‘The simplest things opened my eyes to Islam’: Writer shares experience of being Spanish Muslim woman

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Amanda Figueras has published a book titled ‘Why Islam: My life as a woman, European and Muslim’ that talks about her journey into Islam. (Supplied)
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Amanda Figueras discovered Islam and has written about being a woman, European and a Muslim. (Supplied)
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Amanda Figueras discovered Islam and has written about being a woman, European and a Muslim. (Supplied)
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Amanda Figueras has published a book titled ‘Why Islam: My life as a woman, European and Muslim’ that talks about her journey into Islam. (Supplied)
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Amanda Figueras has published a book titled ‘Why Islam: My life as a woman, European and Muslim’ that talks about her journey into Islam. (Supplied)
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Amanda Figueras has published a book titled ‘Why Islam: My life as a woman, European and Muslim’ that talks about her journey into Islam. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 May 2020

‘The simplest things opened my eyes to Islam’: Writer shares experience of being Spanish Muslim woman

  • Amanda Figueras discovered Islam and has written about being a woman, European and a Muslim

MADRID: This might not be her first Ramadan, but for Spanish Muslim Amanda Figueras it still feels new.

She became a Muslim a few years ago and for her Ramadan is always a very special month.

“At the beginning, when I used to practice Islam alone with no one in my family to share it with, I used to go to the mosque and break the fast there and pray taraweeh. I always loved how I was welcomed by my sisters in Islam.”

Now it is different. Since her marriage a few years ago she shares her faith with her Egyptian husband and a three-year-old son. “We have done some decorations at home we try to show our son the spirit of Ramadan.”

Amanda, who is a journalist and a writer, doesn’t consider herself a Muslim convert.

“I did not change from one religion to another. I was not a believer, simply I did not have any faith. This makes my personal awakening fascinating because I found that there is God and that Islam was what I wanted for my life,” she said. “I encounter Islam because as a journalist I had to write about Muslim people, and I realized that I had no idea at all. I started to read non-stop and I fell in love with our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after knowing about his generous character and genuine humbleness.

“Then, reading the Holy Qur’an, especially those ayas emphasizing the perfection of nature, I started to find and feel Allah. The simplest things were those which opened my eyes to Islam.”

The decision to become a Muslim took her family by surprise, she said.

“For my family it was not easy, they reacted in the normal way: with fear. For me it was painful to see how at the same time that I was finding happiness, tranquility, and calmness, they were feeling bad about it. But Islam was giving me only good things.

“We do not talk a lot about this anyway, and sadly I have lost both of my parents.

Nevertheless, I am happy I have a little family and a husband who is always supportive of my projects and of course of my curiosity to know more about our religion.’

She admits the beginning of her journey into Islam was also confusing for her.

“The main barrier that I encountered when I started to feel that I really liked Islam was that of my own prejudices and some misconceptions. However, I discovered that Islam is beautiful, that it is all about trust, generosity and forgiveness,” she said.

Amanda is passionate about fostering dialogue and building bridges between different peoples, as well as fighting Islamophobia and hate speech.

She started working 5 years ago as a project and communications manager at Foro Abraham for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue.

“It is a non-profit civil society organization based in Spain that works to promote understanding through what we call ‘interreligious dialogue and interfaith action.’ I started to be interested in this topic after being selected for the fellowship program of the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations.

“At Foro Abraham we do activities to connect people of different backgrounds and it is an amazing experience. Before the COVID-19 crisis we were working on a cycle of dialogue sessions with refugees and migrants in Europe, in collaboration with the International Dialogue Center — Kaiciid (King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) — as I am a Kaiciid European Fellow 2020, but now our activities are postponed due to the pandemic.”

Amanda says she faces some difficulties within Spanish society as a Spanish Muslim,

“Today, I still face glances of hatred both on the part of those who hate Islam — without knowing it — and on the part of those who think that I have renounced the European ‘developed culture’ to adopt the culture of the barbarians. I am Spanish and that is my culture, which is perfectly compatible with Islam.’

She insists that Spanish Muslims have the same rights as any other citizens: “We are a small community but are getting bigger and stronger. However, we are mainly considered as only ‘Muslims’, we are only given the microphone when it comes to talking about ‘Muslim issues,’ mainly about the hijab,” she said.

“We are not considered full citizens with valuable opinions about any other topic. It is harder for us to reach certain work positions and we lose a lot of time justifying ourselves like: ‘Yes, I am a Muslim and I am a normal person and I can work and achieve the same as any other person.’

