Picador is to publish a collection of essays by Muslim women, prompted by remarks made in 2016 by the then UK Prime Minister David Cameron that the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women” in the UK made them unable to speak out against radicalisation of young men in their communities.
The untitled collection will be edited by the social media activist and feminist Sophie Khan who has more than 30,000 followers on twitter at @helloiammariam. Picador says: ‘The Western world believes Muslim women don’t speak. But really, isn’t it the case that the West has always tried to speak over Muslim women, to tell their story for them? Mariam wants to challenge that: she is determined to create a new narrative where Muslim women write about their lives outside the parameters of the expectations projected on them.’
The book will be a collection of pieces by Muslim women about the Muslim female experience and will cover such topics as: ‘Can Muslim women be feminist?’ and ‘Are Muslim women oppressed by their hijabs?’ The publisher says it will present a spectrum of varied, exciting voices, each speaking up for who they are and what they believe. Confirmed contributors include Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian/American author of Head Scarves and Hymens who gave a TED talk earlier this year entitled ‘I am a Muslim, I am a feminist and I am here to confuse you’; Blair Imani, a black American Muslim activist living in Brooklyn, New York, who is the founder and Executive Director of Equality for HER, a nonprofit educational platform for ‘feminine identifying individuals’; and Malia Bouattia, the first female, black and Muslim leader of the UK’s National Union of Students.
Senior editor Sophie Jonathan bought world English language rights from Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency, which has offices in New York and London. Jonathan said: “This is the most exciting proposal I’ve seen in the last few years and every word of this carefully conceived project blew me away. There is such erudition and confidence in Mariam’s writing, but also an intimacy I find profoundly moving. This will be an enormously powerful book, and one I know so many people want and need to read. Mariam does not propose to speak for a faith or a group of people, but the book will extend the conversation, and it will help to ensure that we learn about the Muslim female experience from Muslim women and no one else. Varied, dynamic and passionate, this is a project about listening and talking, a book for discussion and debate, a tool for education but also for celebration, and I know it will be at the heart of so many conversations. I cannot wait to get it out into the world.”
Khan said: “I’m delighted to be working with Sophie at Picador to create a book where Muslim women can tell their own stories, because honestly, when was the last time you listened to a Muslim woman speak for herself?”
Kerr says she met the author through twitter last year and that Khan approached her with the proposal “because she knows that promoting diverse voices is important to the Bent Agency. Sophie and the whole Picador team are clearly so passionate about this project – I’m delighted they’ll be publishing Mariam’s anthology”.
Picador will publish in 2019 and the Bent Agency hopes to sell further rights at Frankfurt this October.