The World Wants You Naked
Channel: Lauren Booth
File Size: 43.06MB
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh I'm Lauren booth, a journalist and an author who specializes in amplifying Muslim voices and your stories across different platforms in the mainstream, including, but not limited to social media. And I'm really delighted to have been invited by the Islamic Literary Society to carry out today's interview for them or Hamdulillah. And it's a really special one to me as well, because it's a doctor who I've wanted to speak to a long time and whose work I am already familiar with.
So our guest today is Dr. Catherine Bullock. She's a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, and her teaching focus is political Islam from a global perspective. I told you I be excited about this, you can understand why now. And our research focus areas include Muslims in Canada, their history, contemporary lived experiences, debates on the veil, and media representations of Islam and Muslims.
Katherine was the editor of the American Journal of Islamic social sciences for five years, and the Vice President of the Association of Muslim social scientists in North America from 2006 to 2009. Dr. Catherine is currently president of campus books as well, which are dedicated to publishing top quality books about Islam and Muslims in the English language. She's originally from Australia, and she embraced Islam in 1994. And now lives in Canada, with her husband and her children. Assalamu aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa better care to Dr. Catherine. Welcome to the Islamic Literary Society. While they can master lamb or Abdullah whoever, okay, too. It's really a pleasure to be with you
today. hamdulillah thanks so much. One thing I'm going to do is just see if I can get us side by side.
let's see if I can do that.
Gallery. It's doing us like, oh, that there we go. That's easy, isn't it? Bismillah. So, I'll just say Salam Alikum again, and I might do a little slight edit there and just ask you about your publications. Salam, Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. Doctor, can I call you Catherine, by the way? Yes, feel free. Thank you. Welcome to the Islamic Literary Society interview. So tell us first and foremost about your publications.
I have a couple of books that were done earlier on in my career. And then I learned that in academic world books sit lower down on the scale, then peer reviewed journal articles do so I switched my attention to that. And the latest one, which I don't think is on my bio that you read I'm actually very excited about it's a study of veiling, veiling as villains in BBCs, Merlin, and us show called Stargate.
So I love it. I watched Merlin we were addicted. It's quite, it's about 15 years old. Now it's it is but doesn't matter because it was really groundbreaking at the time.
Well in Maryland, and neither of these shows so Stargate, which is a US science fiction show that ran for 10 years, and Merlin, neither of them that really have any Muslim characters, but the villains are dressed as Muslims. And that really, I just was watching with my kids. And all of a sudden you see this image on the screen and you're like, Oh, what's that all about? So then I decided to go ahead and do a deeper investigation. We're going to come to that because we will link back to what we're going to be talking about today, which is one of your, I guess, most highly accessed papers rethinking Muslim women and the veil, challenging historical and modern stereotypes.
We'll come back to that in a second. First of all, I want to ask you about writing and perhaps your method of writing. Are you still somebody who has like me a bit of a, they go, there's my ink pen. And there's my kind of old style book I love to write notes. How important is writing to you on a daily basis or typing for that matter? I love writing with a pen and paper too. And I have a book like yours my brother gave me for my birthday recent one which is actually a red, the red red one like that. But actually, those are just for your scattered thoughts your brainstorming. I actually really liked writing on the computer because I love the backspace and the delete function and I love
the ability to move text around because I like to just write as a flow. And if I'm if I don't remember a date, like you know what year did Napoleon invade Egypt? I'll just
put a star, I'll put 17. And then I put stars and I just like, go through as fast as I can. And then I'll go back and do all that like fact checking, and you put your references in and all of that. So I really love the fact that you can cut and paste and delete and move text around. Because when you go back, you realize, oh, that doesn't belong there belongs there and stuff like that. But I'd like to brainstorm on paper, first, I drew these, I can't remember what it's called, it's got an actual name, where you write down an idea in a circle, and then you write down all the circles all around it with lines, and then you draw them and you connect them. And I use that to create my
not only my outline for writing, but also my plan for research, like, how am I going to go ahead and look all these topics are,
I really love finding out how people get their ideas together? And I've already you know, you've you've reminded me about doing those? You know, the circular planning picture is so much is so vivid to us, isn't it? It goes into a different part of our brain. I really love that. And I don't like actually doing that. On software I find in software, it's like, it's a bit of a job. It's a bit technical. And by the time I've got the things in the right place, I've lost the idea, right?
