Friday, 31 of October of 2014

Category » Love in a Headscarf

Is an arranged marriage the answer to my prayers?

This has just been published On Faith, in the Washington Post.

“Love just happens” is a romantic notion that has a strong influence on our modern ideas of relationships. Consider some of the myths that inform our views on marriage and love.

Marriage is Cinderella’s only escape route from domestic drudgery, and then only if she looks attractive and glamorous. No wonder women feel a pressure that marriage will free them from social oppression, and that they must at all times look beautiful. Sleeping Beauty’s liberation is even more frustrating as she must lay passively until the prince comes to free her.

By contrast, arranged marriages are a pro-active approach to the issue of finding a spouse, where the community, the family and the individual work together to locate someone who will make a good life partner. It’s hard enough to find someone special, why not get as much help as possible? No need to wait helplessly for princes to chop their way through dense forests, or fairy godmothers to magic up sparkly shoes and horse-drawn carriages. Control over the search for that partner who will complete you is returned entirely to you – the individual – and the people who know you best and care about you the most are your cheerleaders – your family, and your close community.

It is worth digressing for a moment here to point out that the pivot of the arranged marriage process are the two individuals searching to get married. The direction and final choice – whatever the reasons – are theirs alone. Those around the individuals are guided by their choices and desires as to the kind of person that they want. Forced marriages are wrong.

There’s another worrying subtext to the fairy stories and film fantasies – that the woman is only an adjunct to the man’s success. She only gains status by being attached to him. Even the recent announcement of the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton has a hint to it that she has now achieved something – because she is engaged to a Prince, rather than bringing her own merits to the marriage.

One of the things I describe in my book “Love in a Headscarf,” is the journey to understand the Islamic principles described in the Qur’an that men and women are created from a single soul and that they are made in pairs. They find contentment and love in each other, and an understanding of the Divine through marriage. The analogy of a pair suggests that both the man and the woman are essential to the equation, and both are required to maintain harmony and balance. The woman is not an afterthought.

We can go a step further and say that the same applies to the way that men and women interact at a wider social level. Only by acting as a pair – where both are valued and integral to the other, after all one half of a pair is useless – can we achieve social harmony. There are two conclusions from this. First, Islam has a strong blueprint for gender relations. This might come as a surprise to many readers, since our news and media coverage is at pains to highlight how oppressed Muslim women are. Yes, it’s true that Muslim women do suffer a great deal, but this is more to do with culture and patriarchy than Islam. What we need is a return to Islam’s original Qur’anic egalitarian notion of gender: that men and women are created from a single soul.

Second, society has a vested interested in creating and nurturing strong marriages. Again, it is worth noting that under Islamic law if a marriage is coerced then it is not valid at all – it simply never existed. And it might be even more surprising to learn that the marriage contract is initiated by the woman so that it is clear she has engaged in the liaison of her own free will. That simple rules such as these are not observed is a matter of cultural oppression, rather than anything wrong with the arranged marriage system or the Islamic approach to love.

My own journey to find love was one that was at once hilarious and perilous. That I did it a different way from that you might expect from a modern Western woman — and a feminist of religion at that — makes it an unusual story. But it is one in which you might be surprised to find the universal themes that pervade all of our searches for love: humour, heartbreak and humanity.

Click here to read an excerpt from Shelina Zahra Janmohamed’s new book, “Love in a Headscarf,” a memoir of growing up as a Muslim woman. She was named by The Times newspaper as one of the UK’s 100 most influential Muslim women. You can read more of her writings on her blog at www.spirit21.co.uk.


Travelogue to Sharjah Book Fair and the UAE

Arriving very early in the morning at Dubai airport, I was welcomed by my hosts in the UAE – the Sharjah International Book Fair – whose representative made me feel like a film star. I was greeted by one of those cute little golf carts that whizzes round airports making an annoying beeping noise (annoying for everyone else, as it says ‘look at me – you have to walk, I’m driving!) to a little lounge where we waited for our paperwork to be done. A gentleman in pristine white dishdasha emerged from the door carrying a bouquet of flowers to welcome me to Sharjah. Julia Roberts step aside! Very curiously, each rose was stamped with the book fair brand.

