By Erin Chew
A reality show which is raw, real and rife with shocking revelations, Hulu’s new unscripted series, Secrets & Sisterhood: The Sozahdahs follows ten Muslim Afghan American sisters whose faith and bonds are put to the ultimate test while trying to navigate cultural expectations, their careers, and love in Los Angeles.
The Sozahdahs are a large family of women – each with their own unique traits and most importantly they are all strong, outspoken and independent in their own ways. Out of the ten, five of the sisters were born in Afghanistan (Shaista, Halimah, Khadja, Rabya and Shakur) and the other five were born in the US (Muzleta, Jamila, Siddiqa, Nooreya and Hamida).
Each identifies with their Muslim and Afghan American identities differently, with the older sisters calling themselves the lionesses, the middle sisters calling themselves the bridge and the younger sisters branding themselves as the wolf pack. The number one rule the Sozahdah sisters swear by is family over everything. The series reveals secrets each of the sisters holds sacred and with differing perspectives – the sisterhood bonds will get tested.
Seven of the ten Sozahdah sisters recently participated in an interview with AsAmNews. The Wolf Pack- Siddiqa, Nooreya and Hamida- first discussed what it is like being in a family of ten sisters and what sets each of them apart from one another.
“Being sister number eight, I am always treated by my older sisters as a young kid. Being from the bottom half of the family, it isn’t easy to be heard or seen. I guess in terms of what makes me unique is that I am the free-spirited sister, yet I am very protective over my family so I guess I am a free-spirited protector”, Siddiqa said.
Nooreya is a director of operations at a private equity firm.
“I am the second youngest in the family. What sets me apart from my big family of sisters is that I have an unparalleled love for noodles. I could literally eat noodles for every meal and I am known as the noodle lover in my family”, Nooreya expressed.
Hamida says being the baby of the family can make it challenging to be heard.
“So I prefer to take the persona of a chameleon and just blend in, particularly when there are disagreements or heightened debates. Oh, also I also speak six languages, so I guess that is something unique about me”, Hamida exclaimed.
One point some of the Sozahdah sisters interviewed emphasized was that their lives, how they carry themselves, their perceptions on identity and their faith is all about combatting stereotypical tropes that Muslim and/or Afghan women are subjected to – being meek, domesticated and dependent on a man for everything. Shakur and Rabya had some interesting thoughts on this point.
“I think it is just all about authentically living your truth. Being the person I want to be is already fighting against the stereotypes Muslim women are subjected to. Being part of a sisterhood, we all have different perceptions of our Afghan, Muslim and Asian identities- but we pool all our ideas together and learn from each other. We are women relying on other women, not men – and that is how we are different”, Shakur said.
Rabya emphasized her faith and the power of prayer in fighting injustices they might face.
“With God’s help I am able to be who I am, lead the life I want without anyone else telling me what I can or can’t do. I look to my older sisters and see them as examples of Muslim, Afghan and American women who keep our traditions but do not fall into the stereotyped tropes”, Rabya expressed.
Both Khadija and Jamila bought up the topic of representation and visibility of Muslim and/or Afghan women in Hollywood and Western media. They both expressed in their own ways how there isn’t enough representation and visibility unless it is on the news about some war/conflict in Afghanistan or something negative pertaining to Muslims and more specifically Muslim women.
“Where we are starting to see the paradigm shift for better representation of Asians in Hollywood and the Western media, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great for all Asians, as some are showcased more than others. We want to see more shows delve into serious issues, cultures and religions, and that is what we do on Secrets & Sisterhood. I do feel blessed and fortunate that we get to share a glimpse of our world, and we hope we can be part of the movement in pioneering a new way to show people who we are as Muslim and Afghan American women”, Khadija expressed.
Both feel there is room and space to have better representation and they hope the reality of their family on Secrets & Sisterhood, can be the start to changing the narrative.
“I agree with what Khadija said, but I wanted to add that our family stories should only be one of hundreds if not thousands of Muslim and/or Afghan American stories that need to be told. We are opening up our big family and showing the world our sisterhood to contribute to changing negative stereotypes and perceptions and make younger Muslim American women feel they are seen and represented”, Jamila stated.
‘Secrets & Sisterhood: The Sozahdahs‘ can be streamed on the Hulu streaming platform.
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