She Speaks We Hear

Bringing women's voices together, unaltered, unadulterated

10th July 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

More than Scarf Deep

“If I were you, I’d cut ties with all friendships and start over.” A friend advised me when I broke it to her that I was going to take off my headscarf. It was scandalous and shameful in her eyes. And that was the last time I saw of her, she never contacted me since. Three years later I’m still adjusting to the gossip and ostracising behaviours from small cliques that are part cultural part herd mentality and not all of them are Muslims.

I was nine years old when it became official to wear the headscarf. An event that I looked forward to. A celebration of my maturity and modesty. Regardless of what today’s western culture thinks of it, I have the fondest of memories and love for that time. It was filled with bliss, happiness, and a belonging. Something that I’ve passed on to my daughter who also revels in it and continues to hold the baton. 

Yet, three years ago I took it off. 

It was a gradual process. I would put it on as I left my home and with it firmly in place, I’d saunter nervously to the train station. It was there that I began to have an almost daily ritual. I’d go into the lady’s toilets and place my cap on the side of the sink and replace my headscarf with a Nike cap and an Adidas hoodie. It probably made as much sense as my mish mash fashion sense.

On one occasion I was running late for a course and became inept at whisking off my headscarf and plonking a cap on for psychological good measure. However, I wasn’t alone, there was a young lady fixing her makeup at the sink beside mine. She had frozen watching my erratic behaviour. From her perspective all she saw was a Muslim woman taking off the headscarf in the bathroom with headphone wires sticking out of a backpack, proceeding to don on a cap and jump out the door quick smart. I remember hearing a clatter of items that she must have dropped as I dashed out. I can guess what it must have looked like. Come to think of it I never saw her on the platform despite the trains being slightly delayed.

“But when I took it off something new had happened as I stepped onto a train. Nobody was looking at me with shady eyes or contempt.”

But when I took it off something new had happened as I stepped onto a train. Nobody was looking at me with shady eyes or contempt. They were, well, friendly or others would say, civil. And many times I was invisible being part of a commuting crowd. Sounds bleak to many Londoners but to me it was a revelation that I was part of the flow. 

In the early days my heart would pound. It turned out that taking off what was my comfort wrap that I’d been accustomed to for 30 years was indeed a big deal. My internal psychology was changing. My view of myself was changing. It’s tiresome to worry about being the object of fear and hate for many decades. And for once I wasn’t fighting it. 

So why did I take it off? It was during the acid attacks in 2017 that my mum sent me a WhatsApp message about another incident. Although women in headscarves weren’t targeted, that didn’t’ stop me from giving a good distance to every parked car with its window down. And I believe that was the line I drew in myself. Enough of feeling fear.

Home Office poster used to raise awareness of hate crime

I remembered after the 7/7 bombings and 9/11 attacks how the public would spit at me and shout abuses and it was that that came back to haunt me. One incident I was walking with my family in the local park. My little boy was on a trike and my husband was straddling behind waiting for my daughter to catch up. As I turned into a path there was a young lad of maybe nine or ten who picked up his bat and looked menacingly at me holding it threateningly. My six-foot-three husband came into view and the boy subtly put the bat down and moved along. The sinking feeling I had when I first saw him was horrible. I didn’t say anything because at this point I was used to it. As a young girl I remember crossing the road only to hear another young boy shout in my face ‘that’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.’ I think I learned from a young age to internalise this sort of hate.

“I remembered after the 7/7 bombings and 9/11 attacks how the public would spit at me and shout abuses and it was that that came back to haunt me.”

When I was in my twenties I had a small business and held business meetings in coffee shops. One of the meetings was held in a shopping centre when a young boy spat down from the 3rd floor of the Exchange in Ilford. We had to move to a new area. That’s what I would do: adjust to the hate. 

Of course, they weren’t all young boys, they were older men and women too. Some were as overt about it as the young boys but others were more discriminatory and sinister behind the gossip scenes.

It’s hard to write this without feeling anything. Because it makes me angry for being so passive. So when I travelled to Syria and Iran I loved it. I was surrounded by people who were not hostile towards me anymore. I won’t go into the politics here, but it was a feeling of settlement in my heart. I wasn’t afraid anymore. Living in Iran and teaching there was very contrary to the experience that Westerners would like us to believe of the state. I had never felt so safe travelling at night on my own as a woman in Qom, Iran. I can’t say the same for other areas but Qom is a Holy city and had a certain spiritual calmness that I’ll treasure and love.

This is sounding like a propaganda piece because in the UK anything positive said about Iran is seen as propaganda unfortunately, in any case it’s something I’ll never forget when I returned to the UK in 2016. Something in me had changed. I wanted to feel like I belonged again. So when I received that WhatsApp message from my mother in 2017, I made a decision to never feel fear again.

I took off the headscarf and finally felt that societal belonging again. For a little while.

The act of taking off the headscarf may have felt like an offense to some dear friends, but many others were kind and non-judgemental. For those few that disconnected with me entirely made it clear that their bonds of friendship were as flimsy as the fabric their scarves were cut from.

