2nd Muslim Women’s Literary Conference inspires creative pursuits
Their bodies may be completely covered, but their minds are as liberated as can be.
On Saturday, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) and Daybreak Press Publishing, of the nonprofit Rabata, held the second annual Muslim Women’s Literary Conference at UH in the Graduate College of Social Work auditorium. The seven-hour event was packed with performances and speeches from renowned Muslim poets, pioneering authors, educators and spoken-word artists.
This year’s theme was “Once Upon a Faithful Heart: The Power of Pen & Paper.” The panel of speakers presented topics ranging from combating the stereotyping of Muslim women in academic literature to women writers taking back their own narrative.
Many attendees traveled across the nation, some across the world, to attend the conference.
Last year’s conference was held at the George Memorial Library. Afshan Malik, Daybreak Press project manager and volunteer for Sisters Committee of ISGH, said that this year the board decided UH was the perfect venue to evoke an empowering and academic vibe no local library can compare with.
“We wanted to embrace people of different backgrounds, and this year our panel had a large number of converts,” Malik said. “Houston appreciated that because of its ethnically diverse demographic.”
Umm Juwayriyah, a children’s book author, flew in from Kuwait to speak at this conference. She discussed the importance of reading to children every night, even if it is just a small paragraph.
The event commenced at 10:30 a.m. with an introduction from the organizers, followed by readings from each member. With an audience of approximately 100 members, there were constant lines of fans waiting to get their books signed by the authors during the lunch break.
Huda Bint Adnan, an education senior at UH-Sugar Land, independently published a collection of poems called “Dark Chocolate & Peppermint Tea: Warmth for the Fireside.”
She performed two poems of great emotional importance to her. Her mother was an inspiration for one of them.
“I became a late reader,” Adnan said. “I started experimenting with poetry in elementary school, and let me tell you, when you rhyme ‘cool’ with ‘school,’ and that’s the only two rhymes you know, it is really bad poetry. I wish I had explored poetry a little more because it would have given me a larger exposure with that type of writing.”
Malik said that Daybreak Press represents social justice and a powerful movement on how Muslim women are perceived. A commonly used phrase among the organization’s representatives are “Muslim women taking back their narratives.”
Some of the audience members, Malik said, were truly inspired.
“I think it was interesting to have Muslim women come together and have a conference in a casual setting because you usually don’t see that,” Psychology and sociology junior Tasnim Choudhury said. “I love what Anse Tamara said about the representation of women because it is pretty much non-existent.”
Malik mentioned she will definitely invite more women exhibiting a diverse background and add more Muslim journalists to the panel next year.