Absolutely quiet it starts. One soft voice breaks the silence, but it is timid, maybe cautious, maybe shy. Probably hesitant yet. It addresses a small audience. “This is not right. They are men, and all they intend to do is shut down the female narrative.” We’ve heard it all before. But the small audience has not, and will not agree. The familiar audience is blinded by patriarchy and its mean machinery. Instead of standing by one of its females, it stands by the system it has adhered to for centuries. The voice is shot down. For now.
Sometimes you have to repeat yourself in life. Very often actually, that’s what I have learned in my first 37 years. When a mirror shatters, it breaks into a thousand truths. All of them reflect you, but each reflection of you is a little different. First you decide to stay silent, when your words do not have the effect you are aiming at. You might not talk again for a while, because the backlash was harsh. But as you get older and more experienced, you’ll find your voice and you’ll get louder. You’ll get more assertive. And what starts as passionate rants will transform into a voice of reason.
When I was young, I had a lot of questions. They were the typical big questions. What are we on earth for? Who am I? How do I do good? How do I make a mark? Some truths were handed down to me. There is one God. There is hell, there is a heaven. Most of the initial responses were given by my parents. It was hard to question those truths, when they were handed down by your heroes. So, it took a while before your heart could open up to finding your own truths. It took pushing back and being heard. Being listened to. Being encouraged to practice your voice. Pushing back again. Back and forth.
My husband tells me that I could just write about my life. He’d read the story. But if he wouldn’t read it, who would? And it isn’t that easy to reveal your own story, especially when you have grown up in a culture where a lot of things are ‘ayeb’. Even though I don’t care about what people think of me, there is always this burden on my shoulders to protect my parents and family. They care about the neighbours’ judgment. The worst thing for them is to be shamed. But I can’t be silenced anymore. The circle must be broken, so here I go.
There was a young woman who had just moved from Duisburg to Frankfurt. Her family had helped her moving and they were on their way back home. She was in a studio flat in a high rise with a view on Frankfurt’s skyline. On Monday, she’d start her first job after graduation. She decided to explore the neighbourhood and went for a walk. She was wearing yellow capri trousers and a black top with a multi-coloured print. She breathed in the summerly air of freedom and smiled at people.
When she left home, she felt the wind in her hair. It was nice. She was nervous because she couldn’t even remember the last time she had left home without a hijab. She hadn’t taken the decision lightly. The young woman had taken classes and worked hard. All she wanted was to bear fruit from her efforts. But since September 11th Islamophobia was a thing, so how likely was she going to find a job and be a functioning part of society? How free would her choice be in terms of career? If the hijab is supposed to evoke less attention by covering your beauty, why were eyes hitting her all the time? Would a conventional fashion approach not achieve this better than insisting on wearing a piece of fabric which only made her stand out? When she left home, she had no idea what her peers’ reaction at uni would be, but she anticipated her family’s reaction. All she wanted was to tread on her own path. Think her own thoughts. And find her own. She wanted to go astray and lost and not be guided by anyone. Specifically not by those who claimed to know better.
That had been the first step to a new start. The first step towards a new destination which was not hell or heaven. Which was the journey, because it’s real and it happens now. Your voice is real and needs to be heard. Don’t let yourself be shunned. To walk your very own way, you have to speak up for what you believe. To encourage and stand by the ones who don’t have that privilege to express themselves, you have to make yourself heard. Never be silenced again.