By Eiman Munro

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image Credit: Home Office

7th July 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

From one Muslim to another- we need to do more about anti-Black Racism

As the video of George Floyd’s murder began to surface on my social media feeds, I started thinking to myself – how was this allowed to happen? How far has the dehuminisation of the black community reached, for a Police Officer to treat a Black man in such an inhumane manner despite knowing that he is being recorded? The look of pride and confidence the Police Officer  displayed whilst kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he was begging for his life, felt like a direct challenge to our humanity.

Should I be surprised? Afterall I have been in gatherings where negative stereotypes about Black people and communities have been used as facts and the disadvantages that they experience as a result of a long rooted systemic racism have been used to define a whole group of people . As a Muslim woman I find that talking about Black Lives Matter within the Muslim community is often responded to in a defensive way and at times either denied, blamed on individuals or compared to ‘more serious’ examples of discrimination happening to the Black community around the world, to them discrimination is only what meets the eye, such as recorded police brutality in the US, unfortunately we know that discrimination towards the black community has existed for a very long time and manifests in many ways resulting in missed opportunities, abuse and dehuminsation of the Black community, which of course exists in Arab countries as well as around the world but often goes unnoticed or ignored . Even though Islam clearly states that no individual has superiority over another based on ethnicity, wealth or background, unfortunately there is often a disparity between the teachings of the religion and the way that people practice, especially when some Muslims themselves use cultural ideas and norms to justify their racism and conflate these, ideas and judgments, with the religion itself.

A sermon which was delivered by Prophet Muhammed PBUH stated that:

All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor a Black has any superiority over White except by piety and good action.’ 

As a Muslim Arab living in the UK I’m aware of at least three layers of discrimination targeting Black communities; firstly the racism that the Black community in general face here in the UK; secondly the discrimination that Black Muslims face from fellow Muslims as a result of the intersectionality between race and religion; and lastly from Arabs – towards fellow Black Arabs – who treat them as inferior.

My first awareness of discrimination towards Black communities was through the language and stereotypes that were perpetuated at home and within my community. Later when I started attending a private Saudi school there was a clear divide in friendship groups, White Gulf Arabs were the elite and other groups followed. In High School I realised that my Somali Muslim friends had different experiences to me and would often be targeted for their skin colour as well as their religion. In my everyday work in schools and through conversations I have with young people I know that these issues are raw and present, I’ve had students reflect on incidents from an early age at primary school where they were excluded because of their skin colour.

Image courtesy of Zaynab Albadry

“Black Muslims are marginalised further on the basis of religion as well as race”

I often find it difficult to maintain a positive and hopeful mindset for the future when I hear raw and painful stories of suffering and inhumane treatment on the basis of skin colour or ethnicity or any other protected characteristic. However, we need to address the elephant in the room, conversations about religion, race and sexuality amongst many other topics are difficult to facilitate, they can often be awkward and uncomfortable, but we need to put a conscious effort to educate ourselves and challenge those around us about such issues, especially when we know that another person’s quality of life is impacted by our thoughts and judgments.

 What can Muslims do to stand in solidarity with the Black community?

We need to address and tackle discrimination towards the Black community when and where we see it, starting from the conversations we have every day, addressing societal and cultural misconceptions of the communities and standing in solidarity to end institutional racism. Here are some tips on how to do this in your own life:

  • Educate yourself – I cannot stress the importance of this, instead of denying that racism exists within the Muslim and Arab worlds, read about the involvement of Arabs in the salve trade and the treatment of the Black community in the Middle East today.
  • Learn about the involvement of the Black people  in the spread of Islam and the important contributions they made, Bilal Ibn Rabah is an important figure but is often the only individual referred to when reflecting on Black Muslims in Islamic history.
  •  Call racism out when and where you see it – Challenging intergenerational views may be difficult, especially within the home, but these thoughts should be questioned and broken down, so that they are not passed on.
  • Amplify Black voices within the community – It’s really important to understand the powerful contributions that the Black community provides to Islamic and Arab communities, this includes intellectuals, poets, and artists who bring in unique and rich experiences about identity. Often the Black community is only brought in to speak about specific subjects, most of which surround racism.
  • Address your privilege – The battle against racism towards the Black community is not a white vs black issue, instead it’s a global issue, non-Black Arabs clearly have a privilege that they need to address, take the responsibility to understand why this privilege exists and how it affects other people within the community.
  •  Stand in solidarity with your brothers and sisters – As Muslims we are taught by our religion to stand against all forms of injustice, listen to the specific struggles that the community faces and support them to overcome them.

Black Muslims are marginalised further on the basis of religion as well as race, these intersectionalities should be recognised and addressed appropriately as this is the only way we can begin to understand the seriousness of the issue and the impact it has on individuals. I cannot claim that I fully understand what that is like, but my experiences of feeling alienated and outcasted due to race and religion have provided me with the understanding that fighting injustice cannot be an individual journey. Through my work I have been fortunate enough to be able to support other communities in their fight and practice allyship, whether that is to tackle racism, antisemitsim, sexism or homophobia. Equally, I have seen the effort from non-Muslims in calling out Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry, I’m a firm believer that through education and standing together we can increase our chances in being able to succeed and move forward.  As Jo Cox has previously said “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

By Zaynab Albadry

Zaynab is a project coordinator for Stand Up! Education against discrimination. She is a psychology graduate who’s passionate about creating social change, which is coupled with her interest in interfaith work. Zaynab aims to inspire young people to speak up and develop the resilience to tackle all forms of discrimination.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

19th June 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

Law of Attraction

Ever wondered why it’s so easy to get stuck in a negative rut? Or why when one good thing happens another follows? Often, we attract like for like and the law of attraction explains why. It’s a term that gets batted around in general conversation and yet many people don’t know very much about it or how to apply it to their lives. 

