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Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Updated: 25 min 20 sec ago

Muslim woman student is stabbed – so why can’t we say that the fact she ‘looked Muslim’ might be a motive in her murder?

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 11:16

This posting is in reference to the tragic stabbing of Nahid Al-Manea in Colchester. Police said that they were investigating the possibility that the murder was motivated by the fact that she was visibly Muslim wearing an abaya and headscarf. There have also been questions raised about a similar stabbing of James Atfield.


One of the national newspapers asked me my thoughts on the police response to the terrible incident of the Muslim woman stabbed who was wearing visible Muslim clothing.

My thoughts, jotted briefly are below. When I put these thoughts forward, I was told that they wanted not my thoughts ‘as a Muslim woman’ but an ‘alternative viewpoint’:

- finally! the recognition that muslim women are highly vulnerable is being raised at a national level

- i’m shocked at the negativity that is surrounding the police suggesting this may be a possible reason for the attack. It’s as though how dare Muslim women say that they are being attacked for being visibly Muslim! Why such vehement denial that it is a possibility? As with all crimes, the police have some theories and I’m glad this has been recognised as one possibility. Nobody is saying this for sure, simply that it is one angle. We know that hate crimes against Muslims have increased manyfold recently. So why shouldn’t this be one motive? To me it smacks of a wider public denial that there is a growth of hate against Muslims. Or even that it is ok to attack Muslims, especially women.

- if this is a legitimate line of enquiry, then why should the police keep quiet? Generally they share their lines of enquiry, what is different here?

- If anything, this poor student came here with a hope of doing everything that is demanded of Muslim women – ‘free’ herself, come to the west, gain an education.  Why can’t we square in our minds that she was a practising Muslim too, and that we have a problem in our society dealing with this?

- In my view it is people’s response that is bizarre – and that is what is damaging to community relations – why can’t we admit that hatred against Muslims is an issue and that women bear the brunt of this?

- Finally, if the police did not pursue this line of enquiry, or worse if they are pressured into dropping this line of enquiry, then that would be even more damaging to community relations. It is as bad practice to rule it out as it would be to say it was the sole factor or the only factor of investigation.

Update: this is stream of consciousness writing, so some further thoughts with inputs from various other Muslim women (thank you!):

- The police have said it is one line of enquiry, in a seemingly matter of fact way just as in many murders they talk of many lines of enquiry. My problem with saying they shouldn’t mention it ‘due to community tensions’ stems from the fact that our broad population can’t accept that this is a possibility, that somehow it is an abnormal aberration which can be an actual reason for such nastiness in what is obviously our lovely Muslim-friendly society. I actually think it shows a more balanced ‘healthy’ (if that’s the right word in such a horrible context) to be able to be honest and say yes this is a possibility just like several other possibilities. For both Muslims and the anti-Muslim brigade to be milking this as either ’see!!!! we told you!’ versus ‘how dare Muslims be victims’ shows a lack of acceptance of due process and legitimacy that this could be anti-Muslim, or it might not be.

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The politics of housework, and why doing the dishes is not a trivial matter

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 08:08

This was published on Saturday in The National

If fathers want their daughters to aspire to successful careers, a new study has revealed the answer: fathers should share housework with their wives. While mothers’ gender and work-equality beliefs were key factors in predicting youngsters’ attitudes towards the roles of women and men, the strongest predictor of daughters’ own professional ambitions was their fathers’ approach to household chores.

The findings follow other studies revealing the benefits of sharing housework, such as improvements in marital harmony and making wives feel more attracted to their husbands.

Aside from the fact that it’s simply fair for adults to share the housework, such studies demonstrate that even with selfish motives, sharing housework has immediate and long-term benefits for men.

Yet housework is still overwhelmingly done by women even though many also work like their husbands, and most childcare is still women’s responsibility. The division of housework is politics at play in the home.

In 1970, the US feminist group Redstockings published an article titled The Politics of Housework. Depressingly, nearly 50 years later, it still holds true. Writer Patricia Mainardi recounts the struggle with her husband about who should do the housework: he admits in principle that he ought to, because that’s fair, but when the time comes he proffers excuses. Everyone agrees housework is dull, says Mainardi, but she deconstructs the reasons – the same ones still used today – that men give for not doing it. Such as: women are naturally cleaner or women do it better. When a man says women are better at it, what he means, according to Mainardi, is: “I don’t engage in dull work, but it’s OK if you do.” When he says he doesn’t know how to do it, it means he has better things to do.

Mainardi’s most important point is that housework is considered “trivial”. Why do women go on about such trivial matters? Because it fundamentally shapes their lives and choices. The demands of housework and childcare determine where they can go, the decisions they make about their lives and how they engage in the public space. That’s why women have attempted to put it on to the political agenda. Campaigns such as “Wages for Housework” attempt to counter the “unimportance” of housework by putting an economic value on it. In a modern capitalist economy when something is “free” it is not valued, because only “paid” employment is worthwhile.

If women want paid work, they still bear household responsibilities, restricting them to part-time work, or preventing full focus on their careers in the way men are free to do without a care about who will look after the children or how food, utilities and daily life will be managed.

Of course, the counterargument is that running a household is an important job, requiring skill, effort and tireless devotion, and that our society should focus on developing pride in housework and childcare for whoever does it.

I agree. That’s exactly my point. Housework is considered trivial, playing second fiddle to “paid” work. If it was considered of value, we would hear men boasting to their friends about how they have washed all the dishes, and filled the freezer with lunches for the children.

The next time you’ve vacuumed, cooked, bathed the kids, put them to bed, done the laundry and paid the bills, remember that your housework is a political act. Don’t consider it to be trivial.

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