Going against the norm – by being a woman biker
Mazakeen Riyas needed to take her children to school, and the most pragmatic solution was to buy a motorbike. But she wasn't prepared for the reactions from neighbours and some friends.
When Mazakeen Riyas bought her motorbike, many people raised their eyebrows and questioned whether it was actually appropriate for her as a Muslim woman.
“I’ve received a lot of attention for my decision, along with a number of critics. It all went so far that a journalist came and wrote about me and my motorbike.”
Happy with the support from the women's group
Without the support of her husband and a women’s group that she’s part of, Mazakeen doesn’t know whether she would have been able to stand up against her critics in the long run. But basically, she finds it hard to understand why she shouldn’t be allowed to ride her motorcycle.
“I see it as a good way of taking the children to school. And it makes me more mobile.”
Mazakeen’s husband works abroad so he can’t help ferry the family around. That’s why Mazakeen used to have to spend around 15,000 Sri Lankan rupees (SEK 880) a month on transport. Arranging for the children’s transport was also time-consuming and difficult as she didn’t want to send her children off with any stranger in a three-wheeler.
The solution – buying a motorcycle – was both economical and practical from a long-term perspective.
“But I came in for a great deal of criticism from friends and neighbours who questioned whether a woman on a motorbike was actually compatible with Islam.”
Situation solved with help from a religious leader
The turning point came when a friend of Mazakeen suggested that they should arrange a meeting with an imam, who was able to explain that a woman on a motorcycle in our day and age corresponded to stories in the Koran about women riding camels.
“That, combined with all the attention I received, silenced the critics. But for me, it was mainly about keeping my kids safe and sound. I’d rather drive them myself than let them go off with just anyone. And I feel much more free and mobile,” says Mazakeen, smiling.
Mazakeen Riyas is an active member in Batticaloa District Women Federation, working for women’s rights and political participation in Sri Lanka.