The law of attraction is the idea that we attract what we think about and that our minds have the power to manifest our thoughts into reality. In simple terms, subconsciously we ask, believe and therefore we receive. To many this is too airy fairy and yet many live their lives by the law of attraction. 

The law of attraction is always at work. What we predominantly think about is what we attract. As such, controlling what we think about is very important when applying the law of attraction, so that we bring what we are looking for into our lives and not the opposite. We will consider how the law of attraction could be applied to your life and some practical tips to help you attract a life you love. 

The law of attraction assumes that by focusing on the positive thoughts, we bring positive experiences into our lives and vice versa. The main proponents behind this theory believe that people and their thoughts are made from pure energy, and that the channelling of this energy is what unlocks the power to attract a similar energy, which in turn can improve our lives. 

This idea in itself is not a novel one, coming from the Muslim tradition, there is a saying of God, “I am to my servant as he thinks of Me.” Thus, our thoughts are our most powerful tool with which to engage with the world around us.

What are the areas in which we can apply the law of attraction?

If asked what people most desire, financial independence is a popular ask. Many strive to achieve financial independence and although many fall short of their goal, others do not. Let’s stop and think what is it that makes some people reach their goals whereas others do not? Jack Canfield wrote the famous book ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’. His journey begins with him affixing money to his ceiling above his head so that every day when he woke up he would see abundance. Over time his life unfolded with him sending a book he had written, to a publisher. Before long Jack had amassed a small fortune. He describes how he visualised his success, kept faith in his dream to attract abundance and then went with the flow. 

This idea in itself is not a novel one, coming from the Muslim tradition, there is a saying of God, “I am to my servant as he thinks of Me.”

Another wonderful way of using the law of attraction is to attract relationships we want and also improve the ones we have. The law of attraction suggests that if we focus on the positive aspects of a person’s characteristics then we will certainly see more of them. Others would like to attract a romantic relationship. Visualising that relationship will increase the chances of having that relationship in our lives. 

So how can you get it to work for you? 

Firstly what you want must be a well-defined and clear thought. If its good health you want then be clear on what that looks like. Maybe you want a complete change of your diet, one that will bring you optimum health. Outline exactly what that that means and when it should be done by. 

Secondly this must be followed with a belief that it will happen. Here you need your faith to kick in. if you say you want optimum health and think it will never happen then it will never happen. So add faith and belief to your ask.  

Thirdly Rhonda Byrne adds that we must add emotions to this, so when you are designing this new diet and its impact on you really feel the positive emotions that will come with it. 

Fourthly we must also visualise clearly what we want to achieve. Use the senses to describe this new diet, how it makes you feel and the impact it has on your health and well-being. 

Fifthly its more likely to happen if we imagine it as though it is already happening. So we may express our gratitude for it having come into existence already. 

All this will lead to actions that are congruent with the thoughts that you are having and the more you do this the more naturally it will flow.

How to begin? Gratitude attracts abundance so why not sit and think about what you’re grateful for. Once you are in that beautiful positive space you can begin the process of attracting into your life all that you love and desire. 

By Aamna Khokhar

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

20th May 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

Women of faith must be seen and heard

Ramadan in lockdown has been interesting and it has created new and exciting opportunities for learning, for connecting, for developing. 

I have connected with the Qur’an and its teachings in different ways to how I have before.  As I get older and as I learn more, I have an interest in looking beyond the common narrative, thinking about the lives of people, trying to connect with those who have gone before us and thinking about how it must have been for them and how the teachings apply to me now, a woman in Britain in 2020. 

Photo by Tayeb MEZAHDIA

In the Qur’an there is a whole chapter called Mary, ‘Maryam’ in Arabic, relating to the mother of Jesus, peace be upon them both.  She is a central figure through the Qur’an and we learn about her character, some insights about her life and the lead up to the birth of her son. 

This year one thing that really struck me was listening to a commentary of the part of the Qur’an where Mary is basically in labour, in pain, wondering if she will be able to cope. As someone who has given birth four times, I can relate to that feeling!  The (male) commentator referenced the verse but spoke about it in a way I found surprising and I guess disappointing. He had taken her crying out in pain as an indication of her shame and embarrassment at being pregnant, without a husband, and wondering what people would think.  I discussed it with a few women friends and none of us saw it in that way! 

Over my 25 years of being around Muslims and more recently developing deep connections and friendships with women of all faiths, I have realised that so much of what we read, so many of the commentaries, so many of the books we use to help us understand our faith teachings, are by men.  And that in itself is OK, but not if that means that women’s perspectives and experiences are erased or simply not heard. 

