Just another site…but better

Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Women like Qandeel Baloch must not die in vain

leave a comment »

Qandeel Baloch. Source: Facebook
Qandeel Baloch. Source: Facebook

Originally published for Sedaa on July 18, 2016

Yet another woman’s life has prematurely been taken in an ‘honour killing’.

Pakistani internet sensation Qandeel Baloch was strangled by her brother on Friday night while at her family home in Multan, Punjab.

After going on the run, her brother Waseem was later arrested. In his confession video, he expressed no regret. “I am proud of what I did. I drugged her first, then I killed her,” said Waseem.”She was bringing dishonor to our family.”

Qandeel’s posts were considered to be controversial in Pakistan. She rose to fame due to the sassy, and increasingly political, videos she posted on Facebook.

Her brother Waseem claims that having his friends share her pictures and video clips was “too much” for him and killing his sister was a better alternative than killing himself.

Qandeel’s brother Waseem, who has now been arrested.

Both adored and reviled, Qandeel, who was buried on Sunday, referred to herself as a “modern day feminist” and had nearly 750,000 followers on Facebook.

Funny how the media is now fawning over her, the same media that provided outrage porn for its Pakistani citizens, inviting them to get worked up over her ‘lewd’ and ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

It has brought out all the hypocrites. Mourning the loss of a woman they had probably thought of as a whore or disgrace to her family hours before her murder.

“They could have disowned her”, wrote one person under an article about her death. But even that is a problem. Don’t murder a women, for goodness sake. Just disown her and ostracise her for life. Much better, eh?

As for those telling me not to call it an ‘honour killing’. Yes I know there is no honour in killing. But this type of murder is carried out in the name of honour.

On the list of 145 countries featured in the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Gender Gap Report, Pakistan is second to last with regards to gender disparity.  According to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, violence against women is rampant, with as many as 212 women being killed in the name of ‘honour’ in the first five months of 2016.

When I heard the news I wept all day long, because I am all too familiar with this concept of ‘honour’ that robbed Qandeel of her life.

Just read some of the comments on this piece. There’s no justification for murder, they start by saying. BUT. There’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?

I remember worrying for her safety after hearing the news that she had posted a video with Mufti Abdul Qavi in a hotel room. I wondered, how is this woman still alive in Pakistan doing what she does?

Where is that mufti now? He claimed that Qandeel’s death is a sobering lesson for those who mock clerics. Yet it is perfectly fine for these clerics to meet women alone in a hotel room and offer to marry them. Qandeel also claimed that he tried to hug and kiss her. Police have announced that Mufti Qavi would be included in her murder investigation. But I don’t see any women rounding up to kill him in the name of honour.

Whatever you think of Qandeel, at least she didn’t pretend to be someone she was not. Our societies have raised us to be liars and hypocrites. We can’t do what we want openly so we do it secretly. The worst culprits are religious men such as Mufti Qavi.

Pakistani men (and indeed men from many societies around the world) constantly police women’s minds and bodies. They are terrified of what might happen if women start thinking for themselves and behaving how they want to.

For Qandeel was not just murdered by her brother. She was murdered by them all; her society and nation.

And unfortunately there are women who propagate these beliefs and practices, defending Qandeel’s murder.

Qandeel tweet reactions



This woman clearly does not realise the irony of her words. She is against honour killings but against ‘bey-ghairat’ (shameless), yet ghairat (shame) is the name in which this type of brutality occurs. Shaming Qandeel’s lifestyle choices are exactly what led to her murder.

They say she deserved it because she was provocative. But let us not forget that women can be killed for things that we would deem almost trivial here in the West — going out at night with friends, having a boyfriend, marrying someone whom you love, wearing what you want.

We are constantly watched, monitored and regulated. If we step out of the line we pay the price.

We can’t dress a certain way because it’s ‘disrespectful’ or ‘unIslamic’.

