If we want more tolerance, children need to read stories of world views outside of their own

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I wrote a children’s book about inspiring Muslim women to challenge stereotypes and be part of the movement that allows marginalised groups to take back their own narrative

Burhana Islam
1 day ago

 

Being Muslim, being a woman and being a person of colour is no easy feat. Not only are you weighed down by other people’s stereotypes, but we live in a world where people seem to believe that they can author our stories without our consent.

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The media, our literature, these newfound Twitter warriors and even politicians all play a part of how we understand the world. The tropes of the angry black woman, the oppressed Muslim woman, and the woman who gets told to watch her tone despite being an expert in her field are all by-products of an environment that’s been constructed by everybody other than those people themselves.

This way of seeing the world and understanding our place in it is an accepted norm. But what these story-makers are rarely held accountable for is the damage they do to our identities and, even more so, to the identities of the generations that come after us. They sharpen a divide that separates real, breathing, living people and what’s automatically assumed about them. At the crux of it all is why storytelling is so important because, believe it or not, that’s where it all begins.

Humans are social beings and, naturally, we all fall for a good story. But why are we still finding that some narratives take precedence over others?

Growing up, I fell in love with the likes of Harry Potter, I grieved with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, and I stumbled into Mr Tumnus’ home in the eternal winter of Narnia. But in retrospect, I want to know where my stories were. Where were my people in these books that I held so dear to me? Where was that little Asian girl I desperately needed to identify with so I could have some sense of belonging in a country that wasn’t my own? In fact, where is she now?

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