Guest Review: Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality by Sarah Husain
27 July 2010
The following guest review is written by a wonderful friend of mine who has given me permission to publish her review of Voices of Resistence: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality ed. by Sarah Husain.
This is not the usual sort of book that you would find reviewed on Page Turners. It is non-fiction and it is political and I hope that you enjoy something different.
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I can’t count the number of times that I’ve read a blurb on the back of a book where a reviewer says the book is ‘life changing… a book everyone should read’. More often that not what they mean is, ‘this is a really great book’. However, Sarah Husain’s, Voices of Resistance really is one of those books that everyone should read.
In this collection of short essays, poetry, letters and art works, Muslim women make their voices heard – shouting their stories of resistance from ‘battle fields’ across the globe. These ‘battle fields’ include the home, the body and faith; schools, war zones and oneself; making the book both a exploration of the diversity of Muslim women’s experiences and identities and a powerful statement of defiance.
The Collection is introduced by Sarah Husain and structured into four chapters – (Un)naming Wars, Witnessing Acts, (Un)claiming Faiths/Unclaiming Nations, Reclaiming our Bodies/Reclaiming our Sexualities. While Husain’s introduction is at times a touch polemic, it puts the collection into context a passionate statement about why a collection of this nature is so necessary.
The opening chapter includes pieces from the occupation of
and Iraq to racial profiling and personalised accounts of prejudice, opening up the notion that ‘war zones’ extend far beyond where bombs are dropped. The theme of this chapter was well conveyed in Dhikr, Palestine who have “no names and no faces”; the opening borders for capital and their violent protection from the movement of people. The author also raised the difficulties of being critical of her own communities at a time when they are under attack from the outside. which deals with contradictions of war and ‘modernity’ – the individuals who died on September 11 and the dead in Afghanistan
Among the poetry, art and personal stories is a more academic piece on the meanings of violence and terrorism, Violence, Revolution and Terrorism: A Legal and Historical Perspective. This unique piece provides a really useful framework to analyse the rest of the collection, drawing a distinction between violence as a means of terror and violence as a means of resisting oppression.
Chapter Three opens with a lengthy, personal correspondence between three Muslim women discussing faith, identity, culture, family, war and resistance – a piece that really draws the reader into the minds and hearts of the writers – and continues to explore the complexity of what faith means to different Muslim women across communities. The book concludes with powerful statements of women who claim their bodies and the right to define them as they wish, dealing with homosexuality, female circumcision, stereotypes of the ‘erotic’ Arab woman, and the power of sisterly solidarity.
The collection is perhaps most aptly illustrated by the image When Alone by Samira
Abbassy, depicting the many faces, overlapped and interwoven, individual, yet inextricably linked. This was what I gained most out of this book – an understanding of the diversity of Muslim women and their communities, and an incredible feeling of the strength of the voices and resistance.
Many collections are able to be picked up and put down between pieces. While each piece in Voices of Resistance is powerful in itself, they are even stronger as a collection. The reader feels as though the contributors are speaking to you personally. You live their experiences. Feel their emotions. Have an insight into their identities and struggles.
I write this review from the perspective of a white, straight, middle class feminist who has limited experience struggling in solidarity with Muslim women. It is with this background I say that Voices of Resistance should be read by all, or at least anyone who thinks Muslim women need a knight in shining armor to liberate them.
Posted by Rebecca Chapman