Sex, divorce and infidelity
The Muslim women bloggers tackling taboos:
At a time when the lens of the media is trained on the Muslim
community like never before and it seems we read near-daily reports of
teen girls fleeing the UK to marry Isil fighters, it's strange how
little we actually know about the lives of young, Muslim women.
That could be about to change.
Muslim women are blogging about traditionally taboo
subjects. Photo: REUTERS
A growing number of Muslim female bloggers are now giving voice to
their experience and challenging the misconceptions that exist, both
within their own communities and society as a whole.
After generations of having their voices silenced by their own
culture, they now face a new challenge from organisations like Britain
First - a BNP splinter group - who have attempted to hijack issues
affecting Muslim women to further their own causes.What makes the
phenomenon remarkable is that many of these bloggers are choosing to
lift the veil of anonymity, in order to discuss issues that have been
traditionally swept under the carpet for fear of a backlash from the
community and to protect family honour.By talking openly about their
personal experiences, they are succeeding in challenging taboos around
subjects such as religion and sexuality, and redefining society's
perception of what it is to be a Muslim woman.
One reason for the sudden surge in Muslim female bloggers is
technology - social media and blogging platforms give them control over
their voices like never before.
Another explanation is the growing confidence of Muslim women as
individuals, at a time when there is an increasing sense of their
community being under attack. This makes them want to assert their
British identity more forcefully than ever before and this certainty
around their nationality is giving them the confidence to explore deeper
issues that stem from their dual cultural and religious heritage.
While they are proud of it, they also see its faults - and are not
afraid to challenge them.
'Five Pillars and Six Colours'
Maryam Din, whose blog 'Five Pillars and Six Colours' chronicles her
experience of reconciling her religious, cultural and sexual identity -
as a gay, Muslim feminist - tells me:
"Social media is, on the whole, a safe space for me. It's not very
often that negativity penetrates that. However, much like in real life,
there will be times when it happens. I've faced racism and Islamophobia
from the non-Muslim community, and homophobia within the Muslim
community. However, my experiences have largely been positive."Muslim
women are now being open about themselves and their lives because we've
had enough, both from within and outside of the Muslim community and
enough of being silenced.
"Between the constant wave of Islamophobia across Europe and
politicians thinking they're trying to do what's best for us, while not
actually consulting us - like banning our cultural and religious dress
in public - it isn't really difficult to see why there has been an
upsurge of Muslim women speaking out."These preconceived ideas about
Muslim women aren't ever positive and are rife with a mixture of
Islamophobia, racism and sexism. Blogs like mine challenge these
misconceptions simply by existing.
"In a world that sees Muslim women as oppressed and marginalised,
visibility is a radical and political act, which unapologetically says
we love who we are and what we stand for."
'Queen Mehreen: Brown Girl Talks'
Giving Muslim women an authentic voice was one of the reasons Mehreen
Baig, a teacher from North London, decided against remaining anonymous
when she began her blog, 'Queen Mehreen: Brown Girl Talks'.
Her blog - which has more than 10,000 readers - ranges from humorous
descriptions of the arranged marriage system and being considered left
on the shelf at the grand age of 25; to sexual harassment at work and
being judged for not wearing a hijab.
"My blog started off as a diary of my feelings and frustrations," she
"There are lots of issues that never get addressed, out of fear of
judgement or because we don't have a platform to express ourselves. I
was advised on numerous occasions to remain anonymous in case of any
"My mum was scared that I was so honest and blunt with my opinions.
But my blog represents my feelings. I feel no animosity toward anyone,
nor am I inciting any hatred or disrespect. If I truly believe I'm not
doing anything wrong, so I shouldn't have to hide.
"My blogs are a voice for the young British Asian woman. To hide my
identity would defeat the purpose of showing we are proud of how we feel
and our experiences. Though I have received negative comments, they have
been a minority and they have actually validated what my blog is talking
"There has been huge media attention on the oppressed Muslim girl or
the "Muslim girl gone bad" but these are stereotypes that most of us
can't relate to. Where are the majority of us, the ones who are
comfortable with being British and Muslim? I hope blogs like mine
represent those women- the majority who are unfortunately the least
'Desi, Divorced and Damn Fabulous'
For many women bloggers, it's also a therapeutic experience, albeit
driven by the desire to empower other women. Laila Ali, 30, started her
blog 'Desi, Divorced and Damn Fabulous', after discovering a lack of
emotional support and information for Muslim women facing the end of
their marriages, and to take a stand against the stigma associated with
"I was hurting badly when I discovered my husband's infidelity. I
searched for websites to try to connect with people who were in the same
boat as me and found plenty about adultery and divorce, but none were
directed towards a Muslim woman's experience," she says."This prompted
me to write about my circumstances. I realised that, while there had
been no helpful information available to me, perhaps through writing
about my own experience it might helps someone else.
"We are tired of being told how to behave. This was one of the most
heart-wrenching moments of my life yet we [divorcees] are considered 'unclassy'
or 'a woman scorned' for even existing, let alone talking about it.
"I won't pretend five years of my life didn't exist. Everything that
has happened has shaped me into the person I am now. Though blog is
quite open at criticising the Muslim community, on the flipside, it does
show that Muslim women are strong, we won't be broken."
(This article was originally published by The