The Sharjah International Book Fair (or check out the blog here) is in its 29th year, and so is not some ‘new’ cultural bandwagon. Instead, it provides a valuable forum for the reading public, who attend in their hundreds of thousands. In fact, in the first weekend alone, 100,000 visitors were recorded, and 500,000 were estimated for the entire ten day event. Sales topped Dhs.133 million (probably in excess of £25m). In fact, book shopping is so prolific that visitors use a shopping trolley to wheel around their purchases. See this photo taken by the lovely Lisa Dempster who was also attending the fair as a speaker, from Australia.

My invitation to speak at the Book Fair was from Sheikha Bodour, CEO and Founder of Kalimat Publishing House, President of Emirates Publishers Association, Bookworm and Mother of 3. (and daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah – but a feisty firebrand in her own right). Along with inviting me to the book fair itself (I love speaking at book fairs – wonderful places to share ideas and engage with readers), she was kind enough to make time to meet me for a coffee during the fair despite her hectic schedule. I found her extremely personable, creative and visionary. (and no, I’m not sucking up – she really was). I think her leadership in the Fair’s activities will bear great fruit. You can follow her on Twitter. She even signed a copy of her new children’s book for my niece, a colourful and quirky book on girls dressing up with the hijabs from their big sisters and mum’s collection. (and apparently to be published in French. Hurrah!)

The highlight of the visit – and of course it’s main purpose – was to speak to the audience about Love in a Headscarf. It was an excellent opportunity to hear how the themes of love, marriage, identity and self-definition are dealt with in a part of the world which still has a strong

Speaking at Sharjah Book Fair (copyright spirit21)

heritage of community and tribal culture in its recent past. The audience was fabulous, sharing their intimate personal stories of love and marriage. One young Emirati woman told of how she had tried to blog about similar issues but was advised by relatives to stop writing for fear of her reputation. Another lady spoke of her worries of finding a spouse for her child given that she was not a native of the Emirates and did not have a network of contacts. One gentleman (yes! there were men there too – fabulous!) spoke of how parents must set an example in their household to train their sons in particular in how to be good husbands and fathers.  The session was moderated by the fabulous Mujeeb Rahman, aka Jaihoon. His latest book is a travelogue across India comprised entirely of the tweets he sent during the trip. On his site you’ll find some photos of the author session. You can also read some of the other responses to the Author Session here and here. (google translate them!) An extra thanks also to Rupert Bumfrey and his magnificent work for the book fair on Twitter and the Blogosphere, and for his part in my involvement in the fair.

Whilst I was attending the Sharjah International Book Fair, I was fortunate enough to engage in some interviews. There were some fascinating conversations and I’m always intrigued by how journalists in different countries pick out different aspects of my stories.

I think my favourite interview was with Husam Miro of Al Khaleej. It felt more like a philosophical dialogue than a media story. I only wish we had a first language in common so that I could have turned the tables and interviewed him. As I expressed my intrigue and growing fascination with the UAE he asked “have you been introduced to any intellectuals?”. It was an unexpected but very insightful question given the curiosity that I had expressed. And one that no-one before or since had thought to throw my way. (see my article here before my visit to the UAE, asking what secrets people could tell me about the country. I think he had seen it.)

Here is the article as it was published in Al Khaleej.

Meanwhile, the British Embassy in Dubai invited me to a round table with other arty and cultural types to talk about my experiences as a blogger, writer and erstwhile public figure. Somehow after two glasses of coke and a bowl of peanuts, they managed to persuade me to record this cheesy video about my visit to the UAE and the Sharjah Book Fair.

The evening was a real joy as I got to speak in detail about my experiences, my book and to hear intimate and very insightful comments from the attendees. Among them was Hind Mezaina who writes the thought-provoking and inspiring Culturist Blog, as was Mishal Al Gergawi, who is an Emirati columnist who says it how it is. And Isobel Aboulhoul who co-founded the successful bookshop chain Magrudy’s and who is the festival director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which has very rapidly become a feature of the international literary calendar.  I got a verbal invitation from her to speak at the Festival (Isobel – I will be following that up!), but more than that it was fascinating to hear her own tales of travelling and living in the Gulf. She arrived in 1969 before the UAE even existed – an intriguing story indeed.