We live in a world where there is inequality in every place you want to look. Board rooms, charities, communal organisations, government. And the gender pay gap is still a thing. Yes, things have shifted massively from where they were 100 years ago, but we can’t be complacent. 

And then we come specifically to religious spaces, to places of worship, to leadership positions in our faith communities. It is often an easy fix to speak about Muslim women as oppressed, to look at Islam as teaching that women are inferior to men.  Of course, even a basic reading of the Qur’an or a very brief overview of Muhammad’s life will show you otherwise, peace be upon him.  

The challenge for women like me is that when we highlight inequalities or show how biased towards men many of our spaces are, we are often accused of being radical feminists trying to change the faith.  

Dr Uzma Saed, image credit: BBC

Earlier this week a new Government task force was launched to look at how we move forward as faith communities and come out of lockdown, ease back into our places of worship and manage the risks as much as we can. A great and noble effort of course and really good to see all faiths at the table working together with government on this.  The problem?  All of the people listed on that taskforce are men.  How can that be OK?  Women’s voices are crucial at this time and they need to be heard and given a seat at that table too. Women’s perspectives and experiences are often different and can give an outlook that needs to be considered. As I like to point out, women are half of humanity and gave birth to the other half! 

So we as women of faith need to be seen and we need to be heard. We need to find more ways to come together, share our learning and challenge the status quo when we see it.  And to do that I believe we are stronger, together.  Our shared experiences of how our faith teachings play out in our lives are more common than many people realise. Muslim women have become an easy scapegoat for what are actually much wider inequalities: “the poor Muslim women who need saving from the evil men around them”.  While I am among those who will call out issues in Muslim communities where I see them, I also know that view and approach is patronising and counter-productive. We want you to walk with us, work with us, challenge with us. Let’s develop opportunities and strong voices, together, as women of faith.  We can highlight and challenge the bad, we can celebrate and bring to the fore the positives and inspirational. 

So I go back to Mary, mother of Jesus, to Khadijah, to Aisha, to Hajar, to Fatima al-Fihri (who established the world’s first ever university in Morocco in 859) and to so many other brave and noble women in the Qur’an and throughout our shared history. Let’s bring out their stories and those of other women whose names have been lost. 

I believe it is us as women of faith who can lead this, we have a vested interest, we see ourselves in those women’s stories, we want the world to know them and learn from them.  We must be seen and heard. 

Together, we can thrive. 

By Julie Siddiqi

Julie is a gender equality campaigner, community organiser and broadcaster.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

12th May 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

On VE Day why should British Muslims join the British Army?

Pirbright Army Training Centre

When I found out I’d be visiting the Army Training Centre Pirbright, along with the Chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Akeela Ahmed MBE, I was slightly apprehensive. Visions of scary looking English men in army gear holding rifles filled my mind and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

However after spending time with some recruits, officers, the chaplain and the Major General I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the openness and thoughtfulness of everybody I met. Not only were there many soldiers of colour walking around, there were a lot of young female recruits on the training ground. At Pirbright, the fourteen week compulsory training required for all soldiers is carried out. It seemed friendly and relaxed, and not like an English Defence League breeding ground that I had perhaps naively envisaged it to be. But why do the British Army have such a bad reputation amongst some Muslims and other minorities?

Trainee recruits at Pirbright Army Training Centre

For most Muslims, joining the British Army can be a contentious subject or something they’ve never considered seriously. Looking at the numbers, there are currently only around 500 serving Muslims in the British Army out of an 80,000 strong army. That is less than 0.6% of the total army staff. Given the population of Muslims is around 4% of the population, this isn’t representative at all.

According to former British Army Officer Afzal Amin, the majority of the 500 in the army are immigrants, mostly from the Commonwealth and not British born. This is an interesting point as they are more likely to have a more romanticised image of being in the British Army than someone who hasn’t been brought up in the post-colonial shadow. Research also shows British born Muslims feel as British as their white counterparts, as the UK is their home. So what are the reasons?

In a study carried out by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies many reasons were cited for the low recruitment of Muslim soldiers to the British Army. One of the reasons was the risk to life, and Muslim parents like any other parents won’t encourage a career where you are on the front line. One of the recruits I met at Pirbright said his mum didn’t talk to him for weeks when he told her that he was joining the British Army, so clearly this is a concern for all parents not just parents from ethnic minorities.

A crucial point that often goes amiss is that being on the front line like most people imagine, is only 30-40% of what the army does. The rest is made up of jobs such as engineers, doctors, nurses etc. In fact there are over 65 departments you can train in. So whilst serving on the ground is what most people perceive of the British Army, there are a plethora of other jobs that are non-combatant. Clearly this message hasn’t been as clear as the British Army would like it to be. There are certain degrees that the British Army will even sponsor and pay for like medicine as it’s a much needed vocation.

However the elephant in the room cannot be dismissed. One of the key factors that contributes to the low numbers of Muslims joining the army is that the British Army have been integral in conflicts in Muslim countries. Not just that, but now deemed as unnecessary, illegal wars where innocent civilians (usually Muslim) have been killed. As well as this reported torture and human right abuse cases amongst not just American personnel but British too, have gone on record. 

