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Our stories, our lives

Our stories, our lives: Inspiring Muslim women's voices

EDITED BY Wahida Shaffi
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  • Book Info
    Our stories, our lives
    Book Description:

    In the early years of the 21st century, a number of Muslim women have achieved positions of influence. Women who care about the society in which they live and bring up their children are increasingly finding a voice and working together to make things happen. There's some way to go in harnessing the potential that lies at the heart of this change, but there is plenty of evidence that Muslim women are paving the way forward in new dynamic, challenging and creative ways. This book is all about women who have shown courage, dignity and strength; pioneers who have recognized their potential in the public and private realms of society, who have struggled, made sacrifices, taken pride in their multiple identities and who are committed to positive and peaceful change in the UK. This book presents the stories of 20 women from Bradford between the ages of 14 and 80, from their own perspectives. Based on a broader project called OurLives, which was designed to explore the insights and experiences of over a hundred women in Bradford, it belongs to a long tradition of oral history, where practical knowledge is passed from generation to generation. The book offers an intricate mosaic of the experiences, views and hopes of these women and in so doing emphasises the power of people's lives to aid deeper debate and understanding and gives voice to an important and often marginalised group. It will be fascinating to a range of people with an interest in Muslim women's lives and views and of wider interest to students, academics, policy-makers and professionals .

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-785-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Today’s World
    (pp. 7-10)
    Wahida Shaffi
  2. The Mayoress
    (pp. 15-20)

    I never thought that this shy little girl from a village would end up being the first ever Asian Lady Mayoress in Great Britain. I never imagined it at all! I was born in Khanyara Sharif. You know there’s the town of Mirpur, well Dadyal’s the village bit further along from Mirpur and my village is near that. I’m nearly 57 now. I was married at a very young age and I came to England as a young bride when I was just 16. That was 1969. I’d heard really good things about England then. Everybody that went back from...

  3. The Pioneer
    (pp. 21-26)

    Pioneers always create a space for others to follow and shape other paths and in some ways my mother opened up a path for me and in some ways I’m opening the path up for my daughters. I’m Fatima Ayub. I’m 36 and I have four children. My eldest daughter will be 15 soon – her dream is to become a British female Islamic scholar – there are far too many men and there’s a real shortage of good female scholars who can work within the context of Britain. We have a responsibility that is as much ours as anyone...

  4. Dadi Ma the Motivator
    (pp. 27-32)

    I don’t know what year I was born because in those days we didn’t have ways of documenting people’s dates of birth. But I must be in my 80s now according to the date on my passport – probably even more! And I guess because I’ve lived in this country for such a long time I have become walaythee (British) myself! I live on my own in a big old house near Lister Park and Oak Lane, it has central heating so it’s nice and warm and I’ve got a stair lift that I hardly ever use because it scares...

  5. From Sylhet to Ilkley
    (pp. 33-40)

    There are lots of Sylheti people who live in England. From my family it was only me that moved here. I got married to a man from England, Bangladeshi of course. I was 18, so I was quite excited. It was England, you know! When we were small we used to think that there were apple trees and grape trees in the streets and that the pavements were made of gold. And I thought it would be like the pictures in the television and books. You have this beautiful image in your mind of how things will be like. The...

  6. Music ‘n’ Motherhood
    (pp. 41-46)

    You only realise how precious motherhood is when you actually become a mother you know! My mum was the only one from her family to be born in England, everyone else was born in Jamaica. I have a brother and sister from my step dad. He’s really cool. He’s always treated me like his own. Whatever them lot get, I get, and if ever I need anything he’s there. My mum got diagnosed with epilepsy when she had my younger sister and then a couple of years ago she got diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. In these sorts of situations the...

  7. Identity
    (pp. 47-50)

    My name’s Natasha and I’m 14 years old and when I grow up I either want to be an extreme sports instructor, a marine biologist or a Charlie’s Angel! People at school say I’m not a Muslim. I don’t go to mosque and wear a headscarf and I’m not really that religious, so they think I call myself it just because my mum’s Muslim. My dad’s not because he’s white. I consider myself Muslim because I’ve been brought up that way. I believe in the same things, so I eat halal meat – it’s been killed in a different way....

  8. No Mercy!
    (pp. 51-58)

    My name is Mumtaz, I’m 35 years old. I was born in Little Horton, the Bradford 5 area. I’m a ju-jitsu teacher so most of my students call me Sensei, which is the Japanese word for a teacher of martial arts. I founded Onna Ju-Jitsu club. I chose the name because I wanted something that would represent me and the word Onna translates as ‘woman’ in Japanese. It started off with just me and two loyal students, Ian Margerison and Shannon Gibbon. And now I lead a group of instructors, delivering to over 800 people a week and almost 50%...

  9. Journey to the House of Allah
    (pp. 59-66)

    Right now, for the first time I’ve fallen in love with my name, and last year or the year before or whenever, it was always Mina, Mina, Mina. It was about others. But now it’s about me owning my name, my life, my choices and now I’m proud to say, “Yes, please do call me Negara Khatun.”

    I currently work in a school supporting children for whom English is a second language. I was born in Mombasa in Kenya in 1969. We lived in a really poverty stricken way. My (step) father, Abba Jee, has had the highest impact on...

  10. I have a Dream!
    (pp. 67-72)
    Rejwana Malik

    I got my A’level results recently and achieved two As and a B and now I’m at uni. I attended Feversham Islamic College for seven years. It’s an all girls’ school; I was 11 when I started there. Academically I think all the girls in that school do well.

