It was all taken away from me

Johann Hari talks to the stand-up comic Shazia Mirza.

Shazia used to be a teacher in Tower Hamlets, where I live, and she would see Muslim girls rebelling against the chafing medieval codes of their fathers every day…Come 3.30 they put the hijab back on and they’re carted off to the mosque to rote-learn the Koran for three hours. They would come in the next day exhausted, having not done their homework, and they would say, ‘My parents say the Koran comes before homework.’” Shazia understands this better than most: her parents are, she says, “fanatics.” She was forbidden to leave the house throughout her teenage years except to go to school. “I’m a woman, and I couldn’t stand the repression. I wanted to go swimming, do ballet, ride horses, tell jokes. I was allowed to do all those things until I went through puberty and then it was all taken away from me, and I couldn’t stand it. I looked at the beautiful, intelligent women like my mother and my aunties who were basically turned into prisoners in their own homes, and I thought – I can’t live that life.” Her mother had been a university lecturer until, at the age of 22, she was married off and turned into a housebound baby-machine.

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