Archive by Category "representation of Muslims"

Why the Media should deal With ‘Humans as Humans’

The media has generally caricatured Muslim women as meek, passive, oppressed and in need of liberation. This formed a cluster of stereotypes that are a hallmark of our generation. Nevertheless, much of this has changed recently. However, the change, in my opinion, has not been completely positive. We are seeing Muslim women, with hijab, on ads and even on TV shows (including the newsroom). Yet, much of this has been a shift from stereotyping to playing identity politics. The complexity of the issue surrounding Muslim women intersects with issues of religion, politics and their interaction in everyday civil society.

What overshadows some of the positive aspects of the portrayal of women in general, and Muslim women in specific is the constant need for justification. Muslim women always need to prove themselves, whether in a Nike advert to show themselves as active or to participate and break some ceiling of what is expected of them. This does not help solve the problem of their representation but exacerbates the problems. This is a natural process of globalisation that seems to rob women in general of their sense of autonomy. To conform to some global outlook that is dictated by a given company. The narrative of everyday women of faith (Muslim in this case) is ignored. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind how much we have moved on in the discourse from misguided representation to a place where we can discuss this as an issue rather than deny its existence.

There are also economic aspects and the much ignored colonial gaze that seems to still be present in how Muslim women are portrayed. 2017 was a tragic year in terms of the abhorrent attacks taking place across the world, both from terrorists and institutional state based wars. At the forefront of these events are the slow but certain rise of the far-right (as seen from the recent elections in Germany) and the normalisation of violent rhetoric from many groups. With the Burka ban in Austria, we can see how fear of the ‘other’ is building. Yet, in all this, we don’t have a space in which true expression of grievances can take place, for all sides.

The media, unknowingly or knowingly, is engineering a clash by not dealing with humans as humans, but seeing them through the lens of identities. Muslim women are the new frontier for exploration and patronising activism that lacks touch with the reality of individual life. We are not victims, we don’t wish to be victims nor do we appreciate being turned into victims. We wish to be portrayed as we are in our daily lives; we are not exotic beings who need to be discovered. If we wish to break the pattern of self-righteous rhetoric, then an appropriate structure and framework for dialogue need to be constructed. An environment in which we solve our problems through knowledge, acknowledgement and progressive dialogue. That is, to be simply human beyond all other labels.

My Mother, My Role Model

I am often asked whether I have a female British Muslim role model. My mother is a British Muslim and happens to be my role model. She’s inspired me to be a strong and motivated. I’ve also drawn a lot of strength and good values from her and I’m probably not wrong here when I say that most Muslim girls will talk about their mother this way.  But when considering whether or not I have a role model who exists in the public sphere, and in sectors of which I have always had a personal interest in i.e. politics I sadly have to say that I did not have one growing up.

This is not to say that there aren’t amazing, driven British Muslim women making their mark and having successful careers, but they simply have not been given the platform to be able to be seen as role models for young women. Many people do not seem to see this as an issue, for as long as you have a role model in the field you feel passionate about, why does it matter they do not reflect who you are? However, not seeing people that represent you, and all you stand for in the public sphere is highly damaging, especially on young developing minds. It creates the belief that people like yourself don’t belong in these institutions, therefore the barriers are too entrenched to attempt to break through. It leads young people from various ethnic minorities to consider themselves as unworthy, or incapable.

Additionally, it can lead people from ethnic minorities to change who they are, suppressing their cultural roots in order to appear more ‘palatable’, or simply more alike to their white colleagues. A young British Muslim woman may simply begin to refer to herself as a British woman, as she knows most of her role models, or people in the field she is attempting to break into, are also simply British women.

As Dr. Line Nyhagen, from Loughborough University, states that some organisations such as Parliament, the BBC, churches and mosques “have particular barriers to the inclusion of women”. With this gender-based barrier set before them, “women from minorities face triple discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and religion”. When seeking to gain statistical evidence to show that in fact, Muslim women are not represented in positions of power, it became clear that almost no data of this kind is being collected. It is hard to paint a clear picture of the situation, due to how diversity is usually examined. Ethnic diversity (rather than religion) and gender are the characteristics which tend to be reported. However, in light of the recent rise in Islamophobia, hate crime and that British Muslim women are “70% more unemployed than white women”, does the way in which data is collected need to be revisited?