And before anyone pipes up in the comments – yes, there is a British Embassy in Abu Dhabi (the capital of the UAE), but in some turn of fate when the Trucial States gained independence from the UK it seems a British Embassy was also retained in Dubai, rather than turning into a Consulate. Go figure. But then I like these historical but somehow pointless quirks.

Perhaps the most challenging and inspiring of the book-related activities I engaged in were a series of visits to schools and universities which cater specifically to young Emirati women. In Abu Dhabi I visited Shohoub School and talked to the 16 year olds. The school was hidden away from the main road, but once inside there is a lively bubbly atmosphere. Although the girls wear the abaya and shela (cloak and scarf) to attend school, once inside they remove both of these since it is an all female environment. They listened wide eyed as I discussed how answering the question ‘Who am I?’ is a critical one to determining one’s place in the world and how to react to it.

A second session was at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, which is another one of these marvellous Gulf universities. Both in the UAE and in Qatar I have seen such places of higher education springing up, offering the best of facilities. I had been invited by the bubbly media committee and was installed in the main lecture theatre. Similar themes of identity came up, but of course the usually undiscussed subjects of love and marriage – topics which I brought to the fore of the discussion – were busily debated.

And then, it was off to Dubai Women’s College, who managed to pack out their main lecture theatre to the brim with young women, who were interested in the same subjects again. My thanks to all the organisers. It’s a real treat to get immediate interaction with Emiratis, particularly young women who are busy setting themselves on the path to create a better future for themselves and their country.  I predict a bright future.

As a change from talking directly to readers, I co-hosted the morning show on Dubai Eye Radio with the very charming and talented Jessica Swann. The two hour phone in show picked up on Love in a Headscarf and talked about arranged and love marriages. The texts and calls came in relentlessly and varied from the downright romantic, to the shocking and gobsmacking. Read about it here in my weekly column. (Love and it’s seeming double standards)

I begin my article: “It’s fine for me to have a ‘love marriage’,” the male caller to the radio show said, “but I won’t accept anything other than an arranged marriage for my sister.” Do have a read, it was quite an incredible show. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast here.

With all that book-related activity going on, you’d be forgiven for thinking I didn’t get a chance to travel around the UAE. And you might even think there isn’t much to see in the UAE. You’d be wrong on both counts. In fact, I barely got to see much of the country at all, given how many places there are to visit.

Ajman, UAE, copyright spirit21

One afternoon I popped up to the postcard-pretty Ajman, and watched the gorgeous waves crashing onto the deserted white sandy beaches. ‘Idyllic’ is the only word that came to mind – and only 15 minutes from Sharjah.

Dubai offered a host of marvels – of which many indeed were shopping-related, but many others (of which I only got a brief taste), were not. Of course there were the two amazing malls – Mall of the Emirates (which is the location of Ski Dubai!) and Dubai Mall (home of the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa, and also home to the remarkably delightful Fountain), both of which were epic in size. With the number of luxury and designer outlets present, I did begin to wonder why Emiratis come to London to do their shopping – everything is available right here with the benefit of a swanky setting and air-conditioning.

I must admit to my embarrassment, my favourite mall of the ones I visited was Al-Wafi, which is constructed in the style of Ancient Egypt, with huge columns and sphinxes outside, and hieroglyphics. It stands next to the Raffles Hotel which is built in the shape of a pyramid. However, downstairs it has a remarkable ’souq’ area, which is built in a surprisingly convincingtraditional souq style, and has the most amazing shops with absolutely stunning abayas. I will be saving my pennies up so that if I get a chance to return I can purchase one of these remarkable creations. That Emiratis think nothing of spending £500 upwards on an abaya for day to day wearing (and that they always look so glamorous) is no unending source of mystery for me.

Best of all in Dubai was visiting old Dubai and observing the cargo port, the workers crossing the creek around which Dubai was originally built and observing the abra stations – the places where the dhows dock at regular intervals along

Abra Station, Dubai, copyright spirit21

the creek to form the water transport network. As a luxury I hired an abra for an hour at sunset to travel along the creek and see old Dubai in the falling light. At sunset the adhan echoed in stereo – literally – as it was called from mosques on both sides. The old area of Bastakiyya lit up with its golden lights, and men sat beneath the bridges to fish during the perfect early evening air. This was the magic of Dubai.

