At the end of the research I realized that in the age of the harem – an era that is remembered with such stereotypical images of women’s lives – women had the chance to work, to own properties and even to sue their husbands in the courts, and none of these actions were reprehensible or denounced by the community.
I’ll never punish my daughter for saying no.
The first time it comes out of her mouth, I’ll smile gleefully. As she repeats “No! No! No!” I’ll laugh, overjoyed. At a young age, she’ll have mastered a wonderful skill. A skill I’m still trying to learn. I know I’ll have to teach her that she has to eat her vegetables, and she has to take a nap. But “No” is not wrong. It is not disobedience.
1. She will know her feelings are valid.
2. She will know that when I no longer guide her, she still has a right to refuse.
The first time a boy pulls her hair after she says no, and the teacher tells her “boys will be boys,” we will go to her together, and explain that my daughter’s body is not a public amenity. That boy isn’t teasing her because he likes her, he is harassing her because it is allowed. I will not reinforce that opinion. If my son can understand that “no means no” so can everyone else’s.
3. She owes no one her silence, her time, or her cooperation.
The first time she tells a teacher, “No, that is wrong,” and proceeds to correct his public school, biased rhetoric, I’ll revel in the fact that she knows her history; that she knows our history. The first time she tells me “No” with the purpose and authority that each adult is entitled, I will stop. I will apologize. I will listen.
4. She is entitled to her feelings and her space. I, even a a parent, have no right to violate them.
5. No one has a right to violate them.
The first time my mother questions why I won’t make her kiss my great aunt at Christmas, I’ll explain that her space isn’t mine to control. That she gains nothing but self doubt when she is forced into unwanted affection. I’ll explain that “no” is a complete sentence. When the rest of my family questions why she is not made to wear a dress to our reunion dinner. I will explain that her expression is her own. It provides no growth to force her into unnecessary and unwanted situation.
6. She is entitled to her expression.
When my daughter leaves my home, and learns that the world is not as open, caring, and supportive as her mother, she will be prepared. She will know that she can return if she wishes, that the real world can wait. She will not want to. She will not need to. I will have prepared her, as much as I can, for a world that will try to push her down at every turn.
7. She is her own person. She is complete as she is.
I will never punish my daughter for saying no. I want “No” to be a familiar friend. I never want her to feel that she cannot say it. She will know how to call on “No” whenever it is needed, or wanted.
IN my last column I began exploring the written accounts of early Muslim migrants to Britain through an examination of Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin’s The Wonders of Vilayet (1784). Over a century later, we encounter two early examples of female Muslim travel writers in Britain, Atiya Fyzee and Shahbano Begum Maimoona Sultan.
I long to see programmes focusing on men like the Care International ones in Bosnia and Rwanda enacted in Pakistan and everywhere else in the world where violence against women is endemic in both peacetime and war. As Amanullah De Sondy says, “Now more than ever before do men have to answer calls that question their masculinity and this is is the crisis to all men, globally.” Stopping sexual violence against women is a battle that I believe we can win. But to do that, we’re going to have to fix the men - because it’s a change in their attitudes and actions that will be the turning point in this war.
Imperialist Feminism: A Historic Review with Deepa Kumar
August 2, 2013
The West has often used the liberation of brown women as an excuse for empire. This talk reviews a few examples and offers some analysis. It begins with the Afghan war but goes back to 19th century colonial narratives in regard to Muslim women.