Stories about oppression

Dear thin people, I think we need to have a talk

I am five-foot-four, 125 pounds. My measurements are 36-28-38. I wear size medium shirts, size seven jeans, and (in case you were wondering) size eight shoes. I have never walked into a clothing store unable to find items in my size. I have never been asked to pay more for a seat on an airplane. I have never had someone dismiss me as a dating prospect based on my body type, nor had someone scoff, openly, while watching me eat french fries in public. I have never experienced a doctor dismissing my concerns with a “lose weight, feel great” remedy. And I can open an article with my ...

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Should the Wheaton College Professor have been suspended for wearing a hijab?

Whether in Islamic theocracies or places with visible minority Muslim populations, from China to the United Kingdom, the hijab twists conservatives and liberals in their support or opposition to dress normally associated with fundamental religion. We see bullies “rip off” hijabs; one such incident recently took place in New York City. On the other extreme, groups like the Taliban declare, “wear hijab or be disfigured.” And they carry out such threats. Nushin Arbabzadah summed up this contrast in The New York Times: “Women may want to express ‘solidarity’ with Muslim women by covering up. But Muslim women don’t need to cover up. This act ...

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Change begins at home: Stop blaming France for the Burkini ban

When I lived in Saudi Arabia, religious policing of women’s bodies was the norm. I remember a time when my mother and I were casually strolling down Suwaiket street – one of the most busiest and populated areas in downtown Al-Khobar – when we suddenly witnessed the religious police, most commonly referred to as ‘mutawa’ (or mutaween for plural) approach a young woman, and angrily demanded that she cover up, as she wore the abaya (full Islamic body covering), with the scarf resting loosely around her shoulders, her face and hair bare. When the woman, who was too shocked to speak or didn’t comply right away, ...

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I was never his wife, I was only his slave

“I maybe from a  third world country but I have a heart like you do, emotions like you have, and dreams to pursue. On my first Eid as a married girl, I wanted to dress up and celebrate my new beginning instead of being in a hospital bed recovering from the effects of abuse.” I got married in March 2014 in Chicago with dreams of starting a new life and a future built out on love and trust in my new home. My parents were so assured that they were giving me into the hands of an educated guy; someone who ...

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I do not think my female friends should come back to Pakistan

“It is hard being back. It’s like every decision I make is not my own. I cannot even walk on the streets or go out late without my mom worrying. And do not even get me started on the questions I face about my marriage plans.” These words from my friend, who recently returned from her graduate degree in the UK, have become a recurring theme in my conversations with all my female friends going back home to Pakistan after living abroad. I currently happen to live in New York, with quite a few graduate students from Pakistan. And I do not want ...

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Why don’t men give women the rights guaranteed to them by religion?

Pakistani women are playing an active role in society and have attained success in fields that were considered to be ‘no go zones’ a few years ago. Although they are taking strides towards prosperity and financial independence, further efforts need to be made in order for them to gain their share of honour and dignity. Could you have imagined, a decade ago, that Pakistan would have scores of female fighter pilots in its Air Force? Could you have imagined a year that Pakistan’s soil would be emboldened with the memory of a female martyr, Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar? Many of you are nodding your ...

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“Practicing Islam in Short Shorts”: A passionate response to its critics

If you haven’t already read “Practicing Islam in Short Shorts” by Thanaa El-Naggar that went viral last week, now would be a good time to do so. The article is so well written and so meaningful that it was nothing short of a breath of fresh air; it was like her voice was speaking directly to my soul, almost as if applying cold balm to my wounds. Here was a young Muslim woman narrating her spiritual journey of how she transcended hollow religiosity, liberating herself from the chains of organised religion. Previously being a conservative minded Muslim myself, I felt ...

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Series 2: “The Djinn” Part 3 Written in blood

One day, I showed a letter to Hercules which my grandmother found in a drawer of this house.  It was dated June 1942. “Dearest Lily, It’s been a while since I wrote. The cook was away and we were at the club every day because nothing can persuade me to cook in this heat. All stoves are wretched of course, but these ones much more so. My respect for Indian haunches increases whenever I see our cook, all 200 pounds of him squatting at that blazing furnace for hours doing whatever it is one does with kedgerees and curries. And then if you please, ...

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#HeForShe will not make you any less of a man

In an era where celebrities predominantly exercise an almost magnetic influence over their fan base to promote products and virtually dictate the way the populous dresses or behaves, it becomes exceedingly rare to see an individual stand up and talk about a pertinent issue. Emma Watson, an actress known mostly for her performance in the Harry Potter series, showed how celebrity power can be used in a positive way. Speaking before a UN conference, Watson kick started her ‘HeForShe’ campaign, a movement which aims to achieve gender equality by including men in the fight against female oppression. Although as a race, we have ...

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Why do female supporters of PTI bother you, Maulana Fazlur Rehman?

I am your archetypical Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporter. I am young, charged up, and me and my counterparts are the backbone of the “tabdeeli” you see around you, whether you agree with it or not. And one thing is for sure – working for PTI as a volunteer worker has just reiterated my faith in the fact that whatever men can do, women can do equally well or even better. They also bring to the political arena an innate wisdom, just like my leader Imran Khan had said a few years ago in a television interview, and keeps stressing in ...

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