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I Speak For Myself

By Shana Kongmun

Zahra Suratwala sat down with me to discuss her experiences in Thailand, her book and the motivations behind it after her visit to Chiang Mai.

“I Speak For Myself” is an anthology of American Muslim women’s stories and is the first of three books that two women, Zahra and Maria M Ebrahimji realized needed to be told. Zahra said it was not easy to get a publisher, “Anthologies don’t sell, we were told,” she said, “But finally after a year and a half of shopping around, we got rid of our agent and did it ourselves, we found a publisher who understood.” That publisher is White Cloud Press and published this book and the anthology of Muslim Americen men’s stories called, “All American” as well as a third book that Zahra said is coming out soon on the Arab Spring.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about Islam and about women’s roles in Islam. I am glad that people can ask me about them. It’s not about debating but about an exchange of information,” Zahra said. Adding that her recent workshop with CMU Political Science students was really good, she added that she encourages people to ask her questions about Islam saying, “I find that people are often afraid to ask questions on things such as fasting during Ramadan for fear of offending but I tell them to ask me anything. I won’t be offended. And they did ask very good questions.”

She then met with local Thai ladies from the Muslim community to dialogue and exchange experiences with, adding that they have a lot in common as they both practice Islam in a non-Muslim environment. She said it was interesting because many are small business owners and added that they feel free to practice their religion. She added, “There is this misconception that because I am an American I must not be as Muslim while Americans will say as a Muslim I can’t be that American!”
Zahra said that the importance of the books allows people to know Muslims through their own eyes, to understand Muslim women and their roles in American society. “62% of Americans admit they don’t personally know a Muslim. I’ve had people say to me ‘You are the first Muslim I have ever met. Now that I have read your book I feel I know more’.”


Bollywood party at the Hideout

The Hideout Club owned by Monty and Noor held a Bollywood Party on Friday, September 7, 2012. The party featured Bhangra music and best costume contests for those wearing the best Bollywood attire. A bottle of sparkling wine was the trophy for the winners. The Hideout Club plans to spin Bhangra music every Wednesday night for Indian music lovers. (Photo courtesy of CityNow!)


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I Speak For Myself

Bollywood party at the Hideout