For Muslims this seems to be the biggest hurdle and red flag when it comes to entertaining the idea of joining the British Army. It’s very difficult for a Muslim to join an organisation which has killed other Muslims in what turned out to be a failed mission with unethical motives. But the Iraq war started sixteen years ago and we live in a different world; in a world where human rights are acknowledged and championed more readily, and in a world where the British Army have had the disastrous experience of being in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

British Muslim women visited Pirbright Army Training Centre in February 2020

The British Army are trying their best to break down these barriers and engage with Muslim communities. Muslim Engagement officer Naveed Muhammad who has served in the British Army for over 20 years, visits schools and mosques regularly talking about his career and the positive aspects of joining the British Army. Major General Capps who is also a champion for the Armed Muslim Forces Association reminded us that the British Army were fighting ISIS and the Taliban who have killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. A well needed reminder perhaps? And also an indication that Muslims are very much needed during these conflicts to help the military personnel to communicate with civilians on the ground and help build trust and relations. 

Tim Petransky, Engagement Officer told me a story about how one of his Pathan colleagues managed to liaise with some Pathans in a rural area of Afghanistan which helped to appease an otherwise tricky situation, proving that diversity is essential within army personnel.

The other problem that the British Army have had to deal with is far-right extremism. With figures like Tommy Robinson posing with recruits, the PR hasn’t been great. The British Army has formally denounced any links with any far-right figures and takes it very seriously. The Padre (chaplain in the army) at Pirbright insisted any Islamophobia and other prejudices are nipped in the bud early on, and any recruits showing signs of any extremism are dealt with accordingly.

Can the British Army respect Muslim values?

All recruits who join the army have to go through a Values and Standards course taught by the Padre where the core values are taught over seven lessons. These are courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment. These essential core values are strengthened further by standards that all recruits have to live up to, and those are of being appropriate, lawful and professional at all times. Following this, case studies and real life examples are given where recruits have to decide what they would do in the same situation. 

This training is a fundamental part of being in the British Army as recruits come from all kinds of backgrounds. All these values are not only coherent with Islam but reinforce some of the basic principles of being a Muslim. Islam’s central teaching is around social justice and standing up for the oppressed. Some of the projects the army is involved in encompass these core values; for example migrant rescue, wildlife protection, restoring infrastructure, distributing aid and helping in disaster affected areas. The British Army is present in over thirty countries currently, mostly in peacekeeping duties. These are wonderful roles that the army take part in but are cast in the shadow of the disastrous wars in the Middle East. It will take time to shift this image.

What it comes down to, is conscience. As the Padre explained, it’s a choice you make as a person of faith. For the Padre there’s no question that him being involved in teaching ethics to new recruits and being a spiritual advisor to any army personnel is vital work and serves his conscience well. Also he has comfort as clergy are the only army personnel who don’t have to carry a weapon. But Islam is not a pacifist religion, and standing and fighting for the rights of the oppressed is a noble thing. 

The British Army is historically known for providing a home and career to those who need it. To vulnerable young people, or to those who’ve had a tough upbringing, a career in the army is ideal to give them some purpose and discipline in their life. The Muslim community currently has the highest level of unemployment and the Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group has the lowest number of students in Russell Group universities. The British Army is ideal for those facing unemployment, poverty, and discrimination.

For Muslims, halal food is available, even halal rations as well as more tolerance for other religious requirements. The Armed Forces Muslim Association is a positive safe place for Muslim recruits to ask any questions with a dedicated Imam,  Asim Hafiz to provide any spiritual advice. 

Another important point for British Muslims and the wider population to remember is that 400,000 Indian Muslims fought for the British Army and 89,000 died in World War II so joining the British army is not an alien concept. British Muslims don’t need to show their loyalty to Britain by joining the army but it’s a reminder that is often needed about the contributions of Muslims towards Britain.

The British Army of 2020 is very different to what it used be. Like the population of Britain, it’s changed and adapted to the world we live in and joining an organisation like this should not be something that is dismissed by young Muslims or other ethnic minority groups based on past practices. The British Army, Royal Air Force and The Royal Navy need to make sure their strive for diversity and message of acceptance and tolerance reaches far and wide into all communities so they can reflect the beauty of British people within their organisation.

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

Sharmeen is passionate about politics and faith and you can find her tweeting about these things @sharm33n.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.


12th May 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

How can the British Army engage with UK Muslims?

Photo credit: Hifsa Haroon Iqbal

This week, Akeela Ahmed, (Founder of SheSpeaksWeHear and chair of the UK government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group) arranged for a group of 20 Muslim women to visit Pirbright Army Training Centre. This incredible opportunity proved to be a real eye-opener in terms of forming a better understanding of the Armed Forces’ values, moral principles and ethos. The visit gave me plenty of food for thought, especially regarding what it means to be a British Muslim and our place in wider society.

Read on to understand more about this trip and some of my reflections from this important visit.

