In It’s Not About the Burqa Mariam Khan has collected many young voices that passionately describe the multiple forces that form a sense of identity or its opposite, a feeling of cultural homelessness... It’s Not About the Burqa surveys the cultural scene of millennial British-Muslim women but does not delve deeply into any one element of it. The reader is left to make their own connections between the poverty that many of the essays describe and the limited opportunities, mental health issues and familial strife that the individuals experience.
This is a vital book for non-Muslims and those seeking to understand Muslim feminism in the West. It will also add to an already rigorous body of writing about veiling... While these essays take a courageous and panoramic view of Muslims and Islamic attire, most of the writers agree that acceptance is best achieved by promoting diversity. This may provide a lesson to politicians and opinion writers, who should acknowledge that integration requires both host and immigrant to understand each other.
Its aim – to allow Muslim women to speak, rather than be spoken for – is worthy, and a book that uproots the mainstream narrative of subjugated Muslim women is certainly long overdue. Sadly, this is not it... For the most part, though, the book overlooks the strength of conservative Muslim women, as well as the matriarchal aspects of South Asian and Arab culture... The tone is often as sermonising and self-righteous as that of any traditional imam... The book, then, is a missed opportunity. But a handful of essays shine through, which tell stories rather than issuing sermons.