Well, I guess if we were computer engineers, or something, we wouldn't maybe feel like that. But True. True. And what about your personal development? As a writer? How does writing contribute to to your daily development? How important is it?
I've been writing since I was a kid, I used to act out scenarios in my backyard, and then go and write them down.
And I was already ready to write the novel, but I never got very far with it. When I was an undergrad, I enrolled in English literature as my major because I thought that's what I wanted to be involved in. But I discovered that I was actually really bad at
I don't know, I couldn't understand what the mood was or you know, the tense or how the author was doing this or that thing. And so I got myself into social science writing, which is a completely different way of writing. And so then you get, then you start learning the academic voice, which is often very passive. And very, in the beginning, we weren't even allowed to use the word I. So my writing was always connected to my academia, and you do it on a daily basis
as as sort of you need to as your writing deadlines, come upon you. But in recent years, I've wanted to get back to the to the creative fiction side or the non what a genre called creative nonfiction. I think that's called memoirs and stuff like that. So I
so I've, I've been to some workshops, and I've started to try to do that journaling, where you where you practice every day, but unfortunately, I don't know, it's, I find it really hard to fit into my schedule, it just remains an aspiration most of the time
in Sharla, and Inshallah, I'm just really glad I kept diaries, because I couldn't have written my memoirs. And when you look back at them, I realized how many lies I was telling myself as well. But that's a story for another day. I wonder, doctor, because we because we really want to develop writers, with the Islamic Literary Society, we really want to inspire Muslims back to books. What is the relationship you see between reading, writing and social development? What I mean is, Can reading and writing help? Or how can it help Muslims in promoting an Islamic worldview and understanding the world around us?
You know, that's such a profound question. I was having a chat with one with one of my kids recently, who's quite allergic to writing. Even to reading I started reading to my kids when when they were three months old, and I read them every night for 12 or 13 years. But only two out of three have picked up reading as a habit.
And the one who is less interested basically said like there's no need to read any more or even to write because you have Google Google voice to text you just talk Google writes it down and then you have Google so they will read to you audiobooks and things.
And in school they don't even teach writing anymore handwriting you joking me? I'm not I'm not joking. So because everyone knows that life now is on the laptop.
So I was thinking, you know, the Prophet peace be upon him. He came into an oral society, you know, the Arabs mashallah were just they had amazing memories. They could, they wrote, they spoke amazing poetry. But the Quran came with the command to read and
Prophet peace upon him when they had prisoners of war if, if any of them could teach them awesome to read, they would be
Read. So there's something incredibly important about writing. Writing helps preserve, I mean, oral culture gets passed down through the mind through the memory, but writing makes it accessible to to so many more people, books, basically books, because those are the things that can be preserved in LA last, when, during I think it was the time of Alma, California man may Allah be pleased with him. And they'd been a lot of people who'd memorize the Quran had been dying in battle, and they were worried that the Quran was going to be lost. Because if it's only preserved in the memory of the of the people who have that skill, not everyone has that skill, then you know, it needed to it needs to
be written down in a document.
