island in the Philippines where a lot of Muslims live. I can attest that there are diverse Muslim tribes and culture.

Muslim women wear colorful cloths. The Maranao Muslim tribe is known for their artistic and sophisticated cultural dance that we love to watch.

In the city I grew up, Muslims, Christians, and Indigenous Peoples thrive harmoniously well. I hope the whole world will do, too. :)

Thanks for sharing! I love your photo!

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 03
Apr 03

Thank you, Karen,
Indeed we live in a diverse world. If we learn to be more open and tolerant everything will appear in a different perspective.
I love to know more about your culture and The Maranao Muslim tribe. Why do not you write an article for our magazine?

Anita Shrestha
Apr 08
Apr 08

good

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 21
Apr 21

Thank you!

anita shrestha
Apr 14
Apr 14

Happy new year

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 21
Apr 21

Same to you Anita

Thelma obani 2020
Apr 15
Apr 15

Great points dear.. I see you changing the narrative, please continue.. ❤❤❤

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 21
Apr 21

Thank you, Thelma ❤️

sarah_2
Apr 15
Apr 15

Hi Shameela,
Thanks for sharing and throwing more light.I believe from now on,many of us will begin to have a different mind set on Muslim women.
Love-kisses-hugs

Shameela Yoosuf Ali
Apr 21
Apr 21

Thank you, Sara,
That is the whole purpose of this article.
❤️