Archive by Category "Role Models"

Social Media: To Use or Not To Use?

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, nearly all of us are using at least one of these if not all and I think it’s safe to say that the word sharing encapsulates best what these platforms do. Thinking about it, the saying “sharing is caring” comes to mind, but how much of this “sharing” has been elevating the opportunities for Muslim women and how much of it has been not “caring” in the least?

I explored how using social media has been instrumental in putting Muslim women on the map, working to challenge many preconceived notions about them and Islam. However, some of the darker realities of these open platforms became very apparent. That doesn’t mean to say the downsides have been a deterrent in every case! Especially when you look at those building careers through social media, using it as a podium for their voices to be heard. Sadly though, it seems to have a resounding impact on how and who is using them in a number of ways. The recent negative press about Amena Khan’s L’Oréal campaign highlighting her comments made on Twitter in 2014, illustrates this point exactly. Suffice it to say that due diligence probably wasn’t done thoroughly on L’Oréals part, nonetheless, it ended up with Amena taking most of the backlash from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. On the other hand, there are plenty of those who are going very far with the use of social media and taking full advantage of its benefits. Look at Dina Tokio, Nabila Bee, Zukreat, Huda Kattan, Habiba Da Silva, Nadia Hussain and those are just to name a few.

In order to make the most of these platforms, Muslim women have to create the fine balance between deflecting the negative and actively participating.

We all have a multitude of opinions and social media allows for these to be heard. Working on the campaign Change the Script has given me the scope to understand why some Muslim women are often reluctant to use it nowadays. For most, it’s about the current icy climate blustering in the direction of Muslims. How can you blame them? When you put yourself on these platforms, it’s a given that you will be thrown some kind of abuse no matter who you are. Putting it simply, people can be very mean. The thing is not everyone you come across in life will like you, and I think that’s just the point. That concept spreads through social media like wildfire. It’s even more apparent because of needing to have that “like” button pressed to attract adequate amounts of attention to in order to establish your online presence. Because of this, we spend a lot of time singling ourselves out. When you consider the current state of affairs in the UK, singling yourself out isn’t just an exercise you practice on your own. It is placed upon you. That is because the media seems to think that being Muslim comes hand in hand with being an irate extremist owning nonsensical beliefs. We know that is far from the case, and demonstrating that through social media is quite possibly the best way to tackle that absurd narrative.

In order to create the balance mentioned before, here’s what I have come up with lately – the three steps you ought to take is to accept, deflect and utilise.

Accepting the negative sides of social media isn’t about condoning the unwarranted attention you might get, instead, it gets you further by showcasing your identity just as any non-Muslim would. This is especially the case when you take into consideration that it will challenge the very stereotypes which attracted that negativity in the first place. Deflecting the negativity won’t make it go away, granted, but being exposed to it when using social media shouldn’t be a reason to stop you. It’s a tool you can use to show how determined you are! Lastly, utilising the hell out of it is important whether it’s to endorse and build your career or simply as a means to live as human being in the 21st century. Oh, and all of this acts to serve as a platform to challenge the narrative the world has placed on Muslim women, which is most certainly not our own.

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.

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.

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.