So sorry, that's a bit of a long winded answer. But so I really feel that the importance of books and writing and books change your life reading the Quran changed my life, you so many people will tell you that reading the Quran changed their life, I mean, some of them get attracted by hearing the event, which is an oral thing. But after that, it's the reading. And it's not just the Quran, we you know, you want to a self help book, you know, all the books about how to grow rich and how to make friends and how to lose weight. And there's, there's so much of our life development is wrapped up in advice that we get from books. But I do get that today is about stories. And I do get maybe
we're moving a little bit back to an oral tradition. But that doesn't negate that somebody somewhere needs to be the writer of these things. And that that action has proven ly that the connection between using your hands to shape the letters create such a firmness, affirm hold for the information in your mind. Exactly.
Just sliding through I know I'm old, but even so. Well that's true. I mean, even Imam Shafi used to apparently I if I'm if I'm not incorrect, he used to do even just like right on his hand, just as a way to help it. Remember, when he was listening to his teacher, I think that's a story of Imam Shafi that I've heard, mashallah, that you know, Link language is the way of us trying to verbalize the ideas and concepts in our mind. And I think it's just important that, that it gets written down.
We're very glad of your writing. I'm excited to be talking to you specifically about rethinking Muslim women and the veil, challenging historical American stereotypes.
I think you've done a couple of revisions of this tells us what the book argues in a nutshell, and how it's been, how it's been forming and growing.
The book argues that the Western concept that Muslim women are oppressed, which is treated like a truism has become a stereotype because it's then applied to every single Muslim women on the planet. And that's unfair. There might be Muslim women who are who are living and oppressed life, but there are also non Muslim atheist women who are living in oppress life. And so this idea should not be should not be used to create
assumptions about Muslim women or policy based on policy for about Muslim women targeted towards Muslim women. And that the veil means different things to different people. And every woman has her own journey towards it.
And this book, which was my PhD thesis, and I did my interviews in 1996, and seven, I wrote, I wrote it in 1999. It came out as a book in 2001. I, it hasn't been revised. I've just done one, they did a they did a reprint a second edition where I just
added some things to the Preface. But honestly, I'm, I'm, of course happy but also a little bit surprised that something from 2001 is still so
people still want to talk to me about it. I still get emails from people all around the world saying that they've read it and how much it has meant to them. Of course, that's extremely gratifying as an author, because you when you're writing, you're alone in your little space and you don't know what's going to happen to the words that go out. But on the other hand,
when I wrote that I had some kind of like naive enlightenment belief that you know, knowledge would help change minds and that my book I was bringing Muslim women voices giving them the platform as you that's how you introduced and not only it hasn't made a difference things are worse now that now than they were then. Oh, I don't don't I mean,
yeah, we tend to do have a tendency as passionate kind of converts. And I like that naive enlightenment moment because you know that you come in and you're like, I've got this guy's I am running
With the ball, and it's never been thought of before, but here I am. But we also have these kind of elevated platforms as white western Muslims from the UK or Australia. And clearly your book has had an impact because it's still being accessed by sisters. And when I was going through the introduction and the first and the first chapters, I was thinking, yes, yes, yes. And you, at the very least as an affirmation that we're not crazy, because I think one of the things that you brought up was this, this feeling of otherness that hijabis have that why don't you see us you can sit in a room full of people, and they'll say, oh, you know, Muslim, Muslim women, not you, though.
But all Muslim women, other Muslim women, they're oppressed?
You did you did you want to, to actually open up a debate with the mainstream? Did you expect this? You know, what, what, what outcomes Did you want? And how far had things moved away from where things went? Well, it was when you wrote this.
When I did the book, and I interviewed Muslim women about why they wear the hijab and what it means to them. I expected because they talked about
spiritual journeys about closeness to God about feelings of peace, about piety, about the sense of worship, about feeling liberated from the beauty myth that Western culture imposes upon women about being happy. I expected people to take those voices seriously. And with respect, and to say, Okay, next time I made on was a woman in a headscarf, I'm going to assume that she put it on by choice, that it's a part of a spiritual journey, and that she's really happy. And I can, you know, engage with her on a on a human to human level, maybe even talk about something else doesn't have to be, we always get stuck into talking about the headscarf as if it's the only thing that matters. That's
what I expected. Once you heard the voice of the Muslim woman, unfortunately, what we what we've seen is well, she's false consciousness. She doesn't know that she's saying something silly. She's been brainwashed. Even if she says it's her choice, we don't believe her. Or even if she says it's her choice, we know objectively that it's, it can't be good for her because we know better. So now you have all these laws around the world, you know, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Quebec, and Canada.