Driving up to the gates of Pirbright Army Training Centre initially felt intimidating, but this all changed when we were greeted with a warm welcome by senior members of the armed forces, and offered tea and biscuits. If there’s one thing that brings British people of all persuasions together, it’s the universal love of a good cuppa and a biccie.

Photo credit: Akeela Ahmed

Diversity and representation is crucial.

It is evident that the job of the British Army is to protect all the citizens of the UK. And, as the UK becomes increasingly diverse, so must the makeup of traditional institutions including the armed forces.

The British Armed Forces currently has around 10% women, which is still below the government’s target of 15%. There are currently around 450 Muslims serving in the regular armed forces.

Photo credit: Akeela Ahmed

Throughout the day, it became apparent that the army is extremely accommodating when it comes to faith. Padres are Christian ministers whose job it is to guide soldiers of all faiths and those without faith, with humanistic principles. In addition, there are also Armed Forces Chaplains available for soldiers of other specific faiths, including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh.

Additionally, prayer rooms are available, as well as halal food on-site. The dress code can also be aligned with Islamic principles; Muslim men can wear a full beard, and for women, hijab can be incorporated within the uniform.

Universal human values and moral standards.

My personal highlight of the day was a presentation by Padre Nigel Kinsella, talking about the values and moral principles of the British Army. In particular, the military uses the mnemonic CDRILS, which stands for: Courage, Discipline, Respect for Others, Integrity, Loyalty, and Selfless Commitment. It’s pretty clear to me that these values are universal human values, that align to principles at the heart of Islam.

The British Army has a duty to protect all UK citizens.

As Muslims, one of the biggest threats comes from radicalisation, especially given that the majority of the victims of terrorist attacks have been other Muslims. Radicalisation is one of the biggest problems in the world today, and it affects all of us. It seems to me that the British Army is there to provide protection against all threats that are affecting UK citizens, and that of course, includes the Muslim community.

It’s clear that the job of the army is to do the things that other people are not willing to do. This does not simply mean reacting to real-world events. It also means providing humanitarian aid, disaster recovery and providing assistance in the event of a large-scale emergency.

We will not be divided.

Islam is by no means a pacifist faith. As Muslims, we have a loyalty to the country we were born into and live in. In addition, the rhetoric of the far-right, including that of Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson, seeks to divide us. Major General Duncan Capps, Muslim Champion for the Armed Forces was unequivocal in disassociating this dangerous rhetoric from the values of the UK armed forces. Any form of racism or discrimination is taken extremely seriously.

Robinson, in particular has used the army to push forward his anti-Muslim ideology. The army has absolutely denounced Robinson’s attempts to hijack their cause and have signalled a zero-tolerance approach against all forms of extremism.

The Army needs to do more to champion diversity to connect with young British Muslims.

My perceptions of the British Army are very different after this visit. I now have a better understanding of what the British Army does and how it affects me as a British citizen. As someone with a background in digital marketing, I feel the army needs to be doing a lot more to get their message across. There’s definitely an information gap and more needs to be done to engage with people of different backgrounds.

A couple of years ago, the British Army released a new campaign video entitled “Keeping My Faith – This is Belonging”. The ad featured a Muslim soldier praying, overlooked by other troops. In my mind, this is little to do with so-called PC-culture, and actually pretty reflective of the army’s ethos of inclusion. The military is one of the few institutions that doesn’t care about your background, your upbringing, your lack of an education or what you have been through. For many recruits, it offers a second chance at success or redemption.

Although the focus on on recruitment, the objective should be to change the perception of the armed forces. It may take a generation for there to be more Muslims serving, but that journey begins with changing hearts and minds. Certainly, it’s not something that will change overnight, but undertaking initiatives for different communities to get to know each other better is a great first step.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Author Bio: Aliya Zaidi is a self-confessed geek, a blogger, an avid foodie, and a mother of two. Aliya is a freelance digital marketing writer and research professional, writing mostly about online marketing and advertising. Check out her page: or read her tweets at

30th January 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

Can Brexit save us from Europe’s far-right?

As the Prime minister intends to press his Brexit bill through Commons in three days it finally seems like we’re getting ‘Brexit done’, imminently or in the next seven years, can the 2019 general election that is being called a landslide victory for the Tories, bring us together? Never in my living memory has the UK been so politically polarised since it has been since the 2016 EU referendum result. 

I look across to our neighbours in Europe, to ask, is it only us? Turns out we’re not alone, in fact in the UK we’re actually doing better. Much of Western Europe has been blighted with the rise of far-right nationalist parties which have been steadily gaining support over the last five years or so gaining seats in Parliament.

“The uncomfortable truth is, targeting minorities has been the main way for far-right parties to find their way back into positions of power across Europe.”

In October 2019 in Germany, the anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) won 24% of the vote in a regional election in the East of Germany, beating Angela Merkel’s party Central Democratic Party by 1%. The new populist party only formed in 2014 and their election campaign was swarmed with Nazi slogans and anti-Semitic rhetoric. As well as this an attack on a synagogue in Halle which killed two people was carried out by a 27-year old who cited far-right motives.

In Spain, the third largest party is now Vox, which is described as an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party. It also formed in 2014 and has doubled its seats to 54 out of 350 in the recent Spanish elections. 

