Charlotte Bibby | Mehera Miah
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Mehera Miah

March 2017

 

Mehera is a British-Bangladeshi born and raised in Kent and currently living in North London. She’s a hijabi wearing mother of three and works part-time organising events for both Muslims and non-Muslims youths at her local Mosque whilst her husband runs his own recruitment consultancy.

 

Click below to scroll through extracts from our interview.

I work with young people, and we run different clubs and youth nights for people in the community, it’s for everyone, non-muslims and muslims, obviously a lot of Muslims access it because it is in a Mosque but it’s clubs for 8-14 year olds, and then we have youth nights for over 14 year olds. And we just do lots of different activities, sporting activities, arts, craft, we just took them to a trampoline park recently.

 

I was doing consultancy work beforehand and I was working in different organisations and thankfully I was getting good money but then I got this. Then this job came along and I applied for it, and I took a big pay-cut to go to take it on. It’s just 12 hours a week but it’s a lot of work. But I’ve never actually been so much happier in this position because I’m learning so much through my work and not just the skills but just really about the community. I’ve worked with so many community projects, but here it just feels really different, it just feels so spiritual, even writing press releases. I don’t know, I can’t even explain it, it’s just a different element that I’ve never actually experienced in my past, previous positions.

The first reason [I wear a hijab] is that when people see me, the first thing I want them to know is that I’m a Muslim, so that is an obvious way to make that statement and I think it’s a subtle way. A lot of people, nowadays, are threatened by it, but for me it’s a very subtle way of showing I’m a Muslim and the moment you see it you identify me as a Muslim, before anything else. The second reason why I wear is because it does bring me closer to Allah and the reason why I wear it is between me and my creator, so it’s a very personal relationship and I feel like me putting this on has made me closer to my religion. I mean I’ve only been wearing it really properly for the last 7-8 years. And the third reason is I feel like it really empowers me, like before, I loved my hair, I loved doing curls, straightening it, it was lovely, but I did feel a lot of pressure to make sure my hair was right, and then when I started wearing the hijab it was really tough for me. Sometimes I used to take it off, I used to be like “I can’t do this”. I actually found it such a struggle and then eventually when I started wearing it, it just started evolving then I started feeling naked without it. I used to feel less confident without it and now this is the last thing I put on my head, so I get changed, I do my makeup and the last thing I do is put my hijab on, and then once I’ve put that on, I feel complete, I feel ready and I feel very empowered and I feel very beautiful. It’s just amazing.

 

I like the fact that, when people see the hijab, sometimes they might think that your language and your education is limited, and then it’s nice to speak and to show that no, I’m still an educated person, I’m still an empowered person it’s just a scarf. I feel like I’m challenging people more and it just gives me that extra confidence. Even though nowadays there are all these reports that say with the hijab they’re less likely to be employed, you keep hearing these things, but to me I just think “bring it on”. You know? “Don’t care. Let’s bring it on.” Now with the European Law that’s passed, well a lot of people are so angry about it but I don’t actually feel angry about it, I feel like wow this is such a strong thing, it’s [even] gone to European law. My hijab is so strong, it’s stronger than any part of me. It’s stronger than a lipstick, it’s stronger than your skills, it’s almost stronger than anything because they’ve taken it to court to let a company say you’re not allowed to wear it.

 

When I went to work, because we were based in Tower Hamlets and considering the area was mostly Muslim Bangladeshis, so the hijab was something everybody saw, and one of my colleagues was talking about the hijab and she said “I suppose you’ve been conditioned into wearing it”. And I was like “yeah, fair enough, I think you’ve been conditioned into wearing the bikini on the beach.” And she was like “no I haven’t. I haven’t. That’s my choice”. I go “well it’s the same thing with the hijab, I haven’t been conditioned by anyone, and you’re saying you haven’t been conditioned by anyone.” She said it really casually and I don’t think she even meant to say it, it was something she thinks but it came out and it caught me by surprise because this was a colleague of mine who’s worked with this community but she still has that perspective and it was a bit surprising.

 

I’m not representing myself once I put this on, and as I said I want people to know I’m Muslim, then I have to take that responsibility seriously. I can’t wear it and then go out and get into fights on the street or getting drunk because that’s not what Islam is about.

I would love it if we saw more influential people in Islam making changes, but to be honest, that has to come from us. We have to try and break those barriers, we have to get there. I do want to see more people, I want to see us represented in not just the news, but in films, in soap operas and as the main character. And that’s not just for Muslims, that’s just for all minorities; not to be the person’s best mate, or have that lead character, have the main person on a poster, that would be amazing. And that for me, for my children that would be good.

[After the recent attack near Westminster] there were a lot of Muslim women that went and held hands. That’s great, but it actually really annoyed me. I was like “really? Do we have to go there?” because, yes I condemn him, but I condemn anyone who attacks or kills or murders. I can’t go around holding hands with people on all types of bridges because I’m condemning that person. I understand it was a powerful statement but why do we have to do that? If someone asks me, I’d say “yeah I condemn it, of course I do” and if they ask me about my religion I’ll say “obviously, but my religion also condemns Bob from doing that. I just feel like sometimes it’s like we can’t keep apologising and we can’t keep making these big statements of doing these things. There has to be a line.

 

He’s from Kent, his town is Giningham, which is actually very close to where I grew up, so obviously I have to condemn him as well because I was from Kent. We can look at all different areas. My husband, he should condemn because he’s a man. Come on! By the time we analyse it, we can’t always go and hold hands! I mean, I don’t see anyone doing that for Syria or Palestine, or the other countries that are suffering day in and day out. I don’t see anyone apologising. I don’t see that anyone feels it. I know they portray it in a positive way, but do we have to do it, though? Do we really keep having to do it? It’s just going to get exhausting.

 

My mosque did a statement the next day and they put it out to say that we all stand together, which is great, and I was happy they did that, but at the same time he’s not a terrorist. If you read his history this guy was just crazy, even when he was a Christian, he was a Christian before. He was crazy, he stabbed people. So the organisations in Kent that worked with him, did they put that statement out to say “we stand together”? I do feel sorry for people in organisations and Mosques because they don’t know what to do and they really want to make sure that people don’t hijack it too much and then cast a shadow over our community, so they’re really trying to make that active steps to make sure that doesn’t happen and I think that’s good, but at the same time I feel like there has to be a line where we draw. We apologise and we condemn it but we condemn everything universally.