Beyond Veiled Cliches – Amal Awad

“It takes a lot of courage to wear a hijab in a Western society and just as much courage to not wear a hijab in the eyes of the Muslin community.”

Beyond Veiled Cliches is Awad’s investigation into the lives of Arab women in the Middle East and in Australia. Delving into their lives, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles, their relationships, breaking down the damaging stereotypes held at large by Westerners in a society that is harsh on it’s minorities. These are the often untold stories of these women broken down to encourage understanding and respect for an often misunderstood religion and culture.

This book gives important insight into breaking down the stereotypes of Arab women. It is a complex situation that even now I’m not completely convinced I wholly understand. What I did take away from this was the importance of taking an preconceptions about Arab women in both Australia and the Middle East and throwing them away. We all know stereotypes are a poor method to encapsulate groups and the complex issues related to religion, culture and politics in both the Western world and the Middle East are particularly difficult to explain in simple terms.

We need to learn that not all Arab women are oppressed, afraid of men, are meek or unable to stand up for themselves. Instead we need to take out narrow stereotypes and throw them away and instead listen to the women who live these lives, many of which start by describing themselves as no typical Arab women because guess what? There is no typical Arab women, just like there are no typical Western women.

I did find that I didn’t one hundred percent connect with the way in which this was written so did not love it as much as I expected. I was, however, exposed to fascinating insight and perspective and hope that now I am a little less ignorant. I also look forward to watching Amal in conversation about her writing at Adelaide Writers Week in March. This is an important conversation in society today and I urge you to educate yourself, with books like this written about Arab women by Arab women, before surrendering your thoughts to damaging stereotypes.

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