In Austria the Freedom Party is the only far-right party in Europe that is actually in a position of power, with the leading People’s Party forming a coalition. Recently a deputy mayor from the Freedom Party had to resign over an extremely racist poem he wrote comparing migrants to rats.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party (formerly National Front) won more seats than President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist En Marche in the European Elections back in May. As well as this, France’s secular and anti-Muslim policies affect the already marginalised Muslim communities there. Only recently a Muslim mother was verbally abused by a far-right politician and told to remove her headscarf on a school trip to the Regional Assembly. The hijab is banned in schools and government offices, and now a law is being proposed to ban parents from wearing religious symbols on school trips. 

The ongoing refugee crisis gained attention across Europe and was used by nationalist and far-right parties as a means to stoke fear and divisions. The resultant increase in xenophobic rhetoric across Europe helped the far-right nationalist parties in their cause. The uncomfortable truth is, targeting minorities has been the main way for far-right parties to find their way back into positions of power across Europe. Using propaganda like that breaking point poster and focussing on immigration, election campaigns have been fought and won. Not to mention Facebook campaigns targeting voters, but that’s a whole different story.

In a study carried out in 2018 by Cambridge university, almost half of Leave voters (47%) believed the government was deliberately “hiding the truth” about how many immigrants live in the country, compared to 14% of Remain voters. Almost a third said yes when asked if they believed “Muslim immigration to this country is part of a bigger plan to make Muslims a majority of this country’s population”. Some Leave campaigners utilised anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments in the run up to the EU referendum in 2016 to gain popularity, resulting in misconceptions and negative attitudes towards Muslims and immigrants.

Looking across the pond, similar problems can be found in America, where populist president Donald Trump is championed and supported not only by nationalistic Americans and fascists but those that are fed up of the status quo. The USA is a great example of how far-right politicians can become popular in a short space of time, and even take up positions in government.

This fear and hatred of immigrants has consequences beyond far-right nationalist parties and politics. A recent investigation by ITV found that there has been an 145 % increase in recorded racist attacks, physical and verbal on NHS staff. Many doctors of ethnic backgrounds have been sidelined by patients as they’ve requested white doctors. Racism is alive and kicking in the UK in 2019, and instead of getting better it seems to be getting worse.

The small but significant wins by fringe parties across Europe should be a push to mainstream political parties everywhere, to sort themselves out and realise that there are parts of the electorate who are totally disenfranchised. There is a risk, in response to this, that mainstream political parties may lurch to the far ends of the political spectrum, instead however they need to address the real issues causing people to be sympathetic to populist narratives. The drivers of disenfranchisement are multi-faceted, however usually stem from issues of unemployment, rise in crime and poverty leading to inevitable anger and frustration. In the UK, austerity has meant cuts in education, NHS and policing, the three things we need to keep our population functioning in a civilised manner. When funding is cut for these essential services, society suffers.

The blame game is much easier to play when you can blame others. Immigrants, refugees, Eastern Europeans and Muslims are all targets when our own government has let us down. Instead of acknowledging austerity and the politicians who backed and imposed these policies some of the British electorate prefer to pin the blame on Europe, and leaving it has somehow become the solution to the end of all their woes. Never has an election result showed this as much as the election on 12 December 2019 with the Conservatives breaking the red wall, and winning seats in Labour heartlands; towns where poverty sores and unemployment is high.

The Brexit Party made a significant victory in the European Elections in May 2019 by winning a whopping twenty-nine seats, followed by the Liberal Democrats winning sixteen.The Brexit party was only a few months old and beat the Conservative Party by winning over 20% of the votes. The party represents nationalism, anti-immigration and of course anti-Europe sentiment as well as a distaste for ‘the establishment’. Thus the 2019 general election was a Brexit election.

Nigel Farage despite standing as an MP and failing seven times is still a household name, and central to the UK leaving the EU. The Brexit party were annihilated in the recent general election mainly because they stepped aside in many Leave constituencies to let the Conservatives win the Leave vote instead of losing votes to them or to the Labour party. Boris Johnson also played a blinder by repeating the word ‘Brexit’ continuously in his campaign making sure he could get that Brexit party vote. President Trump also got involved by suggesting Boris and Nigel form an alliance. And they unofficially did, creating the most right-wing Tory party that we’ve seen in a while. So much so that the Conservative party’s own MPs including former deputy PM Lord Heseltine defected because of the direction of the party. 

Boris Johnson’s party certainly won the racist vote what with figures like Tommy Robinson, ex leader of the English Defence League endorsing him. Just a few weeks ago the leader of the now defunct Britain First, ex-convict Paul Golding announced he has joined the Conservative party. He said in a statement he wants to ‘help solidify Boris Johnson‘s control on the leadership, so we can achieve Brexit and hopefully cut immigration and confront radical Islam.’ It is also reported that a top aide close to the Prime Minister has said that the UK will have a ‘Special Relationship’ with Viktor Orban’s far-right Hungary after Brexit. Despite the fact that the Hungarian Prime Minister is known for his anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments and rhetoric.

