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In the Name of Honour: The Free Aafia Siddiqui Campaign in South Africa

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review, Society on July 23, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Earlier this year, South African Muslim media was abuzz with the story of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist who was convicted and sentenced to 86 years in prison for assault with intent to murder her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan. The media campaign served to raise awareness about Siddiqui’s alleged abuse at the hands of the U.S justice system, and to assert her complete innocence. Her story is a difficult one, spanning the vastness of two continents and the complexity of terrorism politics in both of these. This post is not meant to cover the Siddiqui case, or to make any judgement claims as to her innocence or guilt. I would like to add that I sincerely advocate for justice for Siddiqui, who has no doubt suffered tremendously – whatever her political inclinations.

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Book Review: Desperate in Dubai

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review, Society, Story on July 23, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Desperate in Dubai, a cheeky exposé novel based on the original blog written by Ameera al-Hakawati (a pseudonym), revolves around the lives of four women who live, love, and labour in the sparkling Gulf city of Dubai.

Cover of Desperate in Dubai.

I recently had the chance to catch up with al-Hakawati in Dubai, to chat about her book, her faith, and the politics of anonymous writing as a Muslim woman.

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South African Muslimahs Speak about Headscarves at Airports

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Society, South Africa on July 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Over the Christmas and New Year season, Quraysha Ismail Sooliman, South African Muslimah scholar and lecturer in Political Studies at the University of Pretoria, was on her way out of the country with her family. At Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, she and her daughters were stopped at passport control, and one of her daughters was asked to remove her headscarf in order to be properly identified. The same happened upon their return, when her second daughter was asked the same, both times in an abrupt and condescending tone.

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The Fight over South Africa’s Muslim Marriage Bill Rages on

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Society, South Africa on July 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Recently, the South African Justice Ministry opened the latest draft of the Muslim Marriages Bill (MMB) up for public comment and called for submissions on the bill’s contents.

Along with this came the media furor over the Muslim community’s reaction to the idea of the government recognizing Muslim marriages as Muslim marriages and providing legislation for Muslims according to both constitutional gender equality and the dynamism of fiqh. The point of this post is not to assess the Shar’iah compliance of the bill, but to highlight the voices in the media that have spoken out against blatant dismissal of the bill and called for critical engagement, especially since most of the issues deal with gender equality and women’s rights within marriages.

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They Don’t Have Prayer: the Media and Eid for Muslim Women in South Africa

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Sacred Space, South Africa on October 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch, Muslim Matters and Racialicious

Several weeks after Eid al Fitr and before Eid al Adha, it’s a good time to analyze the recent media embroglio about women and Eid prayers in South Africa. The ways in which South African Muslims interact with the media has changed drastically in the last few years with the rise of social media, and this has reflected itself especially in what has been called “the desktop gender jihad” (women using the internet to fight, lobby and advocate for their rights).

In the weeks following Eid al-Fitr, a group of South African women from different cities and affiliated with different groups put their heads together to make a statement: Women have the right to attend Eid prayers. Traditionally, South African Muslim women in the north have been barred from attending the prayers, as part of the dominant mindset of women as a source “temptation” and “distraction.” Muslims in the South, especially in the Cape, have always had women as part of their congregations. These differences are sometimes attributed to ethnicity and sometimes to madhab (school of law).

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Regressive Redemption in CII’s Ramadan Serial

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review on October 19, 2010 at 11:07 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch

Channel Islam International, often considered to be the “more progressive” Muslim community radio station in Johannesburg, is broadcasting a radio drama series for the month of Ramadan. The show is titled “Redemption Road,” and aims to be a representation of South African Indian Muslim society and its idiosyncrasies while reminding listeners to their often-forgotten purpose in life.

While the show does deal with important issues like wife neglect/abuse and teen problems, it is severely stereotypical of Muslim women in a number of aspects.

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The Stoning of Soraya M.: A Review

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review on October 19, 2010 at 11:04 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch

Before watching The Stoning of Soraya M., I had already formed an opinion of it as “objectifying” and “misrepresenting” Muslim women, as a reaction to a recent spate of “save the Muslim damsel in distress” media like that which surrounds the European burqa ban debacle. The movie, however, turned out to be powerful in its message; incredibly moving and certainly not a damsel in distress tale. Instead, it is about extraordinary womanhood and moral courage in the face of injustice.

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Pasha’s Perfection: Mother of the Believers

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review on October 19, 2010 at 11:01 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch

During Ramadan, my bedside novel happened to be Mother of the Believers by Kamran Pasha. It’s a work of fiction about the youngest and most beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Pasha has brought to life the story of A’isha, one of Islam’s most controversial and enigmatic characters. Only the right amount of poetic license, coupled with a lot of accuracy and consistency, can make historical fiction a success, asMother of the Believers is.


It is important to note that Muslims and non-Muslims alike dispute everything about A’isha: her age, her actions and even her intentions. I can only imagine the daunting task of putting together a story about her without offending anyone and yet remaining true to her legacy. Some have criticized Pasha for abiding too much by the book, especially with regard to A’isha’s age at the time of her marriage to the Prophet, which he depicted as the traditionally held nine years. In the preface of the novel, Pasha defends his position—one that I agree with—at length: we must face controversial issues within the Muslim community by creating dialogue about them. This is what will create real change about the image of Islam.

The book is a staggering 527 pages, and holds detailed insight into early Islamic life from the eyes of A’isha as an old woman. I particularly enjoyed the first person narrative. That Pasha gave A’isha her own voice is so refreshing in a world where the Muslim women is always spoken about, spoken to, and seldom heard. I am not sure if Pasha intended this, but by allowing A’isha to tell her own story, he has created a powerful image of an independent, fiery and outspoken woman.  I also feel he has honored the memory of A’isha by doing so (sentimental that I am).


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Veiled Voices: Inspiring Everyday Role Models

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review on October 19, 2010 at 10:59 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch

Veiled Voices is a documentary that profiles three influential women who are religious leaders, their families, and the communities they serve: Ghina Hammoud in Lebanon, Dr. Su’ad Saleh in Egypt, and Huda al-Habash in Syria. The film is produced and directed by Brigid Maher, who is an assistant professor and head of the New Media concentration in the Film and Media Arts Division of the School of Communication at American University.

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Babes in Toyland: Stratton’s Fantastick Muhajababes

In Muslim Women, Muslimah Media Watch, Review on October 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

Published at Muslimah Media Watch

When I first saw the book Muhajababes by Allegra Stratton in a bookshop in Beirut, I was intrigued enough to buy it. The cover boldly claims to have found, “the new Middle East–cool, sexy and devout”. I happily forked out the $14.

MuhajababesOn closer inspection however, the cover of the book is quite problematic (featured left). It features a woman with hot red lips in a black headscarf. The rest of her face has been blanked out, spelling only one thing: generalization. An alternate book cover (pictured below right) provides no respite. It’s possibly worse, with 36 multiples of the same blank face, headscarf and red lips. The end of one face’s headscarf marking the beginning of the another’s, as if all women who belong to this so-called group are extensions of each other and identical.  Whoever said, “don’t judge a book by its cover” was so wrong.




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