Talking to Fauzia Saeed about Education and Career

Talking to Fauzia Saeed about Education and Career

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do

I am a mother of two and I am the Assistant Director at the International Islamic Relief Organisation and a teacher specialising in Arabic courses for Key Stage 4 and 5 at a local government school.

What are your thoughts on the narrative given to Muslim women in the UK?

As British Muslim women we face two different narratives: first, a society that labels us as terrorists, passive and not willing to work and second our own communities who attack women going the extra mile pursuing education and careers. They tend to feel that  “women with careers” ignore their “primary duties“ and so they patronise them, label them with all sorts of negative names, meaning they have drifted away from root Islamic teachings. Muslim women often find themselves vulnerable and fighting these challenges alone with all the demands of life and the responsibilities that fall upon them. Some continue to fight back these narratives and strive, but others lose the fight and give up and feel psychologically imprisoned… of course the consequences of the latter go beyond one female to affect the generation of whom she raises.

I despise Muslim women being targeted with negative associations by the media and seeing Islam’s teachings being abused and twisted to restrict women wishing to obtain an education or career.  I also despise the fact that society has a glass ceiling that blocks women to thrive despite all their capabilities.

How do you think would best challenge these narratives and labels?

Through education, women can challenge these ideologies strategically. We have to remind ourselves that we are working to change a culture and therefore we need to be patient but active at the same time to change all the obstacles that Muslim women face. We need to empower Muslim women for the future generations to come.

We also need to involve media in representing the good image of British Muslim women and exhibit the teachings of Islam positively. Government and other institutions need to allow Muslim women to take on leadership roles and work on eradicating this glass ceiling. Communities should work together to change the mindset of some negative cultural assumptions whilst also appreciating that the world we live in consists of both men and women thus empowering both is a necessity for societies to thrive.

I would also like to see more women-led projects that target the current narratives, also to encourage, inspire, share and uplift each other through networking. All of which is preferably funded by the government and institutions in U.K. and worldwide.

Has your identity or appearance had any impact on your professional career?

Yes, I feel all that I do has is a big part of who I am, I pride myself on being a British Muslim woman. I also feel responsible to show the true image of Islam through my dealings with others in a western society. Actions speak louder than words!

What, in your opinion, is self-identity fundamentally about?

Whenever we see a person for the first time, our brains try to figure out who is he/she, therefore “who are we?” is the first question we need to answer to know who we are. Hence, it’s vital to appreciate our identity and understand what our background, religion, skin colour, abilities and education to appreciate our self-worth.

What message would you give to young Muslim women who are struggling with their identity?

Firstly, they have to appreciate being a Muslim woman and their background.

Secondly, the younger generation needs to understand that Islam and its teachings are not to blame. They need to learn how to separate and distinguish the narratives which they might face due to different cultural perceptions, and obtaining the right education to be able to challenge those narratives. Thirdly, they should know Muslim women have proven to achieve high standards of success in all sectors, regardless of the barriers they continue to face. Second, to last, Islam encourages both genders to work and to attain education; to the extent that it considered an act of worship. Islam emphasises teaching women as it recognises the benefit of educated generations that starts with one female.

Lastly, it’s worth researching Islamic history and current affairs for examples of women who are leaders, traders, working in the army by providing senior advice, doctors, judges, scientists and Islamic scholars.