The reconsideration of diversity data collection is one way of attempting to solve the issue of the absence of British Muslim women in powerful positions. Another way of combating the issue is to provide women who are currently fighting to break these barriers with a platform. Change the Script’s research into exemplary British Muslim women has led us to discover some remarkable and inspirational women. By providing these women with a nationwide platform, not only do they finally have their success acknowledged but they also become examples to young women and girls in demonstrating these barriers can, in fact, be broken, and there are role models in which they can personally see themselves in.

Rihana Osman is a researcher, with a postgraduate degree in Global Ethics and Human Values and a bachelors in Law. Rihana is an advocate for gender equality and social justice.

Media representation of Muslim

Media Representation of Muslims: Why We Need Change

Simply entering the words ‘British Muslim women’ into the News Google Search will provide you with clarity on the issue of misrepresentation in the media. The search comes back with articles based on the topics of oppression, terrorism, submissiveness or simply the words of British Muslim women attempting to defend themselves against hateful rhetoric.

Fauzia Ahmad links the rise in the Islamophobic hate crime following terror attacks to the way in which the media creates a narrative of the events. She explains that the media creates a divide between the public, it becomes a battle between ‘“modern/Western” values and “traditional/Muslim” dichotomous frameworks’. In 2016/2017, 62,685 race-related hate crimes were reported (a rise in 27%) and 5,949 religious related hate crimes (a rise in 35%).

The phrases and terminology used by the media, such as attacks on “British values” and failure to integrate make Muslim women appear to be the enemy, and subsequently make them easily recognisable targets. The splaying of images of women in traditional Islamic dress across papers following attacks or on topics of terror creates a lingering link in minds of the public. The suspicion and vilification. Ahmad additionally views the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ as problematic. To use these terms is to say that Muslims are ultimately grouped together with terrorists, they simply practice to different levels.

Aside from the representation of Muslim women in the media leading to hate crime, there is also the on-going narrative of submissiveness and oppression. Women who chose to wear religious clothing are branded as brainwashed and controlled, people cannot fathom that it is the woman’s own choice- they must have been coerced. Although sadly, some women do not have a choice, these women are the minority. Some people go as far to say that a woman cannot call herself a feminist if she calls herself a Muslim.

The focus on negative and damaging representations of British Muslim women allows their success to be ignored, ‘the successful, well-socialised Muslim woman is completely invisible’. With the accomplishments of British Muslim women being largely ignored by the media, it appears as though she is not permitted to have positive existence in British society, she remains as the ‘other’. Female Muslim narratives should not only be permitted in the media when they are speaking out against their narrow representation, they should instead be permitted to inclusion- eradicating the perception of ‘them’ and ‘us’.

Rihana Osman is a researcher, with a postgraduate degree in Global Ethics and Human Values and a bachelors in Law. Rihana is an advocate for gender equality and social justice.

change the script

The Invisible Others

Growing up, I was an absolute bookworm. I still am, but over the years I’ve been faced with the realisation that the formation of my identity was through literature. Literature and film play a role in forming young minds. People from ethnic minority backgrounds are largely absent* from both, so how do young people from ethnic minorities form their identities through these mediums?

Literature

Darren Chetty’s chapter in The Good Immigrant: ‘You Can’t Say That! Stories Have to Be About White People’ explores the effects of underrepresentation of BAME characters in children’s literature. He believes that it links to something so much bigger than beauty. There is the expectation that children are “colour blind,” so therefore it has no longstanding impact on their development whether they are represented in literature. Critics of Chetty’s thoughts will state that children are simply too young to be considering ‘race’ issues and it is not something that they consider when reading.
Young children, who are not yet able to grasp the concept of racism, do not think of themselves as representative of success or power. When given the task of writing their own short stories, the descriptions of their characters were worlds away from what they are and did not necessarily culturally represent themselves. This, in turn, has an effect on the way in which BAME children feel about their own success, and even exploration, as their ‘own life does not qualify as subject material.’
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explains the effect that literature had on her own work as limiting, ‘because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books by their nature had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could not personally identify.’
“When you’re young, you translate yourself through representations of people that look like you.”

