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We Are Lady Parts – Setting the bar high for Muslim representation

5 mins read

2022 is going to be another exciting year for film and television, packed with an assortment of entertainment. However, whilst there is lots to look forward to, I recommend looking back to one of the gems you might have missed. Specifically, to Channel 4’s trailblazing series We Are Lady Parts.

We Are Lady Parts is a triumph that bridges together the misinformed perceptions of Muslim WOC through irreverent storytelling and punk music. The show aired during a time when the representation of Muslim women was and still is stark. The few portrayals which do exist alternate between two extremes: vilification or oppression. 

The show is centred on Amina Hussain, played by Anjana Vasan, a nerdy microbiology PhD student who, whilst in the pursuit of love, reluctantly finds herself in the heart of an all-female Muslim punk band – We Are Lady Parts.

Amina becomes caught up in an anxiety-ridden dilemma with her position in the band. Fuelled by the negative beliefs some Muslims have towards music, including her best friend. But Saira, the lead singer and guitarist, played by actor Sarah Kameela, has faith in Amina’s skills and persists in nurturing her talent. 

Although the show moves in a caustic manner, in between it is filled with intimate moments of sisterhood, spirituality, growth, and creativity.  

The show turns the overplayed, ‘Muslim women are forced into unfulfilling marriages’, trope on its head. Alongside every other damaging stereotype that has tried to portray what it means to be a Muslim woman. In fact, it is Amina who is love-struck and eager to find her ‘prince’, in opposition to her parents who insist she should “go interrailing”. 

Alongside Amina, the show includes four other uncompromising characters. We Are Lady Parts does not seek to tell the story of what it means to be a Muslim woman through essentialization. Although they share particular experiences, predominately being WOC who are Muslim, their characters are laden with their own unique experiences. 

Faith Omole’s character, Bisma is a bassist and a mum, her story finally brings forward a positive representation of a Black British family to our screen. Juliette Motamed’s character, Ayesha is the fiery drummer whose story touches on queer Muslim identity. The actress’s world is not unfamiliar to Ayesha as Motamed produces original energetic music off-screen as well. Veil wearing enigma, Mumtaz, played by Lucie Shorthouse, challenges all the assumptions you could have about a Muslim woman who dresses conservatively.  

We Are Lady Parts does not claim to represent the experience of all Muslim women. Something that creator and writer, Nida Manzoor, explains had become evident in the show’s early days – it is impossible to represent everyone because people’s experiences are so nuanced.  The stories it has portrayed though have been done in a veracious manner. 

In an interview with Variety Manzoor said:

“One of the things I realised when I was going into making the show was that I can only speak from my truth and represent the women I know. In a way, having that slightly mixed feedback, of getting messages from people saying, ‘Oh my God, I feel so seen’ while others didn’t, it’s made me realise that I couldn’t possibly represent everyone, and what I have found so much joy in doing is speaking my own truth and connecting with the people who this does speak to.” 

Manzoor has certainly created something that people have connected with. Finally, we are seeing a kaleidoscope of identities that audiences have been craving for a long time. And it is clear that viewers really do feel seen and want to see more, as a second season of the show has been confirmed. In the meantime, you can catch up on the first season, which is available on the Channel 4 website. 

Featured Image: Laura Radford

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