September Round Up: The Muslim Woman’s Double Bind

  • 13 books in September!
  • 12 female-authored
  • 2 Bruneian novels (The Last Bastion of Ingei and Jewel: An attempt at a halal romance – review for The Scoop here)
  • 3 books on Islam
  • 1 book on Erotic Stories for Punjabi widows (I just love that title so much. And the novel itself is pretty awesome as well!)

Of note this month:

Susan Carland’s Fighting Hislam, which I read on the heels of S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits and at the same time as Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – and around the same time that the Nouman Ali Khan case came under public scrutiny.

Carland talks about the “double bind” faced by Muslim women who want to speak up about injustices, prejudices, crimes, abuse, wrongs in their own communities – how they face the gauntlet of knowing that Islamophobes and opponents to the religion are just waiting to pounce on any signs of dysfunction in the religion and Muslim communities; as well as the resistance within their own communities to the airing of “dirty laundry”. Muslim women on the ground, Carland points out, want to speak out about what’s wrong with Muslim communities, but they want to protect their religion from Islamophobic hijacking of their narratives, and they don’t want to alienate the communities they are trying to help.

This double bind comes up in Erotic Stories – what if silence is the cost of protecting your community? What are you protecting it from, if the demon comes from within? Erotic Stories started out fluffy and chick-lit toned – it quickly deepened and darkened in scope and voice. Through the “modern” British Sikh Nikki, somber questions about the Sikh community in London emerge. I really liked this novel, and can’t wait to discuss it at the next Feminist Book Club meet. (Our book after that is Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen)

It also came out in Saints and Misfits – this endemic concern about the positions of power openly “religious” men have to police female behaviour through their unquestionable social status, and how open this lack of accountability is to abuse. Does power corrupt, or do certain kinds of people seek out certain positions because they see opportunity? I have more to say about this, but the subject deserves more time, sensitivity, nuanced attention than I have to give it right now.

Last October was 11 books – as always, I have pasang niat to match or surpass that. And I’m so excited about the Singapore Writers Festival next month inshaAllah! I have bought all my tickets and plotted out my itinerary. Iski-ness abounds.

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This entry was posted in Feminist Book Club, general thoughts, monthly round-up, Muslim fiction, non-fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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