Zeba is an ordinary girl, just like many of us, faced a with not-so-ordinary situation – she could either let her dreams be butchered to save her family’s honour and marry her cousin or she could leave everyone behind and pursue her dreams.
Although the story of Zeba might sound unusual to many readers, it is only because women who have been forced into marriages never had a chance to speak up for their rights. Ahmeds voice in “Secrets of the Henna Girl” is the voice of all those who had to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their family’s honour and various other reasons. She portrays the struggle between one’s dreams and one’s duty towards their parents through Zeba who is wrongly taken to Pakistan and told that she has to marry her cousin in order to keep her father’s honour intact in front of his elder brother. She highlights the consequences of a forced marrige through the daughter-in-law of the village landlord who faces a tragic fate despite living with the hope of freedom from her confinement.
Regardless of whether one follows Islam or not, Ahmed’s commentary on various issues faced by women in a small village in Pakistan, ranging from sexism to poor treatment of widows, can be generalised to many different parts of our world. The book is truly an eye-opener and the true-to-life characters only made me more convinced to stand up for my rights and to fight for others’. It also sheds light on the mis-perception that Islam condones forced marriages or that women are inferior to men. Thus, Ahmed not only provides us with a powerful story but she also successfully puts an end to many stereotypical views about Islam as a religion.