It’s Muslim Women’s Day!

My trek to being a Muslim woman has not been an easy one. We tend to grow up being told all the things we can’t do. We can’t date, we can’t go stay out late with friends, we can’t do certain subjects at school, we can’t wear sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses with no tights. Growing up as a woman in Islam I felt so restricted, and that’s an issue many of us feel still. The cultural aspects that have seeped into the religion have a lot of double standards. I’m lucky my family don’t believe in sons and daughters having different rules, but it’s still hard to fight against your family restraints sometimes.

Growing up can feel lonely. My cousins were across an ocean and sometimes I felt like the only Muslim girl who questioned things, who wanted to do things against the grain, who just wanted to have her freedom. Obviously I’m not the only one, but without the internet we didn’t have access to blogs, Twitter and Facebook groups to see we’re not alone. It took me a long time to be proud of my heritage but I am proud to be a British-Pakistani Muslim woman. As a teenager and in my early 20’s I seriously white washed myself desperately trying to fit in, desperately wanting a family like all my friends had.

The Muslim women in my life now I’m 32 are all strong, intelligent, creative and awesome. They break boundaries, fight for justice and continue to inspire me every day. They are out there smashing stereotypes of Muslim women, showing the world we’re not what the media is portraying us to be. We differ in how religious we are, but we are all still connected. I have family, aunties who constantly push me to be more creative, who support me and are the warmest, most loving women you could ever meet. Cousins and friends who fight for what they believe in, work hard for their goals and are the greatest examples of modern Muslim women you can meet.

It’s our responsibility, I guess as this new generation of ‘Aunties’, to be outspoken and to be public about what we’re doing. We’re the ones now showing younger girls that they can be whatever they want to be and define being a modern Muslim woman in their own way. We don’t have to stick to cultural boundaries anymore. Be loud and brave about your choices because somewhere out there is someone who feels alone and needs to hear your voice. Show them they have nothing to be ashamed of, that they will always have support and help them find their way.

It’s not been easy, there have been many big, nasty, mentally challenging obstacles along the way but I’m grateful for the upbringing that shaped who I am. To every Muslim women out there today, celebrate yourself, eat some gulab jaman, drink some chai and don’t let any man, white, desi, Muslim, or otherwise, hold you down.