Headstrong Daughters 

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       June 15, 2018


Author  Nadia Jamal

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760293314
Publisher:         Allen and Unwin
Release Date:   May 2018  

Website:    https://www.allenandunwin.com 

It seems the purpose of this book is to demystify and explain some of the customs and cultural differences that we are unaware of in young Muslim women. Telling their story, in a book of short stories, is a very clever way to do this. As each of the women was interviewed, we know that these stories are accurate and completely explain their thoughts and behaviours.

There are so many issues which vary from Western thinking that one has to be open minded to read these stories, and accept the religious and historical context. The introduction explaining the history of the religion and the hostility between Sunnis and Shias is very helpful and adds to the understanding for some of the stories. The author explains how Islam gave women many rights over 1400 years ago. They could own property, seek a divorce and vote, as well as learn to read. The author also states, “That it is not safe to assume that these rights are actually part of the modern reality of many Muslim women.”

Some of the issues raised deal with mixed marriages. The children of parents from Sunni and Shia parents in one story are just old enough to realise that their mother is different and prays differently from her father’s family. She has been teased about this by a cousin. Her mother is wonderfully accepting and explains to the children that she hopes in future, that things will change and there will be more religious acceptance.

Each story is interesting to read. One tells of a woman who is unable to conceive but is told she will be unfaithful if she accepts sperm from an unknown donor. Another major issue shows a young woman questioning the Muslim inheritance laws, which favour sons over daughters, and another story deals with the racist behaviour and spite which many women face, especially on public transport. In modern times, divorce can still be a big problem for Muslim women. “Patriarchal cultural attitudes continue to disadvantage many, regardless of whether they live in a Muslim or non-Muslim culture.”

Despite many difficulties that are faced by young Muslim women in Australia, they are admirable in their efforts to maintain a successful marriage, a loving family and religious traditions. Through these young women may come the slow changes to their society that mean a fairer system for women.