Basically saving women from themselves. So we don't even care what they say about themselves anymore, because we can't believe what they say we have to protect them because they can't protect themselves. Let's go.
Yeah, let's go because you picked up a word that protection, and that is absolutely vital to the apology for really bad laws that subjugate women. According to our dress code.
One of your chapters is called the veil in the feminist approach, can you can you take us into what you were talking about the perception that the veil is a symbol of Islam as oppression, and how women really police other women.
The is a genre of maybe what we'd call secular feminist responses to the veil, which argue that women's sexuality should be free and Unbound, they should wear whatever they like they should be able to walk down the street naked and not oppress or not attacked by any man. And then to cover up or to be part of a dress code or a religion which says you should cover up is automatically oppressive, because it's inhibiting your free your sexuality as a woman. And men don't have to so therefore, it's unequal it is discriminates against women. This literature often taps into a lot of medieval Islamic exegesis or explanations of the Quranic and Islamic law, which unfortunately can
have sort of a similar ring to it. The idea that the woman has something called fitna like a, like a chaos to the man and that's why she needs to be covered up and secluded and kept in the home and not allowed to go to the mosque. And these two perspectives like patriarchy and feminist secularism seem to have some agreements in interpretation. I'm trying to say that you're both wrong. Both of them are wrong. And that's why it was called challenging historical and modern stereotypes because I was trying to challenge the patriarchal interpretations within the Islamic tradition as well as those modern secularist interpretations. How did you challenge the patriarchal view?
I tried to and I didn't go into this in great depth because as a as a Western scholar who's trained in what
Western social sciences and not the Islamic social sciences, I didn't really have the authority to go into the tradition in too much detail. But I did try to
use the prophetic examples of the women and the first community and how the interactions were and the life then to challenge what seems to have come afterwards in the development of law, which which created a much more restricted space and role for women in society. You read the Hadith and the women, they were so much fear and more active in the society than what we've ended up with in a lot of traditional Islamic law. So I tried to say the veil is not a symbol of, of what the traditional Islamic jurists argued, were about like woman's nature, about her being weak source of chaos, needing to be, you know, restricted to the home. If you look at the splinter, that's not how the
women lived. So that was it was a very, perhaps surface and superficial attempt. But that was what I could do at the time, I'd been Muslim for like, I started the book.
I don't know, I started my research, maybe four months after becoming, right and you know what, that's a great thing. Because, because that passion, you write as well, you in the preface, in the beginning that you know you're negative. The way you were negatively impacted when you put on hijab, even in Toronto, was shocking to you because you're like, Okay, I've got a headscarf on. Maybe you and I recognize that our grandmothers used to wear headscarves when they went out No biggie. They just used to tie it under here. My grant, maybe not so much in Australia, but definitely in the UK.
And this is going to be fine. It's still me, what did you actually encounter? And and how do you think that impacted your passion for this topic?
When I started wearing the headscarf, I believed I lived. I believed the story that the society tells itself. We are a secular liberal society. I'd been studying liberalism at university. And liberalism says each citizen chooses the contents of their own good life. Each citizen chooses their good life. So I had chosen my good life. And it was Islam. Why is everyone and I got so much negative reaction.
I went around to all of my professors and I said to them, I've become a Muslim. And next time you see me I'll be wearing a headscarf. And I did this like with five or six of them. And I had to sit there and go go through this whole story with all of them all, but we're not you are known as a feminist and all but we don't hear about white western women becoming Muslim and one prof told me to go away and read all these Marxist critiques of Islam. And another prophet
told me if I must be like wishy washy intellectually and if if he levitated what I start to worship Him. And when I put the headscarf on all these people in the corridor, people who had, I'd been in the program for a year and a half already. And I thought I had all these friends. And then they're like, Oh, her master this and this, as if it was my fault.
