Headstrong daughters by Nadia Jamal

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760293314
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Non-fiction. 'An absolutely fascinating and illuminating read' is how Annabel Crabb describes this book which is like a next chapter to follow Amal Awad's Beyond veiled cliches. That book provided insight into the real lives of Arab women in the Middle East. Jamal's book provides insight into the lives and concerns of the new generation of Muslim women in Australia. They include young working women, single and married, some mothers, women from a variety of cultural backgrounds including Lebanon, Iraq, Bangladesh and Somalia. Jamal explains that some of their thoughts and attitudes draw on 'cultural traditions and interpretations rather than actual religious teachings'. For readers unfamiliar with the teachings of Islam it is an important distinction. It provides context for the variations in customs and concerns of the women she introduces to us. Yet all of them seem to be determined to live with integrity within their beliefs. The women's stories provide us with insight into Muslim practices such as choosing to wear the hijab, making the hajj pilgrimage, marriage arrangements, divorce settlement, and funeral practices, but also describes their thoughts about modern issues such as dating, contraception, IVF treatment, abortion, adoption and foster care. In grappling with these issues, they seek always to be true to themselves, their families and their faith.
The stories reveal different viewpoints, and different paths, but the thing they have in common is their desire to honour the teachings of Islam. Some of the stories may surprise readers who have absorbed the common media stereotypes of Muslim women. These women are strong and independent, in the decisions they make and in their determination to honour the moral and ethical teachings of their religion. And the issues they grapple with are common to young women of all backgrounds. For that reason, this book is recommended for young adults regardless of their background; the principles of honesty, compassion and integrity applied to modern issues are of relevance to all.
Helen Eddy