We can’t go out late because that’s not what ‘good girls’ do. We’re not like those  gori (white) women who have no honour. We have to say where we’re going, with whom, why we’re going out and what time we’ll return.

Our male counterparts get to do whatever the hell they want with barely any repercussions. When was the last time you heard of a man being killed by his sister, mother or wife in the name of honour?

And this problem is not just restricted to the east. Even here in the west, though we are free in theory the reality is different.

Very few people understand just what it’s like to live a life where, every time you step out of the house, you are worried that someone, somewhere, will see you. And they will, believe me. Your family has eyes and ears everywhere.

Even women who seem free on the surface are suffering. They might have careers and they could even be financially well off, but they’re controlled in other ways.

I’m sick of this. Yet we accept it or tolerate it quietly because, well, that’s what women have to do. For how much longer? For how long must we continue to suffer mentally, emotionally and physically, simply because we’re women and it’s seen as ok?

How do you stand your ground when the odds are stacked against you. You’re standing up to your parents, extended family, the ‘community’ and wider society. Then there’s us. On our own.

We have one life and it’s being wasted away. Be good, they tell us, and we’ll get our reward in the afterlife. A clever way of ensuring we stay in line because, let’s face it, crossing your family is one thing but crossing the Almighty? No thanks. So we continue to suffer in silence.

It’s always women like Qandeel who apparently are a disgrace to their families or their country, but never the men who leer at them or murder them.

We’re labelled whores, goris, beghairat (shameless), coconuts. A man is not a whore — he’s just a man, exercising his rights.

“Men can go out and have shit on their faces but still sit at the dinner table,” one Pakistani woman told me. “But you’re a girl, it’s different.”

Our family honour rests on our bodies; it is a terrible burden to bear.

Despite reports that she was scared for her life, Qandeel wrote that she was a fighter.

“I will bounce back,” she said, adding that she wanted to inspire women who have been “treated badly and dominated by society.”

Sadly she did not and paid with her life. But all over social media, people are speaking up, condemning this murder.

I implore everyone out there, both men and women, please don’t let Qandeel Baloch die in vain.

Because one day the ‘honour brigade’ might come for you too. And there will be no one left to speak up.

Written by Iram Ramzan

July 25, 2016 at 11:58 am

Murdered by my father: A review

with 4 comments

Murdered by my father. Source: BBC

Originally published for Sedaa on April 4, 2016


“Someone’s always watching. Trust me.”

These are the words uttered by college student Salma in the BBC 3 drama Murdered By My Father, as she warns her boyfriend to stay away before someone finds out that they are dating.

We have all been there, have we not ladies? Most of us, from South Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds, where the notions of honour and shame are so important, have always been — and always will be — on our guards whenever we leave the house. Because no matter what you are doing, someone, somewhere, is always bound to catch you out and report you to your parents. Even when you least expect it. Even when what you are doing is entirely innocent it does not matter. Once word gets out it can blemish a reputation you must keep clean. Women will sometimes pay for this transgression with their lives.

Written by Vinay Patel, Murdered By My Father is a harrowing drama based on testimonials from survivors of ‘honour’ abuse. It tells the story of Salma (played fantastically by Kiran Sonia Sarwar), a young woman who lives on an estate with her widower father Shahzad (Adeel Akhtar) and younger brother Hassan (Reiss Jeram).

Like many girls of her age, Salma has a boyfriend, Imi (Mawaan Rizwan), except she has to keep it all a secret from her family and the wider community or else there will be hell to pay. Unfortunately for Salma, she is already promised to someone in marriage — the bland and unremarkable Haroon (Salman Akhtar). It is a painful reminder that her life is not hers, but simply on lease until the time comes for her family members, her community, to reclaim what was never hers. We belong to our fathers, brothers, husbands and the wider community. We are not individuals.

There is a scene in which Shahzad sees his daughter’s pink bra in the bathroom, a symbol that she is no longer a girl, but a woman, a sexual being who is a potential threat to his honour — that bullshit word that is a noose around most women’s necks.