By contrast were the two most epic sights of Abu Dhabi – the Emirates palace hotel which is absolutely enormous. And has this legendary gold vending machine. Not sure what to get friends and family? Running out of time to go shopping? Insert $500 and give them their own gold coin or bar.

And on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi is the new Shaikh Zayed mosque. I wasn’t expecting to like it when I arrived, not being very partial to large mosques that are built too far away for daily usage, but the architecture and the decoration is exquisite, and quite unlike anything else I’ve seen – fair more organic and lyrical. And the mosque is staffed in a very friendly and gentle manner – unlike my usual experiences of being shouted at for being a woman trying to enter a mosque.

Shaikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, copyright spirit21

My final day was another complete change – this time driving through the glorious deep grey Hajar mountains that form the spine of the eastern flank of the UAE. On the other side is a separate part of Sharjah, and also an enclave of Oman. The eastern coast is much quieter and less developed than the rest of the UAE, and so is more relaxing and has the rugged natural beauty that

Hajar Mountains, UAE, copyright spirit21

contrast with the frenetic metropolis of Dubai. The drive along the coast encompassed Dibba, Khor Fakkan and Kalba, all seemingly untouched in their coastal beauty.

So many things were left unseen. Yas Island (with the F1 track, and Ferrari World), several art galleries, the burgeoning arts scene in Dubai, Jumeira Beach (observed only from afar), several older mosques, a dhow cruise along the coast, a foray into Oman, a visit to the Liwa Oasis… the list goes on.

Despite staying for several days, I felt that I had only just caught a peek of UAE life. If anyone tells you that all there is to the UAE is shopping – don’t believe them. There’s plenty more beneath the surface.


Love – good for the gander, but not for the goose?

My weekly column in The National UAE was published today. I’d love to hear your thoughts – do leave a comment.

“It’s fine for me to have a ‘love marriage’,” the male caller to the radio show said, “but I won’t accept anything other than an arranged marriage for my sister.”

I was live on the air last week, co-hosting one of the UAE’s most popular morning radio shows as part of my invitation to speak at the Sharjah International Book Fair.

We were discussing the fiery topics of love and marriage. Calls and text messages came through furiously as this usually private topic was given a forum for public debate.

The notion of “love marriage” is one that carries a note of unspoken and sinful rebellion across Middle East and some Asian cultures. The open discussion of love, even within the sacred boundaries of marriage, is taboo – especially for women. But we do need to talk about it because the ability to love – our spouses, our communities and the Divine – is what makes us human and binds us together.

My presence on the show and the publication of my book, Love in a Headscarf, challenge the prevailing silence.

I don’t advocate mass love-ins or the abandonment of the arranged marriage process: quite the opposite. I’m in favour of a structured approach to love and marriage with support and input from families.

Nevertheless, my position on the subject is clear: love is not a four-letter word.

As the hosts of the show, we challenged the caller: “Would you say that your attitude to love and marriage is hypocritical if you can have a love marriage, but your sister can’t?” “Yes,” he responded. “And what are you going to do to change your hypocritical position?” “Nothing. That’s just how it is.”

He was not alone in being unashamed of his double standard when it comes to love and marriage for men and women.

Another caller, male and 36 years old, told us his personal story, which initially tugged at my heartstrings. “I’m a divorced father of three, and I’d like to remarry. I think it’s important to be open with prospective families about my personal situation, but as soon as I tell them these details, they break off all discussions.”

Our societies shouldn’t discriminate against those who are divorced or who already have children, especially when they are honest about their situation. But on delving deeper, we found a murkiness in his position.

“I keep being offered girls who are leftovers,” he whined. Leftovers? These are women we’re talking about.

“I want a girl who is 28, not divorced or with children. I don’t want a leftover girl who is 36,” he said without shame, just minutes after complaining of his own treatment by women.

The hypocrisy of these two male callers was bad enough, but it was compounded by the fact that they were not embarrassed by their positions. As men, they saw love as their right and their privilege alone. They would not permit women the same love, the same life choice.

