I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim

This Thursday, May 5th, Inside Islam hosts I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim on the UW-Madison campus. As part of a national book tour, co-editor Zahra Suratwala and contributors Amany Ezeldin, Mariam Sobh, and Zainab Alwan will speak about their experiences growing up in American society, as women of color and as Muslims. The talk will highlight the daily challenges that many women face in both public and private spheres. Human rights, Islamic fashion, and faith will also be discussed, followed by a Q&A and book signing. Amany Ezeldin will also participate in an Inside Islam radio show in Madison before the talk.

When: Thursday, May 5th @ 5:00 pm

Where: Gale VandeBerg Auditorium, Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, Wisconsin

Sponsors: Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates, the UW-Madison international and area studies centers, and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Free and open to the public.

The following is by the book’s co-editor Zahra T. Suratwala, founding editor of her own Chicago-based writing firm, Zahra Ink.

I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim (White Cloud Press, May 2, 2011) is a necessary addition to the current dialogue about Muslims and Islam in this country.  There is no shortage of opinions about American Muslims, no shortage of voices speaking up about what American Muslims are and do and believe.  Yet how many of these voices actually belong to American Muslims?

Four years ago, the editors of this book (myself, Zahra Suratwala,  and Maria Ebrahimji, executive editorial producer at CNN in Atlanta) perceived that if American Muslim voices were being heard, it was often in response to negativity.  And that as a result, conversations about American Muslims seemed to either be debates or defenses.  There were stereotypes to contend with, there were labels flying around.  What about simply hearing what Muslims had to say?  What about their stories?  We decided it was time to let 40 articulate, brilliant American Muslim women speak for themselves.

And in speaking for themselves, in showcasing their diversity by simply being themselves, they artfully defy every stereotype.  They eradicate the labels.

The book has been recognized by Deepak Chopra, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, Soledad O’Brien and many others.  It has received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, the Christian Science Monitor, countless blogs and online newspapers and magazines.  Clearly, this is more than just a collection of stories.  It is an invitation to all to read the book, to open their minds, to meet incredible people, to broaden their ideas of what Islam is.  To accept, to engage in conversation, to think again.  It’s an opportunity and we hope you’ll make the most of it.

Want a copy of your own?  Check out www.ispeakformyself.com/shop.

Copies of the book will also be available for a special discounted rate at the event on Thursday (details above).

4 thoughts on “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim

  1. I attended this session today, and I have to say I was a bit surprised and offended at some of the things which were said. Time and time again the gentlemen who was leading the discussion brought up Saudi Arabia in a negative manner. He disrespected Saudis and other Muslims whether he realized it or not. First he brought up the issue of women driving, which is totally irrelevant to the American Muslim women experience. Secondly, neither he nor any of the guest speakers knew why that was outlawed in Saudi, and they spoke about something out of ignorance. Never has a single representative of the Saudi government said that it is unlawful according to the Qur’an or the Prophetic Traditions for a women to drive. That decision was based on their culture, and it came at a time when the country was going through a vulnerable situation with the first Gulf War. It was aimed at unifying the country, which is predominately conservative. Another point I want to bring up is that when you speak about a group of people, and you fail to recognize their positive aspects then you exhibit close mindedness and ignorance on your behalf. If i tried to talk about the philanthropic things which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has done, from sending their own people to help the flooded areas of Pakistan last year to their yearly aid to many African countries, then I don’t think we can cover that without writing a book. Another thing I want to point out is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or its citizens have helped out in the establishment in the majority of Islamic organizations here in the United States and across the world, even here in the Midwest. Lastly, I would like to sincerely encourage the gentlemen who ran the panel discussion today, to first study Islam from Scholars before he talks too much about it. I am not trying to offend you at all, in fact I appreciate your hard work and good intentions. But I want to remind you that people who talk a lot, and lack knowledge are dangerous. That is also how extremism grows, so take heed of that. Thank You

  2. To Abdul Hannan Junaidi: I think that the Saudi-women-driving reference was in the context of one of the American woman’s experiences there — the moderator as well as an audience member inquired about how it was to live there, and how women were affected by the law. As a Muslim woman, I honestly didn’t feel disrespected or offended. There was sincere curiousity about the topic, and I wish you’d spoken out and explained the history as you were more knowledgable about this subject.

    I do, however, agree with the point that when talking about a people or nation, it has to be a balanced approach. I come from one of those “hot-topic” cities/countries, and while those are difficult places to live in, there are innumerable stories that stem from those very regions of people doing admirable/phenomenal work. A people or a place cannot be dismissed entirely as a black and white situation. Saudi Arabia appears to be particularly challenging from an outsider’s perspective. Take this recent NPR article about Saudi women and their right to vote, and one can’t help but be curious about the day-to-day life of people, especially women, there: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/04/135993676/in-a-land-of-few-rights-saudi-women-fight-to-vote

    However, with that said, positive aspects need to be highlighted just as much, if not more. After all, “a people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose it’s moorings or orientation… Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart larger.”

  3. Pingback: Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates Challenges Misconceptions Using New Media | UW-Madison Division of International Studies

  4. LOL! What a joke! Islam started in Saudi Arabia. One thing about Islam is the fact that it destroys cultures. This is evident in almost all the places that it imprinted its evil. How could anyone in saudi blame “culture” if isn’t the same culture infused by this evil religion? For 1400 years it went on a spree of destroying any known previous cultures and set itself as the ultimate “culture”, and now someone has the temerity to say the evil that one sees is based on “culture” and not religion? Amusing, to say the least.