“You carry all of us,” Shahzad explains to his daughter. “I get scared because when they look at you, they see me. You fail, I fail. When you’re safe, I’m safe. When you get married then I can die happy.” This type of emotional blackmail is often deployed as a tactic to ensure females toe the line. Shahzad is not portrayed as a monster, but a man who is trying to do right by both his family and the community. But the latter always wins in the end. It is important that we see this side of Shahzad first to show that these people can switch from loving parents to monsters who will take their children’s lives.

We see Salma and Imi meeting up secretly throughout the drama, savouring their moments of happiness because you know — as we all know painfully too well — that they can be snatched away from you in next to no time. On the day of her engagement, Salma is seen by her fiancé, kissing her boyfriend goodbye. The family and guests are allowed to enjoy their food, unaware of the storm that is about to be unleashed upon them.



And, inevitably, Salma is shamed and dishonoured. The ‘shame’ is also on Shahzad. He has no honour left because he failed to keep his “slag” of a daughter in check. “Take care of your filth!” Haroon spits at the man who will no longer be his father-in-law.

Salma’s younger brother is caught in the middle, wanting to do right by both his father and his big sister, the same sister who doubled as a mother-figure. Younger siblings are routinely put in the cruel position of spying on their siblings, to make sure they’re not up to no good.

Shahzad locks his daughter in a room and we see him fingering a blade, an ominous sign of what will happen. Salma manages to escape to her boyfriend’s house and they make plans to run away together, but she bravely decides to go back home the day after, to make mends, to apologise to her dad. She has nothing to actually apologise for — her only ‘crime’ was to have fallen in love, for wanting to live a life on her own terms and not dictated to by centuries-old honour codes.

Don’t go back, you plead to her. But you remember the title of the drama and you almost wish it weren’t a prediction. Poor Hassan is sent to the shop by his father to buy some sweets, not realising it’s the last time he will see his loving big sister alive.

She naively assumes it will all be okay if she apologises. After all, isn’t that what parents are supposed to do — forgive their children when they make a mistake? But not this time. There will be no forgiveness.

“I did everything for you,” Shahzad shouts at her. “I never asked for anything in return — only that you listen to me in one thing.”

She replies: “You asked me for loads. You just don’t know that you’re doing it.”

In the end it’s not the blade, but her father’s own hands that take away her life. The hands that had once fed her, clothed her, and even embraced her, are the very hands that take away the life he helped create. Shahzad then tries to take his own life, perhaps repulsed by his actions or, more likely, unable to face the community again after ‘losing face’ over this ‘shame’.

What I loved about Salma’s character is that she continued to fight until the very end. She could easily have been portrayed as meek and submissive, and given in to her father’s demands by marrying someone whom she did not love — just for the sake of her ‘honour’. Others will not have had that choice.

I am not ashamed to admit that it made me cry for hours afterwards. I wept for the many, many girls and women whose lives are taken for the sake of ‘honour’. I wept for the girls who were forced to choose between their family or controlling their own destiny. I wept for those girls who could no longer fight back and submitted to the family pressure.

And I wept because I knew that Salma could easily have been me.

Murdered by My Father is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Nirbhaya – fearless women break the silence

with 2 comments

IMG_20150602_083149A shorter, amended version of this review was first published in the Oldham Chronicle on June 2

When a young woman was brutally gang-raped in the Indian capital Delhi on December 16, 2012, and subsequently died 13 days later, there was a  worldwide outcry.

What followed was even more harrowing, that being the countless women who broke the silence to tell us that this was not the exception, but the norm.

Nirbhaya marries real-life testimonies with a dramatised recreation of what happened to Jyoti Singh Pandey, the 23-year-old student whom the media dubbed “Nirbhaya”, or fearless.

Internationally acclaimed playwright and director Yael Farber brings a blistering evocation of that terrible night and the ripples of change it set in motion. Presented by the Southbank Centre, the play came to Oldham’s Grange Theatre as part of the Alchemy Festival 2015.