    A lot of people assume that going to Feversham College means all the girls are narrow minded or they won’t really socialise with other people, but we do mix in with different people. We’re respectful towards what they believe and what they practise. I do know that sometimes people think that...

  11. From Roots to Routes
    (pp. 73-78)

    A week before my seventh birthday in England we went to Pakistan. My dad had a real desire to go back to his mother land. Like most of the first generation he left behind most of his loved ones and came out of a village first time on an aeroplane to an alien country that was cold, wet, snowy and unwelcoming. Now we see the Eastern Europeans going through a similar sort of process the only difference is they’re used to the bad weather!

    My father came here when he was fairly young and he felt like he missed out...

  12. Jihad
    (pp. 79-86)

    You know how sometimes you read and you read, and you’ve got all of this information that’s just sat there, and then you read one thing, and it sort of puts it all together? Well, that’s how I found my faith. For me, that was about seven or eight years ago. Before that there were times when I thought that there was a God out there and there were other times that I thought no, there’s no God! This is all rubbish. There were times when I’d do my prayers and times when I didn’t. I couldn’t just really believe...

  13. The Preacher’s Voice
    (pp. 87-92)

    My name is Umm Mohsin and I am an aalima. My parents are from Gujarat in India. I think with the Pakistani community something that always touches me is despite whatever happens within them, they’re very close compared to the Gujaratis. We’re not that close. What I see with the Pakistanis is regular trips to Pakistan. With Gujaratis I think that has drifted away.

    I come from a very large family – of several sisters and two brothers. I was born in Yorkshire. My father was working in a factory as a welder and mum was a housewife. I went...

  14. Salaam Namaste
    (pp. 93-98)

    I’m Gujarati, married to a Bangladeshi, we run a business with Pakistani friends, my children are British born, so I always say I’m an all-in-one! My parents were Hindu and they were religious, always. My dad used to read the Gita in the morning and he wouldn’t have his cup of tea without doing his prayers. I was nearly 18 and I had just completed my teacher training and I had a job interview. My dad’s older brother called on my dad and told him about a proposal that he had in mind for me, and they fixed everything up...

  15. The Visionary
    (pp. 99-106)

    The fire came from our father and went through all of us. We are all reformers in a way. My big sister who was the first headmistress in Rawalpindi region in Pakistan, she must have given at least 30,000 educated women to the region. When my second sister was married, she left her job because her husband said, “You are not working.” But my father brought her back! He said, “No! She will work! These are educated women and we need them! They have to work for the nation!” So she came back and she ran another women’s school and...

  16. Turning Pennies into Pounds
    (pp. 107-112)
    Zehida Rehman

    In my younger days – I’m 36 now – my parents had a shop and I used to help out. You know those jars of sweets that they used to sell in quarters in them days? Well, I took two bags, two quarters to school one day. They cost me maybe 20p and I had these big toffee sweets you see and I sold them for 10p each so I must have made about 60p on one of those bags of sweets. That’s where I got interested in making money. I must only have been about 12 then. It was...

  17. Busing in the Immigrants
    (pp. 113-120)

    I was born in Pakistan. We lived between Rawalpindi and Jhelum in a village called Morgah, which growing up everyone says, “chicken town, chicken town, chicken village”, and then I find out Morgah means peacock town! I came to England when I was three. But to be honest most of my family’s still back in Pakistan. I’ve got two older sisters that are married there. They’ve got their kids and grandkids there. I’ve got my aunts, my uncles, my in-laws, my first cousins, my second cousins removed – the whole shenanigans are back in Pakistan! So there’s only a few...

  18. White Abbey Road
    (pp. 121-126)

    We Sheikhs are naturally business-minded people. All my brothers were businessmen. I’d watched them bring home sackfulls of money and I was their sister. I knew me and my husband had to work hard if we were going to make something of ourselves in England, and I was ready. I had the grandest shop on White Abbey Road!

    We had a house in Weston Street just off White Abbey Road. No Pakistanis then, just us! My husband was a manager in a factory, working on the looms. You know I’d come from this big tight-knit family and I was all...

  19. The Spiritual Tourist
    (pp. 127-132)

    I grew up in a Muslim family and I think my exposure to religion was quite wholesome. I wasn’t told to just do things because you have to just do them. Things were explained to me, whether it’s respect for people, respect for the community, or whether it was prayers or fasting, it was explained to me and more than just, “Well, we’ve got to do it because we’re told we have to; that’s what it says.” That was from my father, but the community experience of religion put me off Islam. That saying, ‘religion is the opium of the...

  20. Burning Ambitions
    (pp. 133-138)

    I was born and brought up in Manchester and moved to Bradford when I was about 21. At the moment I’m the Assistant Director Safer Stronger Communities at Bradford Council. My husband and I used to live in the heart of the Asian community in Bradford 3, known as Bradford Moor, in Folkestone Street. I’d grown up in a multicultural but predominantly white inner city area – you know, a council estate – but it felt more cosmopolitan, more laid back. When we moved to Bradford we moved into quite hilly terrain where all you could see were rooftops and...

  21. Rags to Riches
    (pp. 139-144)

    I come from a quite poor working-class family background, a big family. There were seven of us; I’ve got three brothers and three sisters. I’m the sixth, I’ve got one brother younger than me. My dad was Canadian. My mum was English, from Cullingworth, really poor background; you know my mum struggled all her life. She did three jobs – she worked in the mills, she cleaned for people, she was an old people’s help. My dad had mental health problems so although he worked very hard when we were younger, as he got a bit older in life he...

  22. Final Thoughts
    (pp. 145-146)
    Wahida Shaffi