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My interview with Gazelle Media

On the 10th of February I was interviewed by Gazelle Media, a London production company, about my role as a Muslim British woman. They particularly focused on ‘me’ as a political activist because some bright spark told them I was a cartoonist in this field.

In honesty, I have been a small part of social causes and over on my blog I write and doodle on things that happen around me; mostly on Islamophobia and amusing conversations with the Muslim community. But on the scale of Iconic Muslimness, there are thousands more important people that should have taken my place. Also interviewed by Gazelle Media were my boss/client Shaista Gohir, executive director of MWNUK, an organic Muslim family, orators and generally fantastic Muslim people.

The Gazelle Media team arrived with camera equipment and a list of questions I’ve briefly mentioned below. I was filmed drawing a small cartoon of a “hijabi”: the contemporary Arabic-slang term used for a Muslim woman dressed in headscarf. [Keep in mind hijab does not equal to headscarf].

A huge hello therefore, salamings and thank yous to sister Farzana from Gazelle Media, Anabelle, Callum and Simon, who sat in my cold dinky studio and filtered through my shelves of crap and mess.

I fed them homemade chocolate muffins.

I was then interviewed with the following questions:

Who are you?

What I said: I’m Zaufishan, a 20 something year old – going onto 65 – Muslim woman with Asian/African ancestry. I flounder through graphic work, I run my own small crafts business, I write for important people, I paint, I climb trees, I try to be a good representative of Islam.

What I should have said: I’m Zaufishan, a clinically kooky Muslim who wears rainbow shoes, studies science and language and befriends books instead of human beans.

What is your community like?

I said: I live in Yorkshire, north England, in a cosmopolitan mix of European and Arab cultures, languages and nationalities. My immediate community is religious but not Muslim, extending outwards there are many masjids and Muslims visibly around. There is a good balance of tolerance, diversity, learning and inter-faith interaction.

What I should have said: My community consists of squirrels, foxes, a racist neighbourhood and stupid men. Everything on the ground is green and everything in the sky is grey. People are people everywhere; my community is like any other in that there are discriminators, there are social problems, there are the filthy rich and there is poverty and homelessness. But on the upside the diverse interaction and community work is excellent, immigrants are welcomed, the university brings in an influx of colour, the neighbourhood is big enough to find your own space and talent, but close-knit enough to find and keep to good people. These good outweigh the bad but do not cover the problems with webs of lies.

What problems have you faced as a Muslim British woman?

I said: Obstacles have included cultural barriers, family uncertainty, social pressure to conform to the traditional roles for women such as mothering, teaching, or the ‘house – wife’ (By the way, a house-wife? Is that when a woman marries a building?) Further outward the problems include conservative women who dislike change, the unsettled media that takes images of Muslim women that look like me and plaster them globally with horrific headlines, and men. Perhaps it’s the creative nature of women, but something in the female genetics sparks a reaction in men; those around me use a variety of justifications to keep women muted, hidden, useless, or pregnant. Unfortunately women also react to this destructively which heightens society’s problems, rather than coming to a resolve. It’s a complicated mix of rights and responsibilities; we’re all demanding our rights and in doing so stint on another’s rights; a vicious circles ensues where each individual or group is oppressed and wants, wants, wants. My biggest problems are not even important on the larger scale of unbalanced power and loopy-laws. My British government wants to help me by demanding I take off my headscarf in the future and let go of the term ‘jihad’ even though jihad is an integral part of devout struggling as a Muslim. Then there are the difficulties I see others have, and in wanting to eliminate them there isn’t always the manpower to go about it. One individual can have heavy ideas and philosophies, but they’re usually implemented after death. Time is my biggest obstacle.

What I should have said: My Muslimness is a problem for one group, being British is a problem for another group and being a woman is a problem for another group of people. I’m fine by the permission of Allah, it’s everyone else that’s got it in for me!

What cartoons have you made and how have people reacted to them?

I said: I have been a sketcher for most of my existence, painting and developing basic graphic skills which nicely progressed into my arts’ studies. From this I produce cartoons for clients towards their specifications, whether it be manga or a stick drawing. Recently I have produced cartoons on Muslim women for a well known organization (which I’ll highlight later on). I have made cartoons on the hijab ban in France, on the generational gap between older family members and the newer, more active generation, on Muslim marriage and the pursuit of it, on Muslim culture, the media and events that happen around me. People react pretty positively to them. Those who aren’t Muslim relate to the messages more – the humour and ideas of “peace on earth” while Muslim audiences pick up on the contextual elements, the Islamic phrases and they can relate to the situations I present through the cartoons. Some Muslims however, wish I didn’t make them, they see the negative impact they could have and remind me that all “image-makers” go to Hell. Quite frankly I don’t know how to reply back to this. Maybe it is the Devil's work.