Priyanka Bose, Poorna Jagannathan, Sneha Jawale and Pamela Sinha describe their bodies as no longer being their own, as we witness the daily harassment and groping in the bustling streets of a city littered with the relics of lost empires, a city now described as “hell on earth for women”.

                                                      Poorna Jaggannathan

The play uses the rape and death of Jyoti as a catalyst to break the silence around sexual violence. The women, too, are fearless, as each tells her account of being sexually violated one by one. In a culture where the fear of shame can be overpowering, breaking the silence is a courageous act.

Ankur Vikal darts in and out of every male role, a bystander, an abuser, a father, brother, and even Pandey’s friend, Awindra Pandey.

Farber’s language, interwoven with the real stories, is violent, angry and poetic. “I want to pull my tongue from my mouth like a tree. I want to pull out its roots,” Bose says.

Jyoti herself does not speak but sings eerily throughout the play, a ghost who cannot tell her own story but has it told for her. She is now forever mythologised, a symbol of everything that is wrong in Indian society.

A woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. According to the country’s National Crime Record Bureau, crimes against women have increased by 7.1 percent since 2010. The number of rapes reported has also risen.Nearly a third of rape victims in India are under the age of 18. One in 10 are under 14.

Too often women are told that they should stay at home, where they would be much safer. What was she doing out of the house in the first place, is a question directed at these women. What, then, would they say to Sinha, a Canadian actress of Indian heritage, who was raped in Toronto 20 years ago by a stranger who broke into her apartment? Or to Bose who was raped by several men working in her family home?

Nirbhaya is not an easy watch, and nor should it be. Prepare to be shocked, horrified, and bring plenty of tissues with you. The silence of the audience  was punctuated by sniffs and sobs. One young woman sitting nearby was wiping away tears as she listened to the story of Jawale, a dowry-bride whose family tried to kill her by setting her on fire. Her heavily scarred face streamed with tears as she mourned the loss of a son was snatched away from her by her husband.

While the men who raped and killed Jyoti Pandey were charged and convicted, the men who abused the women in the play have gotten away with their crimes, which emphasises how deep-rooted the problem is.

Nirbhaya ends with each woman standing up, saying her name and slowly raising a fist in the air. They are no longer broken women, ashamed of their bodies or what has happened to them (nor should they be). They are no longer victims, but survivors.

“Bring it the fuck on,” Jagannathan roars. They are fearless. They are Nirbhaya.

BBC Radio 4 – Reeta Chakrabarti meets Iram Ramzan

leave a comment »

You can listen to the show on the link below  (available for over one year).

Reeta Chakrabarti, the BBC’s UK affairs’ correspondent, speaks to people who have found a voice outside the mainstream media, through the medium of blogging.

Today Reeta meets Iram Ramzan, whose blog reflects her life, as what she calls a ‘progressive Muslim woman’. She started blogging as a journalism student because it was expected of her, but some of her opinions have begun to attract a wider audience: she’s been interviewed by the Sun and quoted by mainstream journalists. However Iram has also been the subject of twitter-abuse. Reeta asks her if she’s taking a risk by blogging so openly – anonymity was something she never considered

Written by Iram Ramzan

July 3, 2014 at 11:54 pm

The forced marriage ban: will it work?

leave a comment »

Originally published for Left Foot Forward on 30/06/2014

Forced marriagej

“When we’re born, we have that seed embedded in girls on how to behave and what to do. When you grow up we put food in front of the men – they eat first, we pick up the dishes and we eat last.”

Mother-of-four Habiba Jaan is not shy about expressing her thoughts on the issues facing south Asian women in Britain and a culture that keeps them under control.

The mental health worker, from the West Midlands, has spent many decades and her own financial resources in helping vulnerable women who have had to leave home because they were being forced into marriage.

