Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Reclaiming Narratives

"As a Muslim woman, I'm constantly hearing people talk about Muslim women without ever stopping to listen to what Muslim women have to say for ourselves. Our lives, loves, and bodies have been co-opted and politicized - this is a reality for many people of color. Writing gives me the opportunity to take control of my own narrative and tell my story in my own words. Doing so - and amplifying my voice and perspective - in this current climate is a political act." 
It is difficult to thrive in a society that lacks awareness and appreciation for your culture. Women of color often struggle to feel powerful in a country that does not represent them accurately. We are not well-represented in any sphere, from the shows that grace our television screens to the political arenas in which decisions affecting our lives are made. We stand in solidarity with women of color who are killed on the streets, or those who live with the impacts of degrading misconceptions. While we are fortunate to reside in a country that has afforded us innumerable privileges, we also recognize that this is not a time for complacency in the face of marginalization. This beautiful, flawed country taught us the value of bravery.

Nura Maznavi is a woman who has vacillated between many meaningful roles. She has supported migrant workers in Sri Lanka, advocated for the rights of prisoners in California, conducted research as a Fulbright scholar, and provided legal guidance in efforts to racial and religious profiling. Her passion for storytelling was ignited by her experiences hearing intimate insight from whose who she supported. Maznavi discovered that personal stories possess a power that was lacking in law - the ability to encourage empathy and connect diverse individuals. She realized that storytelling was the means through which voices ignored in the mainstream media could be given a platform. She decided to use her writing as way to amplify the voices of the marginalized and disenfranchised.

Maznavi's journey lead her to controversial topics. She is the co-editor of the anthologies Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women and Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy, tackling topics often perceived as taboo and providing a feminist lens by revealing the realities in which American Muslims experience the intersections of romance, love, sexuality and differing cultures. It required courage and creativity to transcend societal boundaries and express the nuanced narratives of those between cultures.

Love, InshAllah book coverMaznavi is able to work successfully in a range of distinct domains and establish connections between them, demonstrating traits commonly associated with creativity. Her subject matter indicates that she has overcome ethnocentric tendencies. M. K. Raina argues that research conducted on creativity is restricted by ethnocentrism in the article "Ethnocentric Confines in Creativity Research". Ethnocentrism results in disregard for creative endeavors that do not align with perspectives common in the dominant culture. Maznavi bridges that gap by highlighting the creativity rampant in Muslim culture, while still being accessible to American society. She represents the tremendous gains that result from interactions between cultures in which differences are respected and utilized positively.

Maznavi is an inspiration to all who do not resemble the norm in our society.It is time for women of color to create the avenues of representation that are lacking in mainstream society. Maznavi encourages us to be creative in our expressions of self and fearless in reclaiming our narratives.
"I am inspired by stories we rarely hear - stories of the marginalized and disenfranchised. These are the stories that make me committed to raising my own voice and helping to amplify the voices of others."
Additional Source:

"Ethnocentric Confines in Creativity Research". M. K. Raina. 1993. The Emergence of a discipline. 435-453.

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