I thought it was an important observation.
A 28 year old British Muslim woman , finds out that everyone in her community seems to have an opinion on how she lives her life. The conflicting advise she gets, some say she is being held back by her religion , and then that she is not religious enough.
Everyone in the so called community tells her the type of clothes she should wear, who she should go out with . She still lives with her parents and has a curfew, she can not be out after 10pm, though her father says she shouldn’t be out after 8pm!
With all the talk of integration and being British, to me this seemed pretty oppressive. Mehreen Baig, the young woman in question is very attractive, wears make up, has a job and would like to have a social life like other women her age. The fact that she is being told to live a parallel life to the society she is living is a proof that it is not possible to be a strong independent woman and a good Muslim in modern Britain.
At 28 she is considered too old , not to have been married. On joining a Muslim dating site, the men she met all have their own ideas of what a wife should be and how she should behave.
We were shown a religious sermon, it emphasised that “if a wife refuses her husband’s demand for sex,the Angels will curse her all night”. So no right of consent either!
Despite the claims that Islam is a feminist religion which empowers women, most of the findings in that documentary pointed to it being inherently sexist. A shot of the Sharia court showed us that women who have been married and then divorced in the Islamic way were left destitute, they had no choice when their husbands told them they were going to marry someone else.
When I married my husband ,many years ago; he was from a Sunni sect and I was born in a Shia family, there was a collective gasp from both of our families. Though my father, having had his schooling in England and then Cambridge university was very open minded. He allowed us to read about all religion, debate and discuss and follow any or none of the faiths.
My husband and I lived all our married life in England, and were spared the prejudice, but every time I went to India, there were whispers, his family never accepted me as I came from a family who didn’t follow the rituals , so were not considered “pure of faith”, the fact that we had high values was of no importance, it was the show of being religious was what mattered.
I brought up my children with the same freedom and openness, which became a stick to beat me with, our families remained highly critical and never lost a chance to preach and condemn my behaviour. Even the Muslims we met and socialised are though not critical to our face but must consider me a liability, as they though polite, do not include me in their social circle.
It is not important to me that I should be liked by a certain group of people , as am very lucky to have many friends and great neighbours who are all from different walks of life and accept and like me for who I am. But it does show that prejudices exist and they are not just one sided.
Living in an open, secular and tolerant society means that you have to shed your own prejudices to be part of that culture. When some one said that Islam is not compatible with western society, they were right , watching the struggle of this young girl reinforces that statement, and so does my own experience.
The fact that this documentary was shown late at night and was not publicised, ( I don’t remember seeing any trailer either), shows that the mainstream media is still reluctant to acknowledge the burden religion places on the life of those who want to lead life on their own terms, rights we take for granted are beyond the reach of women living in these communities. And those who do so are ostracised. I didn’t and still don’t mind that am an outcast because I lead my life on my own terms, and so do my children, but a lot, especially women do and live in oppression despite being in the free world.
I think that is sad.