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Some words about islamophobia and Flying With Fear

Updated: 6 days ago

Last Friday, I had a meeting with Susan Milton whose memoir Flying With Fear we’ll be publishing in 2023. Here’s our blurb:

In 1969, a young British woman struggling with dyslexia takes a job as an air hostess with Saudi Arabian Airlines. On a flight to Beirut she discovers another hurdle: she is terrified of flying.

Susan moves to Saudi Arabia, converts to Islam and marries a Saudi. What follows is the remarkable story of a young woman navigating an oppressive culture who, in spite of having dyslexia, educates herself about Islam and the Quran. The memoir is packed full of drama and controversy, on the plane and off. Including Susan’s discovery of the true nature of the prophet Muhammad’s teachings in contrast with the governments who use this religion to maintain control over their people, particularly women.

My meeting with Susan was essentially to talk about promotion. But I also wanted to talk about Harper Collins, who expressed an interest in Flying With Fear after she had signed the contract with Guts. I knew Susan felt disappointed.

I was a writer once too, and I know it’s every writer’s dream to publish with one of the Big Five publishers. "But," I said to Susan, "you know what, if they had published your book, they would have edited out a lot. Like the part about the Saudi royal family. Because it would have been too risky. I’m sure they would have been thinking about Salman Rushdie, and not wanted to go there.”

While I can’t get specific about that section of Susan’s memoir as it would be a spoiler, I can fill you in a bit. In 1970, Susan met the Saudi royal family, including the king, and attended events. But one event in particular revealed some pretty harsh attitudes towards women. Because of this event, the course of Susan’s life changed forever and she was no longer was on friendly terms with the royal family.

An hour or so after our chat, I heard the news about the attack on Salman Rushdie. A chill ran through me. I’m not one to have premonitions, but this certainly seemed like that. I had mentioned his name to Susan at almost the exact time of the attack.

In the past few days, like many, I have been reeling with shock and horror. Not only was it an attack on a gifted writer and an attack on freedom of speech, it was also another heinous act that reinforces Islamophobia.

In Susan’s own words:

“After 9/11, I gained insight into Islamophobia and empathy for British Muslims facing prejudice. Being white, and not wearing a hijab, protected me from a torrent of abuse experienced by many of my Muslim friends. Ultimately, this is what drove me to find a way to contribute to the fight against prejudice and oppression.”

For over twenty years, Susan worked with young British Muslims to combat Islamophobia and promote education as a means of liberation. You can read more about this on our blog.

The question I have asked myself is: What can I do? The answer: Publish the book.

xx Julianne

Director, Guts Publishing

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