Forceful text messages came through from female listeners. “If these are the men, kill me now!” one wrote. I can only assume she was joking.

But one message raised an issue at the heart of the debate: “We must make it clear that these attitudes are based in culture, not religion.”

To eradicate these double standards, this difference needs to be made abundantly clear. And for this to happen, what we need most is to be able to discuss love and marriage openly and honestly, without fear or shame.


Love in a Headscarf launches in USA

Exciting times! Today sees the launch of the US edition of Love in a Headscarf, published by Beacon Press.

The book has already received the following praise from the USA:

“Her account of having to meet the succession of suitors—frequently unsavory, reluctant or downright rude—is hilarious…A forthright, charming tale of unraveling the ‘overwhelming contradictions and tangles’ of identity.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“What a fun glimpse into the courting rituals of a traditional South Asian British Muslim community! Janmohamed’s colorful and often humorous memoir shows us how those of another culture and religion might navigate the search for love, that most universal of themes. Perfect for the bedside table, but enlightening, as well.”

—Sumbul Ali-Karamali, Author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing

“A gripping and enjoyable read.”

Leila Aboulela, author of Minaret

“A delightful memoir that celebrates spirituality, self-empowerment, female agency and resistance to cultural (both ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’) dictates on women’s roles and identities.”

Randa Abdel-Fattah, author of Does My Head Look Big in This?

“With honesty and humor, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed navigates the complicated world of being a British Muslim woman in our modern society. Love in a Headscarf is a rich and full exploration of her choice to uphold her Islamic traditions, while maintaining her own identity in her search for love and spirituality.  Along the way, Janmohamed enlightens readers and reminds us all of our common humanity, with, or without, a headscarf.  A thoughtful and captivating read!”

Gail Tsukiyama, author of Street of a Thousand Blossoms

About the book

From the moment the doorbell rang at her parents’ North London home, Shelina was poised and ready to meet her possible true love. Would the suitor behind the door be her “Muslim Man Travolta”? The scene was set—her team of clamoring “Buxom Aunties” fried the samosas to a perfect golden brown, her mother plumped the cushions, her father adjusted the curtains, and Shelina, draped in a rose colored hijab, was having a “Good Headscarf Day.”

In her memoir, Love in a Headscarf, Shelina Janmohamed, one of Britain’s leading female Muslim writers, takes readers on her journey to find “the one.” Navigating through the always complicated world of dating, Janmohamed’s search to find true love takes her from social mixers at her North London mosque to speed dating sessions in the city and even to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. But for Janmohamed, her journey toward finding her partner was always a family affair.

Opting for a traditional arranged marriage, Janmohamed is set up on both “Family Dates” and blind dates by her mom, her meddling aunts, professional matchmakers, and even her mosque’s Imam. Janmohamed’s story of dating, Muslim style, redefines for readers what arranged marriage actually is. The family’s role, she explains, is to suggest potential suitors and ultimately offer advice, support, and wisdom. “I had to agree to my future partner willingly and happily,” she writes. “What they were offering was an arranged marriage—something very different from a forced marriage.”  And honestly, “who would object to help in finding the love of one’s life?” Janmohamed asks.

Hilarity ensues when Janmohamed embarks on many of her arranged dates. Her team of matchmakers introduce her to Ahmed, a sullen accountant who discusses the difference between bankers and actuaries ad nauseam, and Syed, another accountant, this one a smooth talker, who shows up two hours late to their coffee date because he was home watching a cricket match. Next, there was Khalil, the London-bred dentist who dismissed Janmohamed because of her height, insisting he “could never marry someone who is only five foot three,” and Karim, the newspaper photographer who allegedly didn’t receive her emails because “his house was struck by lightning.” She meets men who find her too religious, because she is veiled, and others that find her too Western because she is an ambitious Oxford educated woman who drives a convertible sports car.

Despite her many failed setups, it is on this journey to find true love that Janmohamed finds Divine Love. The thoroughly modern Muslim climbs Kilimanjaro, visits Egypt’s pyramids, and makes the hajj to Mecca, allowing her to deepen her personal relationship with the One and further embrace the three paths of Islam: “law, compassion, and love.” And it is at this moment, when Janmohamed reconnects with the Divine One, that she finally meets her future one.


