BOOK REVIEW:  Shattering Stereotypes:Muslim Women Speak Out

B.N. Aziz

Posted Jan 20, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Shattering Stereotypes:Muslim Women Speak Out, Ed. Fawzia Afzal-Khan

Reviewed by B.N. Aziz

There are so many books being written about Muslim women today. (Nothing about Muslim men! But, that is another issue.) Meanwhile, how many of those authorities and testimonies are by ourselves— Muslim women? And how many are records of our objections to the way other westerners perceive us, patronize us, misrepresent us, and treat us? This is the first I know of.

The phrase ‘speaking out’ is a call to justice. We know justice often does not exist until one speaks out—for oneself. A collection of the writings of those who dare to speak out inevitably concerns itself with the awareness of injustices in their own society. This collection is more. These essays, plays, poems and critiques are reactions and statements mainly directed in to the self-assigned experts, the patronizing western feminists, the self-declared ‘free press’. In poetry, theater, memoir and social critique, they say—“these are who I am”. From the testimonies in the pages of Shattering Stereotypes, Muslim sisters are unquestionably multi-faceted and multi-cultural, creative and diverse, funny and perceptive, sober and analytical.

Mohja Khaf, following her list of clarifications re Islamic law and history relating to women, says “Of course there really is sexism among Muslims. We can start working on it together as soon as we sweep away the stereotypes about sexism among Muslims. Stereotypes cloud the air between us, make Muslims defensive and obscure the real issues….”

It is increasingly obvious to anyone who cares about justice and who is honest enough to know it is possible, that Muslim peoples themselves must lead the way in describing our lives and defining our future course.

Nawal El-Saadawi, in her introduction to this book, reminds us how ‘the personal is political’, how ‘personal stories resist vague and generalized abstractions, how they maintain the urgency, the intensity, the richness and vividness of the concrete.”

Indeed, the collection –by a wonderful group of active and talented women—demonstrates the power of individual testimony, not as victims, but as fellow citizens—‘speaking out’. Many authors here are poets and creative writers; some write memories; there are four plays. I like the anger in these writings, the love of self, the reflections, the patience, the willingness to share. So here you are. Take these ‘speak outs’ and join them with your own.

This review originally appeared on the Radio Tahrir site at