Fakhraie grew up in a family where religion was respected but not forced on her or her younger brother, Anayat, 24. Her father, born in Iran, did not practice his faith. Her mother, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, studied religion with another woman but didn’t attend services.
“I was raised as a white girl with a funny last name and a foreign dad,” she says. As an adolescent, she was “the black cloud” over her parents’ house. “I was sullen. I hated everything.” Today she says she and her family are close, but her brother, a screenwriter in Los Angeles, remembers her black cloud days.
“At Christmas, we’d be opening presents and she’d be sulking in the corner,” he says. “She didn’t want anyone to take pictures. ‘Do we have to do this?’ she’d complain. She embodied the quintessential teenager angst.”
“I was a ‘why’ person,” she says. “I always wanted to know why.” Why, for example, was her father so strict with her when it came to boys? An avid reader, she began reading about Persian culture, which led her to the subject of Islam. She kept on reading. When she got to college, she read Fatima Mernissi’s “The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam.”
“I could be a feminist and a Muslim,” she says. “I was a feminist before I knew what a feminist was.” Fakhraie’s mother was the family breadwinner and her dad was “Mr. Mom.” She remembers being upset that her mom came home from work and picked up household chores.
“It was like a double shift,” Fakhraie says. “Fairness has always been an integral issue with me.”
–Excerpted from Fatemeh Fakhraie: A Feminist Muslim Breaks Stereotypes
Photo Credit: Utne