Film

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s chapter in The Good Immigrant, ‘Forming blackness through a screen’ explores the issue surrounding the lack of British black people on Television. “When you’re young, you translate yourself through representations of people that look like you.” Eddo-Lodge speaks of television shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, although this was not a British show, it was the closest thing many young people viewed as BAME representation. Comedian Shazia Mirza relates, describing family excitement at Trevor McDonald appearing on the news as “he was the closest thing we had to a British Asian woman at the time.”

‘a rare acknowledgement of our existence in the U.K’

Wei Ming Kam, co-founder of ‘BAME In Publishing,’ recalls her mothers reaction to seeing a culturally representative person onscreen. It was something which she assumed to be excitement, but came to realised it was simply shocking: “I’ve noticed our long, gaping absence from the cultural landscape and come to recognise the mix of shock and curiosity at seeing a face like mine onscreen, a rare acknowledgement of our existence in the United Kingdom.”

‘Long, gaping absence from the cultural landscape’

The large absence of positive depictions of familiar faces on screen does not mean that they are not displayed entirely, however, the existing displays are usually negative. The display of black women is as loud, angry and rude. Arab and Asian women as docile and submissive, the illiterate African and the suspicious Muslim. A British actress who is of African heritage should be able to easily play the role of doctor, princess, mechanic, lawyer, and vampire. The basis of her casting should not be, “we need an African, to play an African.” A character is a character and an actress is an actress.

*This does not mean that I am blind to the recent rise of BAME writers, actresses, poets, photographers and models. By largely absent I am referring to the bigger picture, in which if you were to see all works in one space, the work from BAME creatives would be overshadowed.

< https://www.thebookseller.com/news/diversity-drive-track-call-more-bame-authors-318340 >
< https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story>

Rihana Osman is a researcher, with a postgraduate degree in Global Ethics and Human Values and

What Does It Mean To Be British?

Rhi-hana??”

“No, Ray-hana.” I explained, using an Arabic emphasis on the ‘ha.’ This assertion usually led to puzzled looks, which ultimately led to me stating, “Rihana, if that’s easier.”

I don’t remember the moment that I stopped being Ray-ha-na and became Ri-ana. My name is officially spelt Rihana, but it was not until I had the burning desire to be accepted in the workplace, and in academic circles, that I went by the name. I felt embarrassment having to consistently teach people how to pronounce my name. This conversation usually led to questions about my heritage, and I started to associate this with questioning why I am there.

At a similar time, I began to subconsciously train myself to change my vocabulary. I stopped greeting people using “Salaam,” I would no longer use “Bismillah” before eating, or “inshAllah.” I yearned to be accepted, while not realising I was turning my back on my identity.

I began to believe that there was simply one way to be British and that my culture clashed with it.

I’ve spoken to many women who have different heritages, and they all recount the same change once they entered the workplace. Names were shortened, nicknames became actual names. Family phone calls were hushed, ‘mother tongues’ were forgotten.

I should have been proud to explain the pronunciation of my name, and not stopped explaining until the pronunciation was correct. I should have taken pride, and explained that it means fragrant and that it was the name of Prophet Muhammed’s wife.

I have now realised that my culture, my faith, and my heritage do not clash with being British. I have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. There is no definitive or correct way to be valid in British society.

Rihana Osman is a researcher, with a postgraduate degree in Global Ethics and Human Values and a bachelors in Law. Rihana is an advocate for gender equality and social justice.

Karl Magnuson

Three Awesome Muslim Women From History

Nusaybah bint Ka’ab, Fatima al-Fihiri, Razia Sultan. These are three extraordinary Muslim women, amidst many, in history whose stories are more than just exemplary; they are awe-inspiring and most importantly empowering. All three played pivotal roles in their communities as a warrior, educator, and ruler. These roles of monumental power that Muslim women held centuries before us should be used as examples to encourage a continuance of empowerment today.

A Brave woman

Advocacy of women’s rights isn’t anything new in Islam, in fact, Nusaybah bint Ka’ab is said to be one of the first to note to have done so, being one of only two women to have pledged her allegiance to Allah and his messenger in the religions early years.  Her most notable role was her defence of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at the Battle of Uhud. When he was left vulnerable by archers uphill leaving their post in a moment of false victory, she was the first to his defence from the Quraysh acting as a shield, utilising bow and arrow to protect him. She was wounded 13 times in the process. This bravery wasn’t just demonstrated on the battlefield but in her questioning the Prophet about why only men were mentioned in the Qur’an. It was because of this that Ayat 35 of Surah Al’Ahzab was later revealed, where women are first mentioned in the Qur’an.

