Book Review: Hannah Shah, The Imam’s Daughter: My Desperate Flight to Freedom (Zondervan 2010)
Reviewed by Duane Alexander Miller
Shah was born to a Pakistani family in the UK, where she was raised and lived all her life, making her part of one of the largest diaspora communities in the world. Her father was a truly evil man, and an imam in the local Muslim community. He started beating her at age five and then sexually molesting and raping her after that. This continued for over ten years until Hannah was finally able to escape. Much of the book is about the time at her home and you learn a great deal about the honor-shame culture of Pakistani Muslims. It is this honor-shame culture that keeps people quiet, and keeps her brothers and sisters and mother from doing anything to prevent their father from beating and raping their sister. This means that they are indeed complicit in the crime.
Shah eventually is able to escape and experience healing from this traumatic childhood. The healing is related to her conversion to the Christian faith where she finds a loving God—something she never encountered in Islam or Pakistani culture. She marries for love and carries forth her work of advocacy for Asian ladies in the UK through her book, public speaking, media appearances, and website. She was able to escape from the arranged marriage planned by her nefarious father (who was never punished by the law, sad to say).
In this book the loser comes out being British culture. It is flabbergasting that a man like Shah’s father can move to the UK in his 20’s, bring his wife over from Pakistan, teach his children and neighbors that white British people are dirty alcoholics, never learn English, and then defraud the British government by saying he has a bad back and can’t work and thus he gets housing, food and benefits from the government, all the while working as the local imam and getting gifts from the mosque. In case you did not get that, let me repeat: In 20+ years, he never learns English. He rapes and beats his daughter. He hates white people. He fraudulently gets benefits (and citizenship I presume) from the UK government. Behold the glory of British multi-culturalism. It is hard to see how a nation with such immigration practices has any future. The whole Pakistani community knows about this fraud and says nothing.
The book is a difficult read because of the sexual abuse Hannah suffers. Perhaps it was no coincidence that I read most of it on Good Friday; it’s appropriate given the suffering she underwent. Her purpose in writing the book seems two-fold, one is to raise awareness that these abusive practices are taking place in the UK and they are basically invisible to the larger society, again due to the naïveté of the ‘multi-culturalism’ of the white population. She is telling people to open their eyes, and stand up for the rights of Asian ladies who are victims of all sorts of abuse, including forced-marriages.
The other purpose I could discern is to share the beauty of the Christian faith with other such women. Here is a religion where women are respected and honored, yet it is also modest and not like the wanton pornography one sees on TV where everyone sleeps with everyone else and gets drunk all the time. There is a third option beyond the abusive misogynistic Pakistani culture of shame and the hedonistic, materialistic British culture—the Church, Jesus, and a loving God.
All in all this is a good read. The story flows well, and the editing has been done with care. Anyone with ties to the British Pakistani diaspora or women’s rights or Muslim evangelism will find much to interest them in this volume.
(For more reviews by Miller see his Goodreads page.)