And she has even more of a reason to help such women because as of June 16, parents who force their children to marry can be punished by up to seven years in prison. Previously, courts have only been able to issue civil orders to prevent victims being forced into marriage.

Jasvinder Sanghera of the Karma Nirvana charity appeared on Woman’s Hour to defend this legislation, which she believes is a step in the right direction and many victims who she has spoken to wanted forced marriage to be punishable under the law.

According to Amrit Wilson, however, BME women regard this as “an example of the government’s hypocrisy, and its cynical use of gender to intensify repression, criminalisation and Islamophobia”.

Let us believe for one moment that it is only Muslim families who have forced their children to marry against their will (Jasvinder is Sikh), surely it would be more ‘Islamophobic’ to allow victims to continue to suffer for fear of being labelled Islamophobic.

It seems at times that there is one law for the majority of the population and another for those with brown skins. This would not even be an issue if the girls involved had been white.

Habiba believes it is too early to know what effect the legislation will have:

“It has sent a strong message to parents, that you can’t take your girls to Pakistan,” she said. “It probably has worked in other places and it probably will work here in time. Some will prosecute, some won’t but I just want them to be safe and we have to respect that.”

She believes more needs to be done to support those women who have left home and for this she has set up a refuge in Wolverhampton –  ‘Aurat supporting women’. She has been working on this for the past two years but has only managed to find like-minded women in the last year.

Their aim is to help south Asian women who have been victims of anything to do with so-called honour violence, trafficking or grooming.

“I thought: someone needs to make a move,” she said. “We have had no funding from anyone, we’re just a group of women. We’re trying to make a change within our culture – that’s what my aim is.

“It’s early days. We found that there was nothing in the West Midlands that’s actually catering for South Asian women. There’s no helpline, no support network for them. There’s nothing here.

“It’s a shame, there’s so much abuse going on out there and they don’t know where to go.

“We got to the stage where we said it’s about time we create something here. We don’t care about religion because the culture is the same.”

And who better to advise such vulnerable women than someone who was a child bride herself. Aged 15, Habiba’s father decided that it was time for her to get married to someone in Pakistan.

Thankfully she was able to escape at the age of 19, with two children in tow at the time.

She then started voluntary work in refuges and hostels and went back into education in order to make something of her life.

“We’ve put our personal money into this because there’s a big need out there,” she continued. “I think the government is too shy and hesitant to put its hands in to anything to do with culture or Muslim women.”

Aurat (meaning ‘woman’ in Urdu) are trying to get a helpline within the next month and trying to gather statistics so that that the women will no longer be under the radar.

But what is the difference between Aurat and the other refuges and charities in the country?

Habiba hopes to offer support not just during their time in the shelter but after they have left.

She said: “We may offer them a job to support other women too. Because what happens next. what happens to those women? They’re left on their own, they don’t know what to do. They need a lot of support after that.

“All these groups create awareness but what are they doing to take these problems away? We’re saying there’s a problem, we’re working on it. We want these women to be successful in life. I want someone to come back in ten years time and say ‘you’ve changed my life’.

“Once up and running, we can expand to support these women.”

One of the reasons young girls and women are reluctant to leave abusive homes is because there is nowhere for them to go and some organisations may not understand their cultural needs. For south Asians (and many other cultures) one is not an individual but part of the family and the wider community. Without that family support and backing, those individuals can feel lost.

Aurat is setting up a helpline and one-to-one counselling to continue supporting these women. The people they are unable to help will be signposted to organisations that can help them

“Everyone in a Western society should have a choice, but our cultures hold girls back. A lot of incidents within our communities are brushed under the carpet. There’s so much abuse within Asian communities

“Let’s face up to it, let’s say it’s wrong, it’s happening and let’s deal with it. We can’t keep destroying children’s lives because our culture doesn’t allow us to say it’s wrong.

“If we don’t raise these issues then no one else will. If I can make a change to one woman’s life then I’m happy.”

