Guest post | Na’ima B. Robert: Telling Our Stories

This is a short article by Na’ima B. Robert in which she discusses the need for Muslim youth to have their voices heard. Originally posted on my previous blog on July 13th 2010.

Telling our stories, making our voices heard

What is the point of telling stories, of creating characters, of devising plots and crafting dialogue? Or perhaps I should rephrase the question: what is MY point in telling stories, stories about and for Muslim youth? I tell stories because I love to imagine and I love to dream. I tell stories because I enjoy putting myself in someone else’s shoes and walking for a while, savouring their life. I tell stories because I don’t see our stories being told.

And this is crucial.

I don’t see our stories being told.

I don’t see our youth having a range of characters that they can relate to on a religious or cultural level; I don’t see them having access to stories that acknowledge and affirm their struggles as young Muslims; I don’t see them having access to literature that will uplift and inspire them, as Muslims.

And this is crucial.

For if you do not see yourself reflected in what you read, if your fears, hopes, dreams and motivations do not find a voice in what you read, you will do one of two things. You will either stop reading out of frustration or your own narrative will change to fit the narrative you read, the ‘normal’ narrative.

And this is crucial.

Stories about Muslim kids struggling with the day to day, about them transcending, overcoming, fighting, keeping on, serve to normalise the Muslim experience. They humanise us. They give life and colour and feeling and movement to the often 2 dimensional portrait of Muslims and Islam. And do they encourage our youth to keep striving, to know that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are others out there that are striving for the same thing as they are: a balance. A balance between self and others, between dependence and independence, between deen and dunya.

If one young person feels strengthened, validated or acknowledged by anything I have written, it will have been worth it.

All good is from Allah and any mistakes are from myself and the Shaitaan.

Na’ima B. Robert

Nai’ma B Robert is ‘Muslim, Black, mixed-race, South African, Western, revert and woman all in one’. Descended from Scottish Highlanders on her father’s side and the Zulu people on her mother’s side, she was born in Leeds and grew up in Zimbabwe. She went on to gain a first-class degree from the University of London. Having worked in marketing, the performing arts, teaching and the travel and tourism industry, she is now an award-winning author and Editor-in-chief of SISTERS, a magazine for Muslim women.

Na’ima is author of the best-selling book From My Sister’s Lips and has been published in The Observer, The Times and is a regular contributor to The Times Online Faith section.

Her second book for teens, Boy vs. Girl, is out now. Grab a copy now from Amazon or download the Kindle e-book.

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