Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
May 2011


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Editorial - Part I    

Salaam alaikum

Welcome to the world of Sultana’s Dream in this our first edition. Many readers may be curious about the title of our publication. Later in this editorial I promise to ‘tell all’ and introduce you to ‘Sultana’ and what she symbolises. But first things first...

Every Muslim woman we have spoken to so far has greeted enthusiastically the idea of a publication created and produced by Australian Muslim women. Muslim women have traditionally, (if not always in practice) formed a strong sisterhood, and it is in the spirit of this ideal that we hope Sultana’s Dream will help to address a problem of long standing.

Muslim women need a public space to speak out on a broad range of interests of concern to them and their families. Some of these will come under the ambit of specific ‘Muslim-type’ issues; others will be as wide-ranging as voicing an opinion on health services, literature, Australian politics; fashions, sport—anything and everything—the kind of topics some people call ‘mainstream’ and assume that we have no interest in or views on.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we are rarely expected to have opinions on anything except Muslims and Islamophobia, as if we are trapped in a religious time capsule. Apparently we have no views on what else is happening in Australia or elsewhere (except maybe for the Middle East).   This by no means dismisses the effect anti Muslim diatribes and attitudes have on our lives and the lives of our families. But by assuming we are one dimensional, with no interest in anything apart from religion, it becomes easier for people to dismiss us, or unconsciously patronise us and turn us into ‘the Female Other’—no matter how long we have been here, no matter what our attachment to Islam may be.

Muslim women across generations have been the subjects of countless books and articles but are not often listened to. Western feminists see most Muslim women as victims (and sometimes accomplices) to their own fate while Muslim men provide the media with views on hijab, polygamy, Sharia law and anything else! Muslim men often become the ‘authorities’ or gatekeepers, monopolising access to public space, and often speak on ‘our behalf’; the media are comfortable using the old boys’ network—  after all it’s cross-cultural and has been happening for centuries. But Sultana’s Dream thinks change is long overdue and that it’s time that Australian Muslim women became the authorities on their own lives. We don’t think of ourselves as a tribe of oppressed women; we say it again and again—but who’s listening? Our journal hopes to contribute to a sisterhood that refuses to see itself as ‘victims’, that subverts stereotypes and won’t be labelled or pitied and shows the human face of Australian Muslim women in all its diversity and complexity— a celebration of strong voices, strong women.

And as we know and sometimes prefer to ignore, there are as many different degrees of religious attachment to Islam as there are to Christianity. Religion to some Muslim women is the mainstay of their lives; the bedrock of their identity, and faith shapes every aspect of their day-to-day living.

For other women religion is one of many building blocks that may, or may not, strongly influence their lives: class, education, socio-economic background, family history, migration experiences and discrimination, all play a role.

We hope that Sultana's Dream will evolve into a forum of communication for all Muslim women: Big ‘M’ women and small ‘m’ women: devout, orthodox, practising, non-practising, cultural, secular—there are so many labels—so much diversity and so much pride in an Islamic heritage that shapes us from birth.

With your help and support we’ll also meet the challenge of speaking with a candour that doesn’t ignore the shortcomings of Islamic communities. This is all part of our vision, our niyet— our intention.

We hope to further explore what it means to be an Australian Muslim woman in a post September 11 world and the implications this holds for younger generations.

We are also conscious that we are ‘feeling our way’ in this our first edition, and remain a work in progress.

And now as I promised, back to the story of Sultana’s Dream. Why did we decide on this particular title?  Read Part II

Hanifa Deen
March 2011