Book Review: “Perempuan: Muslim Women in Singapore Speak out”

Perempuan: Muslim Women in Singapore Speak Out is the seminal project by the gender equality advocacy organization: AWARE Singapore. A first of its kind, this anthology provides a platform for Malay Muslim women to vocalize their experiences and struggles as an individual that embodies both of identities. The stories in this anthology are incredibly personal, ranging from fighting stereotypes at the workplace, sexual orientation and resisting patriarchy within the community. Some give up their dreams to become an engineer or in dance to placate parents and to fit into the gendered roles imposed unto them. While a queer young women recounted a harrowing experience of a man who threatened her with corrective rape to ensure she would ‘like’ men. It is heartbreaking, and difficult to read when young women in my own community live in fear and have to give up a large part of their desires to “fit in”. They grow up being denied the right to live their most authentic life.

This is a book that I will never not recommend. It is a good glimpse into the tension that being a Malay Muslim woman comes with. There is a pervading sense of grief, loss, and anger that you feel when you read this anthology. And essentially is a short glimmer into the lives of these women and I urge everyone to read it. Perempuan provided women whose voices are too frequently marginalized and silenced a platform to share their stories and hopefully a step towards healing.

This anthology is incredibly important for not only my community, but also the wider society. I’ve always believed that narratives are powerful tools for social change. Stories help us position ourselves in a larger and more daunting world. It helps us define where we stand in society, how we choose to include or exclude ourselves from communities. As an outsider, their stories allow us to inhabit their lives and feel the tension they live with every day. Often, we choose to turn a blind eye to the stories of others. However, there is an urgent need for us (especially now) to immerse ourselves in other people’s stories and lived experiences. The mark of an enlightened and accepting community is one where we are open to diverse voices, upbringing and lived experiences. They direct us towards a future with brighter possibilities and a step towards a more inclusive and accepting one as well.

This book is available at most Singapore local libraries and still available for purchase at Kinokuniya! Please buy, and support this effort in narrowing the gender gap.

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