What I should have said: As a habitual sketcher I’ve been drawing for people since the age of eleven, when a punk boy called Lee asked me to graffiti up his wall paintings. I did, he loved it, we got into trouble but it made me feel useful for a short time. Since my cartoons aren’t going to feed the poor or make anyone rethink their will power, and considering they could potentially, maybe, bring greater harm, and since I’ve been warned of an impending doom, I will stop making them. I’ll become a lawyer instead. That’s a clean profession isn’t it?

What would you like to say to the Muslim women in Britain:

I said: I know and understand there are personal, social and spiritual dilemmas. I know being a Muslim is always challenging and a test of faith; being a woman inevitably brings its own burdens because society has still to learn about how this mysterious species functions. But we have more to give. I wish I could somehow empower each woman to get up and use the skills Allah gave her, I want to see groups of Muslim woman reviving the tradition of university-at-home and supporting their men patiently. Moreover, I would hope being on a foreign land, so to speak, doesn’t make the Muslim woman neglect or feel pressured to de-prioritise her spiritual connection to Allah with society’s demands. Lastly, and this I say hand on heart – Muslim British women need to urgently take down their holy Qur’an and study it. No matter what situation they are in, they must understand why they are Muslim and in Britain, and these answers do lie in the Qur’an.

What I should have said: Get up off that couch you disheartened woman and go out there to make something of yourself! Stop freaking out over what the people will say, whether your husband thinks it’s a waste and whether it’s going to be successful or not. If you have a skill, use it, whether it’s sewing or salesmanship, use it. Give a third of what you earn to charities and encourage other women. Muslim British women do not have the support and encouragement everybody claims they do. If they did, we’d have 2.5 million superMuslim women. I am one individual, but I am telling you your faith in Allah is not only for Heaven, it is for you to build a community here too. Get up and take correct, righteous and determined action.

What does the future hold for Muslims in Britain?

What I said: Our future is undefined but we know from what Allah taught in the Qur’an that part of our condition is in our control, things will get worse before they are improved, and nobody knows what tomorrow contains except Allah. This does not mean we ‘wing it’ and let Allah direct our sails. We have problems today that our children will inherit. They should not have to. There is a superMuslim in all of us and if can figure out how to harness it we’d have an era of super intelligence and beautiful behaviour that our Islamic history boasts of. But this takes education, courage, an understanding of ourselves, the ‘other’ and learning from our past to prevent repeating mistakes. There is immense room, an open canvas for British Muslims to give back to society what it is lacking: discipline, morals, compassionate healthcare, role models, belief, trust and a universal system of equitable laws that is not flawed and prone to seasonal change.

What I should have said: The future’s bright. The future’s got global warming. I think it’s excellent that we can look ahead and hope and plan that tomorrow will be safer and securer for humanity’s wellbeing. What happened to today though? If tomorrow Muslims in Britain will run more businesses, are they being ran legitimately today? If in the future British Muslims will have more active roles, are they learning about those roles today? And if Muslims in Britain can hope to become a majority in Europe (yes, we want to take over the world…), are they integrating well and rejecting corruption today?

There were more questions but I don’t remember them. The interview will be shown worldwide this April/May and I will get a copy of the final edit. If I’m allowed, and if you’re lucky, I’ll show off the clever parts of the whole film inshaallah. I personally cannot wait to see what the other Muslims added; it’s definitely television material, but alas, if it isn’t controversial or cuckoo, it doesn’t make it to British broadcasting.

Below is what I drew and painted for Gazelle Media.co.uk. What do you think of them?

Zaufishan.com Toodle-doo


  1. Just a quick comment: (will be back later after reading post in its entirety) - woweeee nice studio - that just rocks! I would pay to see you in your element and creating something super fantastic! :-)

  2. Interesting interview or shall I say interviews? hehe. Love the comics. I must say, I'm proud of you Sis and honestly, don't know what I did in this life to deserve to 'run into' a Sis like yourself. :-) You've really opened my eyes to things via your posts in a general sense. Keep up the good work.

  3. We were interviewed by gazelle media early feb too. We may be in the same video lol :-).. When I say we, I mean Jimas..

  4. @Leeman - That's fantastic! What do you do/where are you? It'd be a ball to be featured in the same film; I'll poke fun at you and you can reciprocate at my shoddiness :P InshaAllah, *grin*

  5. Assalamualaikum sister. Salam from South Yorkshire. It's my first time here. What a talent, MashaAllah! Please keep up the good work.

  6. Assalam Alaykum,

    I like this.


    p.s. sorry for the short comment. Just felt like saying something=)


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