Amanda has published a book titled ‘Why Islam: My life as a woman, European and Muslim’ that talks about her journey into Islam.

“It is journey I started in the aftermath of the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid. At that time, I was a journalist at El Mundo newspaper, and I had been asked to investigate the consequences among the Muslim community in Spain.

“I realized that I knew little about Islam and Muslims in general. In my book, while I describe my experience as a new Muslim, I explain basic but important things about my faith to the reader. I also address some of the common misunderstandings surrounding women.”

Amanda has a message for Muslim Spanish women like herself.

“It is the time that we women take more responsibility when it comes to research and to sharing knowledge.”


Top trends for next spring from global fashion weeks

Updated 10 min 8 sec ago

Top trends for next spring from global fashion weeks

  • Six of the hottest tips from the catwalks (virtual or otherwise) of fashion month

MILAN: Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the international fashion weeks in New York, Paris, London and Milan recently were a mix of physical shows and digital presentations. And it wasn’t just the events themselves that were affected by the coronavirus — many designers from around the world showed collections that were clearly influenced by social-distancing and lockdown, in often-contradictory ways. Whether that was the somber color palette of Simone Rocha in London, the face coverings and gloves that dominated several shows, or the more subtle nods to our ‘interesting times’ through the DIY vibe of crochet (Alberta Ferretti, for instance), the unexpected return of the sweatsuit (particularly predominant in New York Fashion Week), and the aspirational glamour of flamboyance and glitter. Tom Ford, who presented his Spring ’21 lookbook via video, provided plenty of the latter and suggested it was because he wanted to present clothes that “make us feel good” and hold out “hope of a happier time.” A sentiment that — regardless how you felt about his sequin-usage — was hard to find fault with.

MAKE IT MONOCHROME

Some designers — Molly Goddard in London, Salvatore Ferragamo in Milan — went bright, others were more muted — Max Mara’s sand and beige, say — and some were both — Boss in Milan, with shocking pink, cream, and sand examples. But they all seemed to agree that single-color clothing will be en vogue in spring next year. It’s bold and confident, certainly, and hopefully reflects how consumers might be feeling by the end of the winter.

CLASH CULTURE

If monochrome isn’t your thing, maybe you’ll feel more at home with another major — almost opposite — trend that saw many designers stamping all over conventional fashion wisdom. Cardinal sins were everywhere: Mixing colors that ‘shouldn’t’ be mixed (Pucci’s multi-colored tights), pairing patterns that shouldn’t be paired (stripes and squares!), throwing in animal prints willy-nilly, or, like Sunnei, constructing a shirt dress from four different plaid patterns. It was chaos, and all the better for it

GO BIG

Oversized clothing was everywhere in fashion month. Boss (again) had large sporty jackets in its Tik-Tok-streamed show; Louis Vuitton’s Paris show displayed a largely asexual collection — plenty of oversized jackets and blazers, along with ‘roomy’ pants; and Chloé paired voluminous blouses with high-waisted shorts and trousers. And mammoth handbags were ubiquitous throughout the month. Some observers suggested the super-sized clothes encouraged/forced those around to grant the wearer more personal space in these socially distanced times, others saw them as a throwback to Eighties power dressing. Either way, big is in.

ENCOURAGING ESCAPISM 

From Tom Ford’s aforementioned sparkly sequins in New York to Molly Goddard’s dazzling A-line dresses in London via the floral prints beloved by Loewe in Paris and Valentino and Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini in Milan (the latter put on an open-air show, whether because of COVID or because flowers were such a dominant motif we’re not sure), many designers were clearly aiming to lift our collective spirits with a healthy dose of bright, bright beauty. And who could blame them?

HOT HISTORY 

For the last couple of years, retro fashion has been dominated by Eighties and Nineties throwbacks. If Simone Rocha and Erdem, to name but two, are to be believed, we’ll be looking a little further back for spring 2021 — almost 100 years further back. Rocha’s understated collection showed clear Victorian and Edwardian influences with its puffy sleeves, voluminous skirts and high necklines, while Erdem’s dramatic collection also pulled from Ye Olde Worlde, but somehow managed to seem more up-to-date than anyone.

PIMP YOUR PPE

Whether the non-medical-grade facemasks (see Oak & Acorn, Rick Owens) or other face coverings (Chanel’s veils or Paco Rabanne’s sequined hoods) and gloves (Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini’s rubber gardening gloves or Fendi’s bodysuits with attached gloves) are really what designers believe we’ll want to be wearing in the spring or simply a recognition of the current global situation it’s hard to say. But they were certainly impossible to ignore.