Saima S. Hussain, editor of The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth started collecting stories on Muslim women after a work colleague suggested she was her only Muslim friend.
“Our conversation made me realize that we don’t really know each other,” says Hussain. “We live side by side, but we don’t really live together in Canada. I wanted to compile the voices of Muslim women in an effort to share my culture with other Canadians.”
The book explores the Muslim culture through the personal stories and reflections of twenty-one Canadian Muslim women.
Simon Fraser University presents Book Unlaunch: The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth on May 8, 2017at Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre for the Arts in Vancouver.
Removing the labels that separate us
The book title came from Janetta Munirah Maclean, a contributing author from Montreal. Muslimah, meaning Muslim woman, Who Fell to Earth, or more specifically Canada, reflects the theme of the book.
“We are often made to feel like aliens from outer space because we look or act differently,” says Hussain. “Yet our stories show that Muslim women are not so different, and we are part of Canada.”
The right to wear the niqab
Readers explore the life of Zurena Ishaq, adevout Muslim woman, before she made national headlines in 2015. Ishaq convinced the Canadian government to withdraw from a controversial court case that would require women to remove any head coverings during their Canadian citizenship ceremony. The case went to the Supreme Court, and on October 15, 2015, she was viewed by millions of people across the country as she received her Canadian citizenship wearing the niqab.
“I began legal proceedings because I wanted the Canadian government to know that my rights and freedoms were being ignored,” says Ishaq.
The media portrays Ishaq as a spokesperson for all Muslim women, yet Ishaq reveals that she was only trying to express her own religious beliefs to the Canadian government.
“My father, even my husband, never forced me to wear the niqab. I was wearing the niqab before my marriage, so nobody ever made the decision for me.”
Meet a contributing author
Two contributing authors will join Hussain for the public lecture in Vancouver. Meharoona Ghani, a published writer, will share excerpts from her manuscript Letters to Rumi. Readers follow Ghani’s private and uncensored conversation with Rumi, a 13th century mystical spiritual leader.
Azmina Kassam, expresses her deep and everlasting love for a Norwegian Christian man.
“My story is about the strength that came from combining our different backgrounds,” says Kassam who is a practicing Ismaili Muslim, a branch of the Shia branch of Islam. “Our relationship was based on respect, friendship and companionship, and more importantly, we honoured one another’s faith and traditions.”
Real life stories of women from different Muslim branches living in traditional and non-traditional ways are shared throughout the book. Tarek Ramadan, is an outreach coordinator for the Muslim Association of Canada, a non-profit organization representing 2.4 per cent of the Muslim population in Greater Vancouver. Ramadan suggests that the book demonstrates the variety of unique voices of Muslim women.
“These stories show the richness of the Muslim world and the different cultures that people often misunderstand,” says Ramadan. “Islam is often misinterpreted because the media only focuses on a certain Muslim group.”
Ramadan’s only criticism of the book is that some of these women’s stories are one-sided. “It takes two to tango,” say Ramadan.
Muslims are Canadians
Hussain explains that these women’s anthologies remind us that Muslim women come from different backgrounds, they live independent experiences, and like other Canadians they build their opinions based on their own ideas and the environment that surrounds them.
“This book tells the reader that no, Muslims are Canadians, we’re part of the community, we may look and act differently, but we’re all individuals, we’re not stereotypes,” says Hussain.
For more information, visit www.sfu.ca/sfuwoodwards/events