There are two Muslim women in the media/arts field that I really admire!
Whenever I think of them, and it’s often, I do so with a smile on my face.
The first has the same last name as myself, but as far as I know she’s no relation. Her name is Sheema Khan.
She is a Harvard graduate–who wouldn’t be impressed with that! But it’s the deftness with which she fields Islamic issues in the media that just impresses the heck out of me!
Always patient, always intelligent, and oh so cool!
Oh and one time, she was on some TV Ontario show that had a HUGE panel and was being chaired by Steve Paikin! And somewhere at the end of the panel was Irshad Manji.
Irshad Manji has the uncanny ability to blurt out quick soundbytes. Many people call her “Rushdie light” because she doesn’t have the scholarly background and depth to her insults that Rushdie has.
The one thing that Manji is most adept at is getting under the skin of practicing Muslims.
I saw her briefly on a show with the most calm and mild-mannered Muslim scholar I’ve ever known–Jamal Badawi. I grew up listening to Jamal Badawi’s erudite explanations of Islamic history! He’s so wise!
Poor brother Jamal! Manji had him frazzled out of his mind!
I know the feeling!!!
Geez, I was on a show with her, it was Richler Ink’s Book TV and she kept interrupting me so much that I told her at one point, “You’re being very rude!”
She was, but I must confess, I looked like a school-marmish idiot for pointing it out that way. Definitely NOT one of my finer moments! LOL.
But anyway, Sheema was on this panel with many others and Manji kept coming after her with barbs and quips in a desperate sort of grasp for attention. It was really WEIRD! And you know what Sheema did? At one point, she just looked sideways at stupid old Irshad Manji and she smiled!
She just SMILED!
In such a lovely dismissive way!
Oh, just watching it made me LAUGH! And just remembering back to it makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD!
Who got the better of whom???
And ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of Sheema’s!
She’s been writing a column for Canada’s largest National paper The Globe & Mail for quite some time, and I never miss her writings.
And the way she navigates the comments–which can often be nasty, racist and just plain mean-spirited, makes me just sigh in admiration!
I wish I could be that calm and collected when dealing with ignorant people!
I’ve never met Sheema! I’ve always wanted to!
But I’m sure I’d be reduced to a quivering pile of nerves if I did meet her. And I wouldn’t know what to say! I’d just kind of mutter, “Umha ahum ha, You’re Sheema Khan!” Like she doesn’t already know that!
The other lady I admire so much, is a lady whose face I’ve never seen–she wears niqab–but who’s hugged me with such warmth that I swear sisterly love flowed right through the fabric of her face veil!
Her name is Na’ima bint Robert. I first became acquainted with her work when I read her sweetly simple The Swirling Hijaab. All about a little girl who plays with her mother’s hijaab.
Thing about Na’ima though, is that she wasn’t born into a Muslim family.
And growing up, Na’ima comes from a very unique mix! Her father comes from Scottish highlanders and her mother was a Zulu!
She used to be a party girl!
How she became Muslim is a fascinating story best read in her own words here: http://naimabrobert.co.uk/press/a-converts-veiled-story-the-globe-and-mail/
Ha, ha! And the fact that Maggie Wente–one of the most controversial, and opinionated columnists in the Globe should say such nice things about her, really surprises me! I wonder if Na’ima knows what a coup that interview was!
But what made me admire Na’ima the most was one answer she gave in an interview that challenged her convictions by asking her about issues of Islamic sharia and how she was able to jive it with her western upbringing. In this article she talks about her views: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3641016/That-Muslim-woman-could-be-happier-than-you….html
I read the piece while holding my breath–how, oh how, would she answer such a provocative question without looking completely ridiculous!
With remarkable grace, she pulled it off. She said the exact thing I’ve felt in my heart, but hadn’t the gift of articulation to say.
I particularly loved this bit:
“Na’ima concedes that reverting to Islam has not always been easy. She is an educated women from a liberal background; when I ask about her views on matters such as abortion and homosexuality she says that “my views on every issue are guided by what Islam says. Some issues are hard, because I wasn’t raised that way. Sometimes I see the wisdom, sometimes I don’t understand everything to the very core. But I submit to Allah. If He says that these things are obligatory then I submit to them.
“There are certain things that maybe you can’t see a benefit to, but it doesn’t mean that there’s no benefit to them. As Muslims we believe that Allah knows us better than we know ourselves. The way I see it, it’s like when you go to the doctor with an ailment and he gives you a foul-tasting medicine. I don’t know how it will make me better and I’d like to make it taste nicer but that is not my place. The doctor knows why it is like that and I trust in him.”
Sums it up perfectly!!!
For years Na’ima has run the incredibly internationally successful magazine Sisters.
It is stunning!
And every bit as glossy and right up there in terms of quality with the best of all other women’s magazines!
I haven’t read her memoir From My Sister’s Lips but I have read her book that won the Muslim Writer’s Award. That was the award we were both short-listed for, the ceremony that was held in the Shakespeare Globe Theatre.
When Na’ima won, I’m happy to say I was the first person to hug her!
I am so happy for her!
She won for her book Far From Home that is about the appropriation of African land by white settlers in Zimbabwe.
It’s a book that really brings alive the history of Zimbabwe. I learned a lot! And there are parts of the book that are quite moving. I do wish she hadn’t skimmed over the armed resistance movement that her female protagonist joins. There’s a huge gap in the narrative, where there could have been SO much dramatic tension!
And honestly the story of the white girl, didn’t move me at all. It sounded a bit like kvetching.
But the book is definitely worth reading!!!
I was fortunate enough to receive a number of her other books too!
Her picture book Going to Mecca moved me to tears. It’s about a family who goes for Hajj. And Ramadan Moon is LOVELY too!
Her other fiction was less successful for me. There was too much of a didactic quality to her novel Boy vs Girl for me to find it appealing.
I added it to my Muslim booklist though because there is such a dearth of Muslim fiction that as long as the book doesn’t have any inaccuracies–and of course it doesn’t!–then I usually add it to my booklist knowing that many people would enjoy it.
I do think many Muslim youth would find much to identify with her novels Boy vs Girl and From Somalia with Love.
I think Na’ima is only just starting on her prolific career as an author!
This is meant as loving encouragement and a call for her to raise the bar higher! I know she can do it! Masha Allah, she’s brilliant!
The days when you can have a kindly aunt hanging around in the background to help gently guide the youth of the novel towards a better course of action is gone.
It’s best to let all matters be resolved by the teen characters themselves.
Over and out.