And I was like, where's the, you know, secular liberal, good life, she can choose her own good life, like, what's going on here. So when I entered the program, this is the Ph. D. program, I was planning to study ancient Greek relativism.
That was the proposal I'd been accepted with and compare it to modern cultural relativism. And then my supervisors, while to do this topic, you'll have to learn ancient Greek and I'm like,
I don't think I'm gonna do that. And then I was getting all these negative reactions, like even I'd go to the Department of a different department and the Secretary would talk to me in a very rude way. And I'm like, but you know, like, yesterday, I wish I could be here and you'd be really nice with me. I'm catching on board with it with an Australian accent and today I'm wearing a scarf. But yeah, so that I decided that was something worth investigating. And I suppose that's where the passion came from. Because that then became my my new topic. Just one more question on this area. And How then did the professors overseeing your PhD react to this quite bolshy move?
The one that I finally chose was, was because he was able to be empathetic with me. And he basically I guess, he's, he's a he's a liberal scholar. I guess he really embodied what liberalism means and he took it seriously. And so he accepted it, and he supported me and encouraged me
And if it hadn't been for him, I honestly don't know what have happened to me. I had another professor that in the committee, you need to have three in the department who were sit on your committee. And you know, one of them took me aside one day and had a little chat to me about how in academia, it's about building bricks of knowledge in the wall. And as as a person of faith, they and it was a secular wall. And as a person of faith, I probably wouldn't be able to do it. And why don't I just go away and write about Islam? Leave the program and go and write books about Islam.
So I was like,
that was really hard. That was actually really hard.
To find figure out a way to be a person of faith inside the secular Academy, when it was hostile to me, as a Muslim.
We're very glad that you did.
even would have looked at the anti hijab routes. I remember reading, and I hope you'll be able to pick me up on this was it an Algerian, a French governor of Algiers, who wrote in I don't know, the 1800s back to Paris saying, to break the back, it's a famous letter to break the back of the resistance, we must get the women out of the veil, and get them you know, and see who and get them out of the house and out of the veil. So in that way, the women as the women as Muslim women, veiled Muslim women, specifically as bastions and protectors of the face
has been really important. And there's been a French colonial obsessions with Muslim women and modesty ever since. Is that something that you found in your research, I did find that in my research, I can't recall the actual letter that you're talking about. But it was very widespread. It wasn't only in Algeria, it was in Morocco too. And it was also in English colonial rule over Egypt. Lord Cromer was was also known to, to say things like that about how we have to force these people to imbibe Western civilization if they don't, if they don't accept it willingly, and the British missionaries in Egypt.
