Being An Indian Muslim Woman
The year was 1993; there was palpable tension in the air. I was waiting in queue to get on my school bus. School had shut down half way as there was news of unrest in the city. Waiting there trying to understand what all the turmoil was about, I asked a girl in front to explain further. Before she answered, her first question was, “Are you Hindu or Muslim?”
That’s when I learnt about religious bias...
A few years later, in college, we friends were getting soaked in the rains. It was great fun till I heard a male friend, who was also enjoying the showers, comment “these women have no sense getting wet like this, don’t they realise how inappropriate they look?”
That’s when I experienced gender bias.
Another incident was when we were travelling through Europe. We had taken a tour bus that does the rounds of the city. There were a few Indians and other nationalities on the bus. When we took a halt the guide announced, “Please dispose of all garbage in bins only”. I heard him smirk and softly say to a fellow European, “Have to make these announcements with Indians on board”.
That’s when I felt the brunt of bias against Indians.
I fall in all 3 categories, Indian, woman and Muslim.
It’s sad when other nationalities are prejudiced against us but it’s even sadder when my own people do it. When politicians proclaim that Muslims should “go to Pakistan” or certain societies don’t allow selling apartments to Muslims or not getting a job as a woman due to the false belief that we won’t do the designation enough justice.
What does it mean to be an Indian Muslim woman? It leaves me on a back foot, defensive at times and defiant at others.
Let me give you an example: when Ajmal Kasab was hanged, there were celebrations all over India. Not to justify his actions in any way, I personally felt we didn’t achieve much by killing him. He was just a pawn in a very big game, disposable and of no value to his bosses. Keeping him alive could have proved beneficial. Those were my personal thoughts and I could be wrong but never once did I discuss them. The reason was simple, I’m Muslim. Any statement against the death penalty and I would have been a Kasab supporter, justifying all his actions. Here I believe that if I wasn’t Muslim it would have been easier for me to put forth my view from an unbiased perspective.
While I may sound dramatic, I have observed this first hand. Women give discriminatory looks to ladies in burkhas, assuming they are not literate; they often have difficulties securing admission in universities or jobs because of their dressing. Due to this mindset, one woman I know refuses to dress in a hijab, so that people won’t discriminate based on her religion. She feels when people don’t see her in the traditional garb they are more accepting of her. Sadly her inferences are true more often than not.
How did we come to this? It is already a challenge being a woman in a man's world. Isn't it?
Now imagine being a Muslim woman in the same world. Its all about competing with all of society, all of the time; and that is not an easy thing to do.