David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Gripping New Memoir from Canadian Author “Unveiled”

Brandon Sun, February 10, 2020 – David McConkey


A young girl is ferociously whipped by her stepfather for not correctly memorizing verses of the Qur’an. Her mother watches with approval. But the government's child protection authorities and justice system do not intervene to protect the girl. In fact, a judge rules that everything is OK. Where did this happen? In some poor, backward place? No. This happened right here in Canada.

That young girl not only survived and grew up, she also broke free from her abusive environment. Her story makes for a compelling new book, Unveiled. The author is British Columbia college instructor and human rights activist Yasmine Mohammed. The book is her memoir and also a cri de coeur addressed to Canadians and others in the West to remember oppressed girls and women everywhere. Her impassioned plea, “How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam,” is the book’s subtitle.

Yasmine’s Palestinian father and Egyptian mother met and married in Egypt in the 1960s. They emigrated, first to the U.S. and then to Canada, where Yasmine was born in 1974. Her father left; her mother became more rigid in her Islamic faith as she raised Yasmine and two siblings in the Vancouver area. When Yasmine was very young, an explosively violent stepfather entered the picture. At age 20, Yasmine was pressured into an arranged Islamic marriage to an older man who was controlling and abusive. Eventually Yasmine escaped from her husband, family and religion.

The author’s writing is powerful, honest and heartfelt. This book is for anyone who relishes a captivating, inspiring memoir. It is also for anyone eager to learn about a culture very different from that of most Canadians. And because Yasmine is Canadian, she can describe the unfamiliar in a familiar way. The book also would be a great resource for book clubs, schools and religious and cultural organizations. It is on order at the Brandon Public Library.

Yasmine Mohammed’s Unveiled echos Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Nomad, a book I reviewed here 10 years ago. Both authors point out that Islamic patriarchal precepts from the 600s are inappropriate for the modern world. These ideas today often lead to lives of abuse and dysfunction. But these concepts are difficult to question because of the traditional Islamic belief that the Qur’an consists of the actual words of God.

The descriptions in Unveiled of a misogynistic culture are unrelenting. A disparaging of females is put into daily practice and driven home by constant indoctrination.

“To be a girl in a Muslim household has to be a fate worse than hell,” Yasmine writes. “You are taught to be ashamed of everything you do, everything you are.”

Unveiled When she was in Grade 8, Yasmine confided to one of her teachers about her abusive home life. She rolled up her sleeves and revealed her arms covered with welts and bruises from her beatings. Her teacher, Rick Fabbro, told her he had to report the abuse; she could be taken from her family and put into foster care. The thought of never seeing her family again left Yasmine feeling “as light as air” and “giddy with excitement.”

But the subsequent court case left Yasmine bitterly disappointed. The judge ruled that corporal punishment is legal in Canada and that some cultures can inflict it more severely than the usual Canadian style. Yasmine is withering in her criticism of this unfairness.

“In their effort to be ‘culturally sensitive,’ my own country ended up being viciously bigoted toward me,” she writes. “I knew that if I had come from a family of ‘white’ parents, I would have been protected.”  

Yasmine shines an uncomfortable light on us Canadians and our often uncritical dismissal of girls and women who suffer within a misogynistic Islamic culture. We can too easily devalue their lives, whether they are in Canada or in other countries.

I hope that Yasmine writes a follow-up book. Crucial questions cry out for more examination. Especially, what are ways we in Canada could help girls and women trapped in dysfunctional and violent families, cultures and countries? As a Canadian, Yasmine has a special opportunity to articulate these concerns to other citizens.

Rick Fabbro was the Grade 8 teacher to whom Yasmine confided. Fabbro writes in the Foreword to Unveiled that “this is an important book not just for the gripping personal story she shares, but because her story is not unique.” Yasmine’s voice, he concludes, “must be heard by people everywhere feeling oppressed by powers hindering their opportunity to live a free life.”

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See also: 

Unveiled on Amazon.com     (on Amazon.ca)

Leaving the Faith  (Sam Harris Podcast)

Optimistic New Book From Muslim Writer

Authors Leading Vital Conversation About Islam

Book Provides Intriguing, Scientific Glimpse into State of Religious Beliefs

Reading the Qur’an Key to Understanding Islam

Atheist Cards

Other Reviews 

 

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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
204-726-9440
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