Women Should Be Wary of Romanticising Islam

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 8, 2010 | Go to article overview

Women Should Be Wary of Romanticising Islam


Byline: Yasmin Alibhai- Brown

I AM keen to meet Allegra Mostyn-Owen and support her invaluable work at the mosque in Forest Gate, east London. She runs art classes there for Muslim women and children. Muslim minds and lives are being closed down worldwide by fanatics who deny young people art, music and books. This intrepid white woman dares to push aside the curtain of ignorance.

She was the first wife of Boris Johnson -- clearly not a woman to shirk challenges. But then I find out that she has married a much younger Lahori man and imagines her future as an ageing wife who will happily accept her lot within an orthodox Islamic set-up and welcome a younger wife to produce children. It is her choice and one wishes her well.

Several of my close Pakistani and Arab friends are happily married to European wives, with both sides compromising on lifestyles and values.

That is not what Mostyn-Owen has opted for. First she has married a much younger, fit man and maybe feels excessively grateful. Then she is going for complete surrender, an uncritical acceptance of the most regressive practices of some of my co-religionists. The reactions of her family are subtly xenophobic and must hurt. But her actions are as inexplicable to Muslims like myself too. My mother's generation fought for equality and monogamous marriages, a struggle that carries on. To see the daughters of Britannia carelessly surrendering these rights is almost unbearable.

It is happening elsewhere in Europe too. Since 9/11, vast numbers of educated, privileged middle-class white women have converted to Islam, often the most restricted forms with tediously long rulebooks. …

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