Anyone wanting further information can call Habiba or her team by sending an email to, or by calling 07432 306 582. Habiba can be found tweeting @HabibaJaan.

‘Rouhani smiles better. He talks better. But no changes have taken place’

with 4 comments

Dr Shirin Ebadi speaking at Unviersity of Bradford's PeaceJam event, with interpreter Ali Shahabi

Dr Shirin Ebadi speaking at Unviersity of Bradford’s PeaceJam event, with interpreter Ali Shahabi



“I remember when I always used to be angry. But anger on its own is not going to do anything.”

Speaking through Farsi interpreter Ali Shahabi at Bradford University’s PeaceJam event on May 3, Dr Shirin Ebadi wanted to talk to the audience about success and following one’s dreams.

“Don’t be frightened of setbacks. You will look back and regret that you didn’t do what you had to do,” she said. “Any setbacks can be a prelude to success – it depends how you view them.”

Born in Hamadan in Iran, Ebadi (66) is a lawyer, a former judge and a human rights activist.

In 2003, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women’s, children’s, and refugee rights. She was the first ever Iranian to receive the prize.

It is no wonder that she is seen as a threat to the Iranian regime, who continue to harass her and her family.

Ebadi is not allowed to return to Iran so lives in exile in the United States, although she spends nine months of the year travelling extensively because, she explains, “I have to convey the voice of Iran to the rest of the world.”

On the rare occasion that she does relax, she reads. She told me that she is partial to the works of Dan Brown and Emile Zola – translated in Farsi of course.

At the end of the talk and interview that followed, I spoke to two young Asian men who were students at the University. One was unsure about Ebadi because “I still think she might be a puppet”, although when I pointed out that she was always defending Islam he relented.

Regardless of your views on Islam, one cannot accuse her of damaging her religion or being an ‘apostate’ as the Iranian regime has done. She continues to insist that religion is misused. “The Qur’an has been interpreted by men until now,” she said. “It’s time for women to interpret it.”

Women’s rights

In March 1969, Ebadi officially became a judge and continued her studies at the University of Tehran in order to pursue a doctorate’s degree in law in 1971. In 1975 she became the first woman president of the Tehran city court, and also the first ever female judge in Iran.

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the conservative clerics insisted that Islam prohibited women from becoming judges and Ebadi was demoted to a secretarial position at the branch where she had previously presided.

Despite all this, she insists that her belief in the legal system and the possibility of change in Iran never wavered.

But are we getting anywhere, one audience member asked, when girls in Nigeria are being kidnapped and young girls in Pakistan are being married off?

“There isn’t anywhere where women have their full rights,” she explained. “Every three days in Italy, a woman is assaulted or killed by her partner or husband. In Islamic countries, the violence is manifested in discriminatory legislation. In Iran, a man can marry four wives – is this not violence against women? You marry a man because of your love, you live with him for many years, and then he brings a younger person to the house and says this is my new wife. Is this not violence against women?

“In western countries, wages are still not equal. They use women’s bodies to sell commodities. Is this not abusing women? What about smuggling women – human trafficking from eastern Europe? It is everywhere.

“What is the root for all of this? The root is paternalistic culture. Not gender as such, but the wrong mentality that doesn’t accept equality between human beings. It shows itself in different ways in different places. This is what we should fight against.”

Ebadi went on to say that women need two things to progress in life. The first is self confidence and the second is financial independence.

“A woman that needs to ask her father or husband for money is never going to enjoy independence,” she stated. But what about those women who choose to stay at home and wish to be looked after by their men? She simply replied, “They are making a mistake.”

One woman in the audience, when Shirin discussed female genital mutilation, asked a question that is regularly asked by those on the left and one which infuriates me, as well as others I know: at what point does one decide which aspect of another culture is barbaric and will it be seen as insensitive to criticise it?

Ebadi simply replied: “Wrong traditions should change. The way to do that is awareness and knowledge. Changes in traditions don’t happen overnight. You have got to start from somewhere. If you can’t say anything because of culture then nothing is going to change. It has to happen one way or another.”

