Charlotte Bibby | Mahmoudat
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Mahmoudat

August 2017

 

Mahmoudat was born in Nigeria but moved to the UK as a teenager and is currently studying accounting and finance at LSE whilst also running her blog muslimgirljournal.com where she writes about various topics including politics, religion, literature and mental health.

 

 

Instagram: @muslimgirljournal | Website: www.muslimgirljournal.com

 

Click below to scroll through extracts from our interview.

 

One of the best experiences that I’ve had was during Ramadan and I was reading my Quran on the tube and this guy was standing behind and we ended up having a one hour conversation just talking about Islam, Christiantiy, belief in God etc. and I think those kind of conversations where you know people aren’t looking for points to attack you with, instead they’re just wanting to learn more about who you are, how your faith enhances you, what does your faith tell you. Those are the kinds of conversations that enriches both sides of the party, so ideally I’d love for people not to see me as someone to hate, but someone to have a conversation with about what does your faith actually mean to you, what does it teach you, how does it make you a better human being. I think going outside of our comfort zones is important to build bridges. Actually, there’s a line in the Quran about how you were created to get to know each other and you were created to be of different races and of different languages, and that is always in the back of my mind, that we were created to get to know each other and we have differences and diversity for a reason, so if you don’t go beyond your circle then how do you get to understand people better?

I feel like over the past few years, for me specifically anyway, my anxiety is heightened because of the Islamophobic incidents we keep hearing about. The particular moment where it started off was seeing a video of a Muslim woman getting pushed onto a train track and that film was very scary because I’m someone that’s always very close to the yellow line. Now with acid attacks there are several moments during the day where I just have to remind myself to pray, because you never know who it’s going to be, and that fear constantly that just by the virtue of how you look, and I think also being visibly identifiable as Muslim contributes to that, someone out there could potentially do something to you that’s life-changing. That does contribute to your mental health in a way that’s very different from the day to day challenges you’d face normally anyway, so there’s a different angle to that, specifically for Muslim women because a lot of Islamophobic attack are geared towards us because we’re seen as more vulnerable, we’re just easy targets. We’re growing up as a generation where we do have to be very conscious about the emotions that we evoke by people just by our very existence or the potential attacks that we’re subjected to, that’s quite tough, and I think we don’t talk about that enough. I think it’s a valid argument to make that we can’t continue to live our lives in fear, because I remember when the acid attacks started happening getting quite a lot of WhatsApp’s from people talking about how they don’t want to leave their house, and even after terrorist attacks I don’t leave the house the day after because I am aware of the potential backlash that will happen. I think the fact is we do have to get on with our every day lives, but it comes at a cost when we are in public spaces. I’m not as comfortable as I would have been five years ago.

Violence is a very complicated word, because when we think about violence we automatically think about bloodshed, don’t we? The everyday experiences of people who are oppressed is inherently violent, you don’t see the blood, you don’t see the scars, but there is a violence and trauma to that, that we don’t speak about.

I was 12 when I moved to the UK, so for the first 3/4 years I was very adamant that I was going to move back to Nigeria but I think eventually when you’ve spent so long in another country that country starts to become home. My future’s definitely in Britain, in the UK, but now I’m going through a phase where the issues I’m most passionate about, I feel like I’ll be able to make more difference in Nigera than here. So the main thing I’m interested in is getting more women involved in the legislative process in Nigeria, so the House of Representatives, Senate. I’m hoping to do a Masters in Public Policy, so it’s not definitive yet, but I think that’s where my passion is right now, and ideally I think Nigeria still has a long way to go when it comes to women’s issues, so whatever difference I can make in whatever field, then I’d be happy to do that.

During my gap year I remember having discussions with people about natural hair and I remember one of the people that was really high up in the company talking about how he wouldn’t employ people that had natural hair and that was a shock. Obviously I had to challenge that. He can’t see my natural hair because I wear a hijab but at the same time, for me, that’s an insult to my identity. The other discussion was about how, because I was doing a finance job, how he had to think twice or address his bias about Nigerians having a reputation for fraud, so he told me “that was something I had to consider before hiring you”. I don’t know what emotion that’s supposed to give me, but it’s not necessarily assuring. When you have candid discussions with people like that, because at least he was honest enough to tell me “these were the thoughts that were running in my head”, so then of couse when I’m in situations sometimes when people don’t articulate it, sometimes I do think “is this part of the reason?” You go through life knowing people have those prejudices but they just can’t say it. I would prefer for someone to articulate it because at least there’s room for discussion and their opinions can be challenged, but we just live in an environment where people would rather talk about it in their house, and then behave as if they don’t have those prejudices.