Love in a Headscarf to launch USA edition next week

Next Tuesday, October 12th, will see the launch of the next international edition of Love in a Headscarf. This time it’s the USA that will have it’s own edition.

If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy yet, make sure you get one before they sell out!

http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2154

And if you are in the USA media and would like a review copy, interview or any other info from Beacon Press (the marvellous publishers) or an article then please do get in touch.

America – here we come!


Support Love in a Headscarf and cast your vote

Dear friends, and readers of spirit21,

Earlier this year, my book Love in a Headscarf was nominated as part of the Big Red Read, a book festival being held in London. Readers are encouraged to cast a vote for their favourite book from the nominations, and one will be declared the winner!

If you enjoyed Love in a Headscarf, I would ask you to show your support by sending your vote by email to: bigredreadvoting@redbridge.gov.uk. The deadline for votes is tomorrow, Saturday 18th September.

You can learn more about the festival, and see the other books that have been nominated, here. (although obviously I’d prefer you to vote for LIAH) :)


‘Love in a Headscarf wows India’ according to Wall Street Journal

As regular readers of this blog will know, LIAH was launched in India earlier in the summer. After reaching Number 2 in the Bestseller list, itseems the book is being even more widely noticed! The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog ran this story today. Talking of Amaryllis, the imprint of Manjul Publishing that launched with LIAH the story says:

“The imprint’s been very lucky with its first book, the Indian edition of “Love in a Headscarf: A Muslim Woman’s Search for the One,” a memoir about her arranged marriage by North London-raised writer and blogger Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, which came out here in July.”

The article also carries a Q&A with the Head of Publishing at Amaryllis who says that they picked the book for the launch title because it is: “a book that would make waves and would connect with readers of all ages [...] a sensitive, yet light read that addresses issues that trouble young women not just in India, but all over the world.” and commented on its: “runaway acceptability by the readers.”

You can read the full article here: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2010/09/14/love-in-a-headscarf-wows-india/


Love in a Headscarf launches in India and climbs to number 4 (update: now at number 2)

Love in a Headscarf was launched in India at the end of July as the first title of the new imprint Amaryllis, which is part of Manjul Publishing.  They came up with this snazzy cover, which was designed to be vibrant and modern to appeal to the competitive Indian market, and stand out from the usual crowd of memoir.

Sanjana Roy Choudhury, Head of Publishing, Amaryllis, said that ”We plumped for Shelina Zahra Janmohamed’s Love in a Headscarf for our launch, to make people sit up and take notice. There were a few typical literary titles we could’ve launched with, but this was special. It’s a light but sensitive portrayal of the modern British-Muslim woman” .

After less than four weeks in the market, the book is already at number 4 in the bestseller list!

The book has garnered some great coverage. Elizabeth Kuruvilla wrote a feature in Open Magazine talking about “Revolutions in a Headscarf”. And I was in conversation with Nawaid Anjum of the Asian Age who went on to write about “A Muslim Woman’s Quest.”

The Mail Today (which I believe is related to the UK’s Daily Mail) said “Move over Bridget Jones, and makes space for Elizabeth Bennett in a hijab.”

And AllAboutBookPublishing, (a bi-monthly trade journal exclusively dedicated to book publishing industry in India) in an article entitled ‘The act of writing is very courageous’ called the book ‘unputdownable’ (shelina says: what a great word).

Mid Day ran an interesting feature on ‘Writing from behind the veil‘ asking “why Islamic writing in English, especially by women, is piquing reader interest” looking at the journey to getting Love in  Headscarf published, and other books that are sharing a diversity of Muslim women’s stories.

For those of you following the international editions of Love in a Headscarf, the next one will hopefully be released in the USA in the Autumn.

Postscript [31/8/10]: This lovely review from DNAIndia.com (Daily News and Analysis) begins: “ Scarves were once about fashion. Today they’re all about politics. The headscarf is fiercely contested territory with diametrically opposite meanings ranging from ‘oppressive’ to ‘liberating’ depending on who is standing on the soapbox. Which is why Shelina Zahra Janmohamed’s chick-lit cum memoir, Love In A Headscarf is more provocative at second glance.”  and then… “Its wholesome worldview cuts through the hullabaloo around the hijab issue by presenting the simple testimony of one woman’s faith in modern Britain.”

