“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 135]

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The Brown Hijabi:
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a 22 year old Muslim woman and third-generation Pakistani in the UK. Born in Bradford, raised and state-schooled in Leeds, graduated from a history degree at Cambridge University, studying Postcolonial Studies at SOAS 2016-2017.

She writes and speaks about politics, race, gender, feminism, Islam, being visibly Muslim, Eurocentric academia, decolonising minds/bodies and more. The aim of this blog is to create space. Space for her voice and space to be able to think.

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Contact:
In relation to writing, speaking, performing poetry, workshops or other use the following:
Twitter: @thebrownhijabi.
Email: brownhijabichronicles@gmail.com.

Compensation:
Suhaiymah is a student on full scholarship. If her work has been enjoyable, validating or educative to you then please consider compensating her labours through this link. All contributions can be made anonymously.

Women of colour often bear the burden of doing undervalued and unpaid labour.

Featured elsewhere:
Articles:
– Fly Girls of Cambridge blog, https://flygirlsofcambridge.com/.
– The Independent, ‘Burkini Ban’ article, 24/08/2016.
– The Cambridge Student, ‘Taste of Ramadan’, 5 week column, 2014.
– sister-hood, ‘Nothing ‘neutral’ about the hijab ban’, 28/03/2017.

Radio/Podcast:
– Wandsworth Radio, ‘She Speaks with Katy Davis’, 11/12/2016.
– BBC Asian Network, ‘Soch of the Week’, from 2:15:00, 19/1/2017.
– BBC Asian Network, ‘Reports’, from 05:42, 11/5/2017.
– SASSchat Podcast, ‘Cultural Appropriation’, 06/2017.
– BBC Asian Network, ‘Poet Suhaiymah…’, 10/07/2017.
– Muslim Vibe Podcast, ‘Female Muslim Empowerment’, 10/07/2017.
– Khidr Collective, ‘Launch Night Video’, 14/07/2017.
– Middle East Eye, ‘Poet Suhaiymah…’, 17/07/2017.
– BBC Radio 4, ‘The World Tonight’, from 41:45, 17/07/2017.

Poems:
This is Not A Humanising Poem, Roundhouse Poetry Slam, 2017.
Becharay, Khidr Collective Launch, July 2017.

***

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood
… we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence
…I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself.
My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.
…And that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength. Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.”
Audre Lorde

10 thoughts on “

  1. I wish you would consider the fact that not all critique of Islam is Islamophobic. You call for nuance in the representation of Muslim women in the media, yet you will dismiss any sort of negative reaction to Islam as racist or bigoted. As a Muslim woman myself, born in a predominantly Muslim country, I have been fighting for the rights of those sisters who are genuinely oppressed for eleven years; yet my counterparts living in the freer Western world deny my voice. You deny that there can be any space for thoughtful, nuanced criticism of Islam; if I anonymously published an article about my painful experiences and my thoughts on our faith’s attitude of women, I would be denounced as Islamophobic. The world is losing its freedom of speech and its freedom of thought. Amongst the liberal and the educated, Islam is now sacred, untouchable territory where to make any kind of critique is to be phobic or bigoted. Where is our agency to examine an ideology, free of prejudice, and formulate a thoughtful opinion?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there Serena, I am confused as to how you’ve come to this conclusion about my thoughts. This is actually the very opposite of what I believe and I have been at the forefront of critiquing Islamic ideology and misogynistic, homophobic and racist interpretations of Islam at my University – through workshops and talks WITH other Muslims and the Islamic Society. Admittedly these are topics I probably spend more time talking to fellow Muslims about rather than writing about here on my blog but that is primarily because of the audience my blog receives as compared to the audience I would choose to discuss the nuancing of Islamic narratives with. If you have got the impression that I view any critique of Islam as Islamaphobic it may simply be because of the different contexts in which we live and write. Writing in a predominantly non-Muslim country and society most critiques of Islam from NON-MUSLIMS are, in my experience, barely-disguised orientalist and prejudiced attacks of Islam under the guise of liberal politics. However, I take critiques of Islam from other MUSLIMS much much more seriously – as I myself am one who critiques too… I wonder which of my blog posts you have read that has given you this opinion and I ask that you read it from the perspective of a Muslim in a country where one is often defensive of Islam in public domains because whilst I wish to critique Islam and question Muslim practices regarding many things, I also wish I had the space to do so without attracting Islamaphobes who would just want to jump on board.

      Your work fighting for the rights of Muslim women is incredibly important and I am sorry if you think that I would deny you a voice. Instead perhaps you can understand that we are fighting different but simultaneous battles in different contexts. Any and every criticism you have about Muslim people’s attitudes to women is valid from your experience, just as my defensiveness against Islamaphobia and preference to take my critiques of Islam to OTHER MUSLIMS first and foremost is valid from my experience. I agree that some people would denounce your painful experiences as Islamaphobic, but that would be to ignore your context and to completely invalidate you. Whilst my context may be much more privileged perhaps you can see how perceiving me as unnuanced and blind to critique of Islam is to ignore my context and experience too.