It is difficult to speak out when faced with such mentalities. The other student, with whom I had a conversation afterwards, claimed that she was trying to impose western education on those in other countries – ironic for someone who is currently taking advantage of a western education.

At the same time, however, he and the other student told me “we need more Muslim women like her to speak out”. But perhaps they would prefer her to speak on those issues that they want her to.

Rouhani and Iran

For several months, I have noted that the mainstream media coverage of Iran is limited to discussion of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and very little is mentioned about President Hassan Rouhani, who is often described as a “moderate”. Why is that?

Ebadi explained: “He is different to Ahmadinejad. He smiles better. He talks better. But no changes have taken place in the country. Since elections, the number of executions have increased.”

There are numerous examples of brutalities in which the Iranian regime engages. In April, Evin Prison, which is in northwestern Tehran, became the scene of an attack by more than 100 soldier guards – an attacked that has become known as ‘Black Thursday’ by local activists.

Furthermore on May 1 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had begun excavation in a historically important Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz. Members of the Baha’i faith continue to be persecuted in Iran as they are deemed as apostates.

“They don’t even leave the dead alone,” Ebadi added.

Earlier this year, a low-budget film called ‘I am Rouhani’ , which tells the story of the president’s life, had been circulating around Iran. The Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani denounced it as a “big lie.”

Ebadi has seen the documentary but said it was “nothing new”, explaining that people have known this information beforehand.

Rouhani’s rhetoric is indeed less inflammatory than his predecessor Ahmadinejad, but we cannot be complacent. The true test of the regime’s commitment to reformation and a ‘moderate’ Iran will be its actions rather than its rhetoric which, thus far, seems to suggest that little has changed.

Mishal Husain, the hijab and misplaced priorities

with 3 comments

BBC Journalist Mishal Husain

In her diary for the Financial Times last week,

Boarding a train to Birmingham the other day, I was stopped by a man at Euston station. A fellow Muslim, he complimented me on my work and then said, “But you’ll have to wear the hijab one day.” “I don’t think so,” I replied.

As a big fan of this elegant and intelligent journalist, who I see as a role model, I thought: hear hear!

It is rather unfortunate that for some men, their respect for women is based on what they wear or choose not to wear.

The Daily Mail, of course, leaped on this and reported it like so:

Mishal Husain – who joined the Today programme this morning – recalled the moment she was accosted by a fellow Muslim while boarding a train who told her she will soon have to adopt the face covering hijab.

In her piece for the Guardian, Sabbiyah Pervez rightly points out that the Mail’s article contains basic misunderstandings.
Just to remind you:
This is a hijab

This is a niqab:

It might be easy to confuse the two but let me make it easy for you – one covers the hair while the other covers the entire face.

We could further point out glaring errors in the Mail’s, er, journalism, but we would be here all day.

So how did some people react to this? It seemed that many were more up set about the wording of the article rather than the fact that Mishal was harassed by a strange man on her lack of hijab.

Yes, the Mail’s article contained glaring errors but priorities, people. I can just about deal with shoddy journalism but one thing I cannot deal with is women being intimidated for what they are wearing or what they choose not to wear.

I consider myself as being fairly left wing, but sometimes I feel let down by some on the left who are more concerned with being politically correct, who get rather defensive on such issues rather than tackling them head on.


Anyway, back to Mishal – why is she so perfect?

Written by Iram Ramzan

October 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Shiraz Socialist

Because there have to be some lefties with a social life

The Gerasites

Pro-Democracy; Anti-Totalitarianism.

Futile Democracy

A left-leaning focus on US Politics, UK Politics, World Affairs, and Religion & Secularism

Homo economicus' Weblog

2B3 a Freethinking Space

As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Six Pillars

North Africa, South and West Asia (Middle East) Arts Platforms

the fatal feminist

Lethal poison for the System.


war and conflict multimedia reporting