Wednesday 27 August 2008

Book Review: Donna Gherke-White: The Face Behind The Veil

With its somewhat dramatic cover, I was drawn to this book immediately when I saw it.

Donna Gherke-White has interviewed Muslim women from all over America to get to the core of what it is to be a Muslim woman in America today. Her interviews include professionals, stay-at-home mums and students. She has recorded her conversations with immigrants, refugees and American-born women, with born-Muslims, reverts and even people who felt they had to leave the faith. If nothing else her range of interviewees could at least be called diverse.

I loved that this book gave women the chance to express themselves, often in their own words. Gherke-White is sympathetic and respectful and makes a real effort in this book to understand the answers to the questions she raises.

I also enjoyed reading about my sisters across the pond – their lives, their struggles and how they have fought for better lives for theirselves and their children without compromising their faith. The book gave me a real insight into some of the differences between Muslim communities in America and here in the UK. The real can-do attitude the American sisters have adopted and the way they have really thrown themselves into public life, activism and charity work, much more so than here. The way they have integrated so fully into American life and see themselves first and foremost as American and have a sense of real loyalty to their country, again something that is not as strong here where many Muslims have divided loyalty between Britain and their country of origin. The way the mosque has become a community meeting place for Muslims in America and the level of participation of Muslim women. A few attempts have been made to raise the issue of equal access for women to mosques here but nothing substantial and women do not often attend the mosque in many UK communities.

Another thing that really got me, was I recognised one of the sisters in the book although I have never met her- and my respect for her has only grown.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in Muslim women and curious to know whether the stereotypes and images in the media hold any truth. It might also be useful to anyone looking to convert to Islam and wanting some real examples of people who have converted and what this has meant for them.


  1. Sounds like a fasinating read. An excellent review by the way.

  2. This is a great review - I think I'll have to find this book. I am a Christian, but I have a very close friend who has converted to Islam. I am always seeking out materials that will help me to understand her world - it's good to see what other Muslim women recommend. Thanks!