      On your final point on where is our agency to examine an ideology free of prejudice, I agree. I too feel confined and too vulnerable – though in a different way – to publicise my anger and grief at the practices of other Muslims that I often harbour. Though I have often discussed and debated with fellow Muslims perhaps I could consider moving beyond face-to-face talking and instead to writing, though I would have to think about the benefits and disadvantages of this and make sure it was read by those I most want to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear TBH,

        Thank you for replying so civilly. I understand what you mean. I wrote to you in a moment of frustration when NGOs aimed at the liberation of women like me are leaving, scared of controversy, because the label ‘Islamophobia’ has led non-Muslims to stop intervening even in cases when we Muslim women genuinely need help. I cannot reveal too many details about my situation, but Western men and women have helped me and women I know for many years. I have valued their help without discrediting it because of their whiteness….we have shared the same judgements about the oppressive aspects of Islam. Now, however, Western aid and support for genuinely oppressed Muslim women is dwindling because of the fear of being labelled Islamophobic. I am frustrated that the space to critique Islam, regardless of one’s skin color, is vanishing. I am well aware of the impact of colonialism and the ugly prejudice of the West, as you describe, and I understand that you must be seeing the effects of Orientalist stereotypes on a daily basis. But as you pointed out, our contexts are just different. Because I have experienced great restriction, I predominantly feel gratitude for help, whether it comes from a Muslim or a non-Muslim, because beggars cannot be choosers. I am also concerned that the voices of Muslim women in primarily Muslim countries are becoming ever fainter when relatively free and privileged sisters in the West depict Islam as empowering for women, or dismiss claims that Islam is oppressive as ‘racist’. I understand that a sister raised in the West in a liberal household can celebrate her faith and still get a good education and live with dignity and respect. But for me, I spent my formative years watching men exploit every misogynistic word of the Koran to chain me. I have experienced what it means for Islam to enslave a woman. I am nothing but thankful to the Westerners who have eased my pain a little – academic discourse about white savior mentality does matter, but so does the sheer joy of help and aid when it is sincerely given. I only want to offer an alternate perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi again Serena,

        I completely believe you that plenty of white people have been essential to helping you in your situation and I don’t believe their whiteness discredits that either. If they understand and they help they’re doing more than anyone else. I have no qualms about non-Muslims helping Muslims at all and indeed the world I want to live in is one where they do.

        I wonder about Western aid dwindling because of fear of being labelled Islamaphobic. If that is what you know then I do not question it, but I just wonder how much power being labelled Islamaphobic has. It doesn’t seem to deter governments in the West from pursuing policies that marginalise and criminalise their Muslim populations, or from Islamaphobic rhetoric continuing. So I just wonder how much influence that is having on Western aid and whether there is not something more going on, though I do not know the situation myself.

        I do agree with you that the voices of Muslim women in Muslim countries are rarely amplified in the West. I, with more privilege, have a larger platform and people will hear me and perhaps assume my context and my beliefs stand for all of us. I agree with you that this is unjust and I cannot in any way know your pain or your struggle. Your condemnation of such misogyny and misogynistic exploitation of the Quran is obviously entirely legitimate and I welcome your perspective. I know you obviously can’t say much but if there’s some way in which I could help, or an organisation for which I could help raise funds I would be more than happy to.

        I think there is a feeling in the West increasingly that the plight of people far from us is not one we can do much about. But if I can elevate your voice – if you wanted to write something I could post it on here? Or if I can materially help by helping raise funds or resources I would sincerely like to. Just let me know.

        I know my story is only one and I do not pretend to speak for all Muslim women. Perhaps I can use my privilege to help. Honestly, let me know.

        Like

  2. Thank you so much for such a compassionate and understanding response TBH. I truly appreciate your efforts to understand my perspective. I am glad these comments are public so that everyone can see your true commitment to an open-minded, nuanced and thoughtful outlook. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there,

      I honestly can’t get into this because I’m sorry but that article is terrible. Wildly selective, reductive, ahistorical and ideological.

      My quickfire response:
      1- most of America’s security issues come from its own citizens living IN America and its gun laws.
      2- ‘Islamic terrorism’ doesn’t mean anything. Break that down. Do you recognise that American terrorism is a real thing that exists and sees real lives bombed and droned and attacked every single day? If you do then how might you address that? Might you consider an end to war? An end to state violence? A state which treats its own citizens and the citizens of other countries with dignity and rights?
      3- Immigrants from “Islamic countries” haven’t been the biggest security threats in the USA. Immigrants are being scapegoated. Its American-born citizens.
      4- ??
      5- So the fact of being born in Iran determines the life you lead? Might citizens of a country whose leader regularly condones Islamophobia, anti-black racism and violent misogyny present a larger number of questions for America than, say, refugees fleeing places that America is actively involved in bombing or has funded the weapons of war for?
      6- Ask the original colonial invaders who settled on native land? I’m pretty sure they believed they had a right to live there. Who might be given priority? Probably not the colonial war-mongering invaders…
      7- Are some lives more worth saving than others? Who gets to decide which lives are worth saving and which people should face persecution and terror? If your own government is the cause of asylum seekers you need to step up your game. I don’t understand why you need to “deal” with these people at all.
      8- It’s not a fascinating question at all. What are you really trying to ask?
      9- There are no “types” of Muslims. Tell me at which point of the day I’m radical, which point I’m conservative and which point I’m liberal? When your government and media paint ALL Muslims as potential threats there IS no way to distinguish them and therefore no vetting that is not ideological. You don’t racialise a group of people and then determine which are most palatable to you and which aren’t based on which places of origin you’re bombing and which you’re not.

      Terrible terrible article. I strongly advise you to tell your ‘friend’ to think a lot harder and deeper before sharing such ill-thought out garbage with you. x

      Like

    1. I consider critiques (about Islam or anything else) which are informed, contextualised, historicised and nuanced and when a person has acknowledged their own positionality.

      Like

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