Postscript [14/9/10]: The book has climbed to number 2 in the Bestseller list. And a number of other publications have carried news and reviews. The Wall Street Journal’s India blog writes that “Love in a Headscarf wows India“.

Women’s Web calls it “an anabashed tribute to Jane Austen”

The Hindustan Times says the book gets it “spot on” when it comes to how women feel.

The Times of India (linked here to the mobile site, couldn’t find the main one) says the book has a “delightfully engaging style” and even calls parts of it a “scream”.

The Hindustan Times reviews the book again (I guess they liked it?) with the headline in the paper itself: “A rollicking ‘love’ story of a Muslim woman who does not believe in playing by the rules.” The review concludes: “Spunky author, important book, and a good read.”

The Deccan Chronicle in an article called “Shakti ‘swa’roopas” (formidable unflinching women) nominates 9 women who exhibit this spirit, and lists me and Love in a Headscarf as one of these 9 under “humour” saying: “This author has questioned the double standards in religion with her trademark humour. [She] found liberation through her successful blog Spirit 21. Lacing her provocative questions on gender imbalance in society with humour, she has entered a shark infested bastion with a weapon called wit. ” I’m in high profile company with the likes of Angelina Jolie and Fatima Bhutto.

The reviews keep coming in. Here’s one from The Organiser(which says it was set up in 1947 and that it is widely quoted in the Indian Parliament and read in 54 countries) that describes the book as ‘light-hearted’ with ‘a hilarious twist giving an insight into what it means to be a young British Muslim woman.’


Love in a Headscarf now published in Dutch: Liefde met een hoofddoek:

Exciting news! The latest foreign edition of my book “Love in a Headscarf” has been published! This time, it’s in the Netherlands for a Dutch version. I think they’ve done a great job with the cover – very sassy.

And for any readers of a Dutch-speaking persuasion, here is the link, and the blurb in Dutch is below.

Happy reading, Netherlands!

***

Het ware geloof heeft ze gevonden, maar waar is de ware in de liefde?

‘Toen ik dertien was wist ik dat ik met John Travolta ging trouwen. Op een dag zou hij voor mijn deur staan me ten huewelijk vragen. Daarna zou hij zich bekeren tot de islam en een toegewijde moslim worden.

Shelina houdt een verrassend geheim verborgen onder haar hoofddoek: ze is op zoek naar ‘de ware’. Met aan de ene kant de imams en haar traditionele familie, en aan de andere kant haar romantische idealen, besluit ze om de weg te gaan van moslima’s: ze wil Mr Right vinden via een gearrangeerd huwelijk. Shelina’s boeiende avontuur begint als een zoektocht naar ware liefde maar onderweg leert ze vooral zichzelf en haar geloof beter kennen.

Liefde met een hoofddoek is het waargebeurde en grappige verhaal van een van de meest vooraanstaande moslimschrijfsters uit Engeland en biedt een uiterst vermakelijk, fris en verrijkend inzicht in wat het betekent om een zelfbewuste moderne moslima te zijn.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed studeerde in Oxford en woont in Londen. Ze schrijft columns en artikelen voor tijdschriften en kranten en is vaak te gast bij Britse tv-programma’s.


“Love in a Headscarf” – announces Arabic edition

I’m extremely excited to announce that Arabic language rights for Love in a Headscarf were sold this weekend to Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. They are a great outfit based in Qatar built as a venture between the awesome Qatar Foundation, and the fabulous Bloomsbury Publishing (of Harry Potter fame) in the UK.

We’re in the process of working out the details, but it should be available in Arabic later this year, 2010.

Now, our big challenge is working out a great Arabic version of the title – any ideas?

P.S. I should add that I met the wonderful Nigel Newton, who is the CEO of Bloomsbury. I asked him for some advice on establishing yourself as an author once your first book is out, but alas I was forbidden from sharing his extremely wise words. Suffice it to say, he inspired me with great confidence that he and his team at Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation publishing will take great care of Love in a Headscarf.