One of them that I remember from my research, swimmer, I don't remember how to pronounce his name. But basically, it's like, if we get the girls for Christ, we've got the nation for Christ. And so it was right across, they made very explicit attempts to
even rebuild streets and change the architecture. I remember one Moroccan governor, because at the time, the houses were built, with the walls facing the streets, to very tiny little windows, because they were surrounded, the houses were built around inner courtyards, right. But they wanted to destroy that and make sure their houses had windows that faced onto the street, so that they could, you know, see in seeing was
important to them as a way of controlling the population, and definitely targeting the women because, obviously, traditional society, women are the first
even Islamically they say that the mother of the nation, the
child grows until his whatever, she's five or six years old, with the woman, if you that's so that's why the missionary said if you get the girls for Christ, you get you get Egypt for Christ. I find it very interesting that the French colonial mission, couldn't even leave the Muslim women veiled in their own nations, in Morocco, Tunis, and Algeria, even there. And of course, then when they, when they forced this idea of Frenchness, onto Muslims, and they come to France, we need definitely, this is not the French way, you know, and unfortunately, some of the most of us so for us, sisters, who are anti Val now do come from these places where it would have been emotionally ripped and
psychologically ripped from them. Did did you go go much into colonialism in your studies? And in the book, I started by trying to figure out why the people around me was so hostile to that to the headscarf and what was the source of that in Western culture. So I did go into colonialism, and I tried to trace it back as far as I could, and honestly, I was unable I haven't really seen anybody. Everyone quotes from a British Lady Mary Motley Montague, who was the wife of a British ambassador in Turkey, I believe, 1776 or something that was the earliest reference I could find. And she says,
you know, the veil is not oppressive. So that was one of the first instances I could find this idea with
or not it exists in medieval discourse, I wasn't able to come across that there was a tendency more to focus on Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him as a false prophet in medieval discourse, but maybe it exists. I don't know, maybe the medieval European women were wearing the veil. So it wasn't, it wasn't so I don't know. But honestly, I don't think any, I haven't been able to find out why or where that this idea that of oppression came from. I can understand about backwardness and being uncivilized and all of that, but the actual concept of being oppressed. So when I went through the colonial era, by then it was sort of already established in western discourse. And the veil was the
sign of the oppression of Muslim women, but also of the backwardness it was taken as the symbol of the entire region. It served as what they call in an academic language and meta Nim, it stood in for the entire region of their backwardness.
I'm looking as well, through your work and thinking about the Western Christian views you mentioned there about, you know, Christianize, the women and we'll and we'll get the society and then that's definitely clearly been a movement that still goes on.
But I wonder about the the way that once colonialism had taken place across the Middle East, and of course, the Raj, the British empire in India, this there was a new centralized system wasn't there, it's like come to the center, the beating heart of Europe. And once there, you have to go to you have to have your own banking, and you're coming out to work. And yet at the time, Europe didn't even recognize the legal existence of women. Was Was that was there any? Do you think there was any envy their
envy of Muslim women? Yes, because because there must have been well, or an anxiety perhaps because the certainly the Victorian system of women should be seen and not heard. There's a lot of Victoriana that crept into to India at the time, of men's views of women have sure she should be seen and not heard. That wasn't that wasn't there, that wasn't the, the Islamic empowerment.
It's probably the latter of what you said about anxiety. And
obviously, if you're socialized into a system of controlling of relations, and you go somewhere and you find it different, then you want to introduce what you know, you want to introduce it as what you know, as as the quote unquote, proper relations and system of controlling relations between men and women. I mean, I don't know if I should say this, but I think even the early Muslim community experience that I know that when they the first commodity moved from from Mecca to Medina, and they found the answer, women were known to be sort of more outspoken and more this and then and some of the Mexicans were a bit like, well, what are these? What are these women?
So the the, definitely the, at the time of that colonial era, certainly in England, I think that was the married women's Property Act. Now, I didn't check this before our interview, but I think it was 1871 I might be wrong about the date. So when the woman marriage became the property and her her property and herself became the property of her husband. In Islamic law, women had their own disabilities through the law, but they were legal persons, they were able to own property to trade and exchange. And definitely the the English patriarchal system, disempowered them in many ways, under colonialism. Catherine talked to us about
the way that that
since women, since Muslim women are represented in the west now in large numbers, arguably, this is the biggest representation of Muslim Ness outside of Muslim lands ever in history, right. There is Do you recognize a movement to make Muslim women fear and dislike the hijab? And has that actually taken hold within our communities? invisibly? Yeah,
the discourse that the veil was oppressive, was first. Okay, we don't know when it first started, but it was definitely taken up in the colonial era. And it was about European Ising turning them into you know, the good Victorian angel in the home. Like you said, it wasn't necessarily feminist empowerment, the way we would see it, but
when Christendom fell away, is sort of like the moral compass for a lot of people and we ended up with
secular secular societies and then feminists took up this concept of the veil as a symbol of oppression but for the different reasons that I mentioned before, because of the way of inhibiting sexuality and, and controlling the way you show your beauty in public.