A pioneer

Education and academia being of significant importance make it striking to note that the worlds oldest operating University was opened by a Muslim woman in 859 AD. AlQarawiyyin in Fes, Morocco is recognised in the ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ as the oldest institution in the world that operates as a university which grants degrees. The library itself holds a 9th century Qur’an still in its original binding. The woman behind it? Fatima Al-Fihri, a Tunisian who migrated to Fes. After the death of her Father, Fatima used the money that she inherited to establish what was first a Mosque and later became a university. It was one of the first in the Islamic world. The subjects available were diverse, ranging from mathematics to music, encouraging people from all over to study there. It remains today as one of the most respected universities in Morocco, where both women and men can study.

A strong leader

A Mamluk Ruler in the 13th century, the first and last that Delhi saw of that kind; a Muslim female. Her name was Razia Sultan. She is one of the few females in all of Islamic civilisation to have held magnanimous a role as this. Ordinarily, the females were referred to as Sultanas, meaning wife or mistress of the Sultan, but she refused to be known as either. During her reign from 1236 to 1240 she broke away from conservative Muslim tradition by adopting male attire and not wearing a veil, having coins minted in her name as “Pillar of women, Queen of the times, Sultan Razia, daughter of Shamsuddin Altumish.” Even though she broke religious traditions she remained not only respected but also her faith did not falter; establishing schools and public libraries that taught the works of the Qur’an. Despite not having a female ruler since the time of the Mamluk dynasty, her example demonstrates how the role of a woman in Islamic society is contrary to peoples perceptions today.

Growing up, I wasn’t taught about the role of women in Islam from a historic stance. At 24 years old the ability to learn about the religion has not only played into my love for history, but it’s also allowed me to rediscover Islam on a personal level as well as understanding the roles I have as a woman. The past makes the present, and with examples like these, there is hope to inspire Muslim women to challenge current societies and break stereotypical perceptions.

Amira Hasan is the Resident Writer for Change the Script. She has a passion for writing, style and design. In her spare time, she writes short pieces and blogs on lifestyle.

Why Aren’t There More Muslim Women in Design?

Scanning an office floor of a popular furniture company in London it was clear that first, it’s dominated by men and second, most of the females there were not of an ethnic let alone Muslim background. I am both those things, a Muslim woman of British Asian nationality, attempting to break into the design industry. It leaves me wondering about why there is such a lack of familiarity.

The office floor in question was for a job interview I had, which I didn’t get. I’m stuck in this position of how to get my foot in the door of the industry that so much of my enthusiasm lies. Looking into why this is the case has led me to identify that it isn’t always about the experience I have, but the whole package I have to offer as a person. In every environment I have worked in within this industry, I have always been the only one of “my kind.” In my previous job, a well known British paint company, I was lucky to have had colleagues who were actively interested in understanding multiple cultures. This was likely down to a large international customer base, but it gave me the opportunity to educate my colleagues about my background.

Having that platform,where even though their inquisitiveness had the potential to make me feel uncomfortable, taught me that it is ok providing I am not being singled out. The main challenge I have found working in the design industry is having to question myself as a person because of my identity: will I be taken seriously? Will clients know I actually work here? What do I do to fit in and progress? Questioning who I am and where I stand has in fact cemented my beliefs and taught me that getting where I want does not mean conforming, instead using it to my advantage to empower my individuality. Ultimately, it is about accepting who I am, allowing that very difference to ground me and using it as the tool to further myself in my career. It sets me apart from my colleagues in a positive way by driving me to prove my capabilities and strengths.

Just as the late Zaha Hadid paved the way, a shining torch as it were for women and Muslim women alike, I will strive to work towards one being able to walk into an office, scan and find familiarity by advocating that there needs to be equality for not only gender but also religion. When questioned in an interview with Interview magazine on the role of women in Islam, Hadid states “many women don’t have the encouragement and support they need to [advance in their careers].” That support manifests itself on multiple levels: from family, friends or the workplaces themselves. In my opinion, without the support from this industry itself, there will be a continuance of little to no women let alone Muslim women making it through the gaps.

Amira Hasan is the Resident Writer for Change the Script. She has a passion for writing, style and design. In her spare time, she writes short pieces and blogs on lifestyle.