What happens in Britain can rankle in Canada.
Ryerson University professor Asmaa Malik says her mother Khalida is her role model: she showed her what it means to be a “very strong (and) very un-submissive” woman.
That’s what made British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent comments about Muslim women that much more upsetting for Malik, leading her to add her voice to a feisty social media campaign calling out Cameron.
The British prime minister was criticized earlier this month after he said Muslim women must improve their English or face deportation from the U.K.
Cameron also privately suggested that the “traditionally submissiveness of Muslim women” prevented them from speaking out against radicalism, The Telegraph newspaper reported.
That set off a firestorm on social media, with Muslim women from around the world tweeting their impressive credentials to the prime minister, alongside the sarcastic hashtag #TraditionallySubmissive.
“To say that Muslim women are traditionally submissive is really one of the most insulting things you can say,” Malik said on Monday.
“It so dramatically undervalues the contributions that they make on every level. It plays up this idea that Muslim women are invisible in our cultures except in this role that Cameron points out. But the beauty of this hashtag is that so many women were like, ‘I’m right here and this is what I’m doing.’”
Malik’s tweet using the #TraditionallySubmissive hashtag had been re-tweeted 680 times and liked more than 1,450 times by Tuesday morning.
“my mom was so #TraditionallySubmissive she left home to go to med school in 1960s Pakistan. thanks to her, i’m a journalist and a professor,” she wrote. Malik worked at the Star from 1998 to 2005.
She said that her mother was “very touched” by the tweet.
“My mother is someone who I look up to as being a very strong, very un-submissive woman, who grew up in a time where it wasn’t easy to be like that in Pakistan,” Malik said.
“I find that her example very much drives my ambitions and my goals . . . I felt the need to express that,” she said.
Fiza Azlam posted a photo of herself holding a paper that says she’s worked for the U.K. public health service (NHS) for 22 years, knows five languages — including English — and is a mother of three and grandmother of ten.
“Muslim women are not a problem that needs solving,” she wrote in a post that been re-tweeted more than 3,000 times and liked another 6,000 times.
“Optometrist, hold 2 Masters, pursuing PhD, Independent, held positions of leadership in various orgs makes me #TraditionallySubmissive,” wrote Aaliya Versi.
London-based author and Muslim women’s activist Shelina Janmohamed, who took part in the Twitter campaign, wrote that at least 30,000 tweets had been sent out with pictures of Muslim women doing a variety of activities or holding placards listing their many achievements.
The campaign, Janmohamed wrote in an article for The Telegraph, “made a firm point: Muslim women have voices, they are diverse, their achievements are wide ranging and impressive, and they are taking charge of their lives and their political engagement.”
Cameron also said his government would fund English courses for Muslim women immigrants. Ironically, the U.K. Home Office press release about the English-language tests for new immigrants misspelled the word “language” as “langauge”, which also prompted mockery online. The error has since been fixed.