According to media, Muslim women fall into a dichotomy of being either the submissive, conservative Arabic hijabi (who may or may not be complicit in some form of terrorism), or the westernized Muslim woman who attempts to move away from her culture as much as possible, victimized by her “barbaric” religion. Either way, they are seen as having no voice, and are, in some way or another influenced by the culture around them because they have no form of individuality.
But then there’s me: an Indonesian Muslim who doesn’t wear a hijab unless it’s Eid, but wearing a crop top isn’t going to result in an honor killing. And I’m certainly not the only one.
These rigid narratives definitely do not represent all of us, and certainly do more harm than good, as we’ve seen through burqa bans, Muslim bans, and sob stories from angry non-Muslim boyfriends who claim their exes were “oppressed by their parents” because they weren’t allowed to date in high school. The biggest problem with these narratives is the fact that they are often told by people who aren’t us.
As a religion that is diverse in so many ways, now more than ever is the time to reclaim our narratives and acknowledge the intersections of our identities as Muslim women. By doing so, we combat Islamophobia and how it affects all of us, because it definitely does not affect us all the same way. Islamophobia comes with anti-Blackness. Islamophobia comes with exotification. Islamophobia comes with deniability of your identity simply because your Islam “cancels” it out.
In the age of the Internet and self-publishing, we have to create platforms and means to raise our own voices, tell our own stories the way we want them to be told, and show that we’re more than just support for negative stereotypes and political agendas.We have to show society that we’ve always had our voices, but they’ve tried to keep us quiet until now.
Whether it’s through writing, the arts, STEM, sports, cooking, being a housewife, an educator, or an amazing attorney, reclaim your narrative, and don’t feel as though you have to conform to an image in order to be seen as “Muslim” or as “badass” enough to tell your story. You’re both.
You’re here. You’re visible. You always have been.