It's a different rationale, but the end result is the same or the targeted criticism is the same. And now we have this, these
polar anti face veil and anti headscarf policies, you know, going around the world, and they seem to be spinning around more this feminist idea. Maybe it's because of the 60s or something. I know that in France, some of the arguments put forward by people against the headscarf and the veil,
about sexuality and in you know,
basically, it's about the right of the male gaze, we have the right to look at women, we want to look at women, we want to see your face the Quebec Premier, when he was talking against the face veil, we want to hit he actually said we want to see your face. And this is this is a masculine gaze that is present in the colonial time, like I found quotations from colonial men talking to each other, like, oh, there are so many beautiful women here these these men are like keeping a cache of treasures and we should force them to, to expose like, why are we being denied this the you know, they somehow see it as their right to look upon these, these beautiful treasures. And women adopt a
masculine escape because of that,
of that experience. They know that men look and women like to be looked at. So they know that if you cover it up, you can't be looked at it in that same way. And so there's definitely this focus on the idea of the veil as making you ugly.
You know, not beautiful, not suitable for the masculine gaze. There. There are a lot of young women in the Muslim community who want to put on the headscarf and their families will tell them don't you'll never find a husband.
Right, when we're not very good, though. Dr. Catherine? Are we at making the argument of independence from the male gaze? I think that's been lacking or not promoted enough within our own communities? Would you? Would you agree with that? Is that something you'd recognize?
Actually, my book, The last chapter, I tried to make the case for independence from the male gaze. And a lot of women, a lot of the young women say that they put it on they feel empowered now, because they're removed from the male gaze. My, my beauty is none of your business into interact with me as an intellect. I'm a I'm a person with capabilities. I'm in the public space. My beauty is removed. Don't male gaze me. So I actually think a lot of young women find those ideas very empowering. I think inside the community, though, unfortunately, that there is still a great emphasis on the male gaze, and it's all about being beautiful for the potential husband. And you
know, you hear stories about the at the wedding, you know, at the wedding party, and the Auntie's are all that checking it out all the young girls, and we have internalized racism. So if the skin is darker, then you're going to be a problem. And if you've got lighter skin, you know, you'll be sought after by all the Auntie's for marriage. So
inside our community, I think we've also adopted a masculine s gaze.
Maybe Maybe it sits in contradiction with this, with this idea of a headscarf and what it's for, but I think, you know, Islamically, we don't, necessarily, I'm not sure the headscarf is really about the male gaze in the same way it is, when we're talking about it to the secular liberal society is much more than that. It's so much more it's about us and God, why can't we be accepted as fully fledged believers before our Creator? Exactly. Yeah.
It is. The
the women in Christianity the nuns, who are the ones left, like women in Christianity used to cover their heads with headscarf. So they also then it got reduced to when you enter church, you're your cover, and then that was disappeared as well. But people I think recognize the legitimacy of the nuns who cover but they're there
As they know, their place in society, if you like, like they're on the outskirts. Yes, they do good work and they're charitable and all that blah, blah, blah. But, but most of them women are, I think, an affront. Because we're not just we're not just in in we're not just in the what's the word the nunneries? I don't know if that's a contemporary word.
Get the two although Shakespeare the famous line, Get thee to a nunnery or is Hamlet to a philia.
So we were trying to claim our space in the professional world, you know, you're a journalist, a writer. I'm trying to teach in a university.
Muslim women want to want to wear their headscarves and be part of the world, the secular world, they want to work as pharmacists, as teachers, as doctors, as police, women. And
I think people just find that a fronting.
Let's move forward to to two final questions. Are you optimistic about the possibility now of the Western world accepting another cultural narrative? We could let's talk about Toronto, let's talk about Canada and Europe.
