I was astounded by how much vitriol my piece generated from Muslims who, to paraphrase, told me I had no right to question why some of their women appeared to live more constrained lives than men.
I was falsely accused of being a Muslim-hater, of conjuring up spurious conclusions based upon my own, unrepresentative story. This collective anger which led some women to email me privately to tell me how devotedly they loved their faith erupted even though I had stressed in my piece that I saw this primarily as a question of women's rights, being an example of males imposing values of obey and protect upon females, which happens in non-Muslim arenas too.
Because of the backlash, which I had not expected, believing I was simply involved in a debate about women of all faiths and cultures being free to live as they choose, I have avoided the subject ever since, with a self-imposed vow of silence. Until now - because, last week, I saw a new film whose themes include the rights of women under Islam, but this time from the point of view of a film-maker who is both Pakistani and male.
Khuda Kay Liye In the Name of God revolves around the story of a British Pakistani girl, whose dad tricks her "back home" on the pretext of a holiday, before forcing her to marry her fundamentalist first cousin.
She was going out with an English boy. And why not - all her friends are white, she's never been to Pakistan, and she's not a practising Muslim. When her step-mum finds out about the marriage plans she tries to prevent it, accusing her husband of hypocrisy as he lives with her - a white woman. But the response she gets is that he will be the laughing stock of his community if he allows his daughter to see a white boy. The Forced Marriage Unit was invited to the film's preview.
Another guest, from the Joseph Interfaith Foundation , implored the invited audience consisting mainly of British Pakistani men to reject interpretations of Islam which suppressed women's aspirations, which treated them as property to be expediently married off and as symbols of how fine and upstanding the family was. The film resonated with me because it reflected the hypocrisy I witnessed in my own family. While I appreciate now that my dad didn't want me to make the same mistake he believed he'd made by marrying out, which cut him off from his community, I still cannot appreciate how it is girls who bear the brunt of being thus policed, not boys.
While I was not forced into marriage, unlike the girl in the movie, I did experience the awful weight of parental expectation to be obedient, modest, to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself, within what felt like the prison of my confinement.
The director of the film, Shoaib Mansoor, was quoted as saying: I believe it is an unwise demand of parents to expect their children born and bred in the UK and US to believe in their age-old ideology, springing from another world. No longer can I be accused simply of having a grudge to bear about having a patriarchal system forced upon me. Twelve months ago, I felt like a voice in the wilderness.
Now, a proper debate is taking place, among the people who have the power to bring about change. Through the work of artists like Mansoor, first-generation parents must see that they cannot go on living in the past.