VOICE OF THE CAPE AT THE CAPE TOWN BOOK FAIR
MADINAT AL MUSLIMEEN: INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF KABOB, FEATURING DAUGHTERS ARE DIAMONDS
The Mercury (29 June 2007) printed an opinion piece and review written by myself (as per previous post); a subsequent apology for the misrepresentation of the book as well as for wrongly attributing the comment about 'irrelevant hijab' to me.
Heres to maintaining writer ethic and the conveyance of truth in the media
LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Nazia Peer:
(Un)Lifting the Veil (of Ignorance)
Ms Omeshnee Naidoo's article, ‘Lifting the veil’ (The Mercury, 13 June 2007), refers.
I have had the privilege of actually reading the book Daughter's are Diamonds, by Ms Shafinaaz Hassim, so I consider myself somewhat qualified to comment on it. I have been moved to do so because Ms Naidoo's irresponsible journalism, and as editor you need to take full responsibility, will, no doubt, have undesired consequences. Matters have not been assisted by the manner in which the accompanying photographs to the article were splashed in The Mercury in what can only be described as an act of sensation-mongering.
Turning to the facts: Daughters are Diamonds is based on Ms Hassim's, who holds an MA in Social Science from the University of the Witwatersrand, Master's dissertation. Through the voices of six different women, the author has tried to give expression to the “patriarchal mindset that is able to infringe on the rights and liberties of women, in a number of ways”. The women, who were interviewed extensively by the author, are all Muslim and are all of Indian ancestry.
In her work, which is really a social commentary, Ms Hassim has asked questions about gender and family stereotypes in the Indian Muslim community and has commented on the use of social control mechanisms to objectify women. Since Daughters are Diamonds is merely a social study, it can hardly be contended that Ms Hassim has attempted to prescribe, or even commented on the virtuosity of certain practices, what is and is not culturally or religiously acceptable. Hers is not a religious critique and nowhere in her book has she attempted to cast any normative value judgements on the practices of the Indian Muslim community.
To therefore say that she has declared the headscarf “redundant” is not only spurious but, frankly, is plainly incorrect and somewhat mischievous. (It does beg the question as to why Islam and Muslims are repeatedly misrepresented in the popular press). Not only that, but the comments are inflammatory and have the tendency to defame her since they are false and reduce her standing in the Muslim community. Moreover, her words, and I can only assume that Ms Naidoo interviewed Ms Hassim since she has self-evidently not read the book, have been manipulated and contrived to misrepresent her convictions and has managed to taint the image of Daughters are Diamonds. It disturbs me that a newspaper with the standing of The Mercury's has demonstrated such mediocre journalism.
Even though it focuses on the experiences of Indian Muslim women, Daughters are Diamonds provides a much needed voice for women in our society because it serves to highlight gender inequality, which is steeped in cultural tradition. I would encourage everybody to read it for themselves.
As far as The Mercury is concerned, if any residual integrity and professionalism is to be salvaged from this unfortunate incident, it seems to me that it would only be fair to publish a retraction of the article and an apology to Ms Hassim.