There's a split, I think, between people who are able to embrace alternate narratives and to be empathetic towards different worldviews and people who feel affronted and threatened and are now hunkering down.
The people who are hunkering down, in some countries, especially in Europe, seem to be taking the reins of power. There's a pushback, definitely in Canada, there's a pushback amongst amongst those who are more open to alternate narratives in the US as well, I don't know maybe less so in Australia. So actually, right now, I don't feel optimistic. But I think there's this great struggle going on and Muslims, we have allies. And we have, I think, our responsibility to continue the efforts to make our case, even though I feel disappointed that my 2001 book hasn't had a the major impact that I assumed it would. But I but I think that this is the struggle of this life, and we
have, we absolutely have to keep it up. Because if they don't hear, if we don't make the effort to put our voices out there to give that the person who is potentially going to become an ally, then it's on us like we have to have that material there so that they can find it.
Final question, what advice can you give to the Muslims, especially in relation to rediscovering their literacy and literary heritage? Maybe in families, but But even as adult individuals just get reading again? What advice can you give to start us off?
the families should start reading to their kids and create and a love of books in the family inside the house. And the school should promote reading and book clubs and literacy and have amazing libraries full of wonderful books. And you can have excursions and trips to libraries, the work that you're doing with yields lemak Literary Society. I mean, I remember when I first converted them Muslims would joke or how about how Muslims in our friend circle would joke about how Muslims don't read and they'd say, you know, you go on the subway, and you look around and all the non Muslims are sitting there with their books, and then and then Muslims aren't. So there's this somehow this joke
that Muslims don't read, and I suspect it's been tied to the authoritarian cultures that many of them come to, because once you start allowing the population to read and then they start thinking for themselves, but we live in hamdulillah free societies, we should take advantage of that and people are taking taking advantage of that. You know, amongst the second generation there's so much thirst for books for kids books for it's definitely happening there's a literary Renaissance happening
mashallah, it's been an absolute pleasure to meet with you and I'd like to speak to you about a follow on interview. Let's arrange a date for that Inshallah, to Allah if you're agreeable. I want to go into I Dream of Jeannie, which I watched when I was a kid, pure harem males 1950s fantasy, and also Merlin, and Stargate as it started, yeah, the image of the Muslim woman and the veil, and I Why didn't you put Maleficent in there? Melissa?
I'd have to have I didn't I didn't look I mean, I watched that movie, but you know, when you're when you're writing it
If you don't have space, it's hard to put in everything right if they, if you get
if you have to analyze and explain and give all the examples, I think I'm gonna send you I'm gonna get you some homework I'm gonna I'm gonna get you to watch that movie again and add Maleficent in. Thank you so much. May Allah bless you really helped all of us to kind of summarize ideas, I know you feel that you haven't made a change. But honestly, reading that as I did, well, when I first came to Islam, in 2010, about 2012 I came across the paper, and it was like, oh, gosh, somebody's speaking my language. I'm not crazy. It's a huge help. You're a huge you know, you know, a symbol of you know, resistance and, and helpfulness and academia and we thank you so much for your work. Dr.
Katherine will come speak to you soon inshallah. Inshallah, is that gonna happen for the chance to talk to masala that that to me is, you know, subhanAllah an interview with an icon whose work is incredibly pivotal into shaping our thoughts, really, to an academic understanding of what the veil means to other communities and to ourselves and to raise those questions about why we wear it's how we wear it, the impact it has and how to help each other.
I make dua for you. May Allah Allah bless you may Allah increases in ilmi, Arabic Sydney ilmi May Allah bless all of our writers, including Dr. Catherine and I'll see you again in sha Allah to Allah. If you like this video, don't forget to share it to your platforms. Don't forget to subscribe to the Islamic Literary Society and I'll put a link as well to my YouTube channel. And may Allah bless you see you again. It's fella Massillon.