You just have to look at Twitter to see that all outwardly racist and anti-Muslim tweets usually come from someone who supports Brexit or Trump in their bio. The obvious correlation between the two is not fiction. Not all Brexiters are racists of course but many racists are Brexiters and that’s a fact that is hard to deny.

Whether votes for far-right parties came from a disillusioned electorate that are unhappy with the traditional mainstream political parties or whether its coming from a place of fear and hatred of the ‘other’, more than likely a combination of both, the political landscape across Europe has changed. 

Despite endorsements from some notorious far-right individuals, the British government has rejected them and therefore is still relatively centre-right compared to some key European countries. Perhaps leaving the EU won’t be so bad for the UK after all. If it means European far-right politicians will have less of a say on laws in the UK then surely that can only be a positive thing.

Maybe this is the only silver lining when it comes to Brexit?

By Sharmeen Ziauddin

She is passionate about politics and faith and you can find her tweeting about these things @britpakgirl.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

30th January 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

7 Top tips to no-nonsense New Year job searching

1. Understand what your values are

A former British diplomat to Iraq for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office once said that in any career, there are three things we can dream of having:

  • A high salary
  • Flexible working
  • A job that is meaningful and/or interesting to you

There’s a catch though. He claimed that in most jobs, we can only prioritise two of the above goals at any one time. That doesn’t mean for certain you can’t have all three. But his advice poses a valuable starting point in the hunt for a job. Rank the above list of three things by importance. What is non-negotiable to you and what can you afford to compromise on? Build on these three key things by asking the following questions like:

  • What is my ideal salary in my next role?
  • Are there particular fields I want to pursue?
  • How many hours/days am I willing to work on my job in the week?
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Knowing your values helps you to know your worth, so you can pursue careers that will work for you. And with time, it’s also perfectly ok to re-evaluate your priorities. If your next job falls short of your expectations, it’s still a great chance for you to learn about your likes and dislikes.

2. Slide into those DMs

Not sure what a certain job or career might be like? Look out for people who in that industry and drop a personalised cold email, LinkedIn connect request or a Twitter DM to ask for advice.

Some jobs are not as glamourous as they’re made out to be and getting a real insight from the inside might be what you need. You’d be surprised at how helpful people can be and if you don’t hear back from them, don’t take it personally. There’s plenty of contacts out there to network with!

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3. Keep an excel sheet of deadlines

Once you have an idea of the types of jobs you want to apply for, organise your time. Create a table and include columns for the following:

  • Name of company
  • Materials required e.g. cover letter? CV?
  • Deadlines for application and interview stages
  • Any contacts?
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4. Don’t lose heart

The first application is the hardest but it’s a starting point to your future successes! Make sure you keep a copy of this and build upon it later for future applications.

5. Take care of your mental wellbeing

There will be rejections and your schedule can feel a little all over the place when you’re applying for jobs but make sure you take time out for yourself too, to stay productive.

6. Listen to feedback

Whether you do well or you don’t receive the outcome you hoped for, there’s always room to learn more about your strengths and the areas you can improve on. If there’s an opportunity to receive feedback, always request them to write it for you in an email. If the company tries to give you feedback over the phone, ask them to relay this in an email.

7. Enjoy the process!

The application process is as much of an opportunity for you to see if an organisation is a good fit for you as it is for them to see if you’re a good fit for them. If you’re reading this now, it’s because you have talent and skills to share – realise this is as much about you deciding where you want to share your value!

By Nimra Shahid

Nimra is an MA Interactive Journalism trainee, interested in data and social media habits (in the least creepiest way). She love’s listening to a good podcast and drinking a good cup of chai. You can find on her on Twitter @nimrashahid_

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

30th January 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

Giving up our independence: living life with vulnerability yet strength.

Have you decided that if you want the job done you had better do it yourself? Does this leave you feeling like you’re trying to juggle life by yourself? Do you only feel connected when you read slogans telling you ‘you can make it on your own’? Are you strong and independent and secretly disconnected and lonely? 

Here in the West we tell ourselves that independence is a more admirable trait than interdependence and that we can achieve our destinies on our own. We don’t have the patience to teach people how we like it done and yet we must have things the way we like them. We assume people around us are too busy to listen anyway and that we couldn’t possibly burden them with our problems or our conundrums. Managing careers, families, body image and shiny smiles whilst being upbeat and brimming with confidence all by ourselves can lead to a frustrating and lonely existence.

In the words of John Donne 

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.”

So what does that really mean?

It means that human beings need connection and intimacy. That we are not designed to exist being unknown and that we can use one another as resources to help one another grow. Despite the reveries of independence, research demonstrates that human beings are heavily influenced by and dependent upon positive social interactions. Our childhood experiences govern the quality of our future relationships and our ongoing exchanges shape our personalities. So despite the ‘make it on our own’ slogans we need meaningful positive interactions that feed our need for connection and intimacy and they are vital to our lives and well-being. 

Having people around you is not the same as being known by people around you and to be known we have to share of ourselves. Often we are stopped from opening up. It might leave us feeling vulnerable being fully known by someone else. However, we need to take comfort in the fact that we are all pretty much the same, we all have the same need to be heard and regarded. We are all struggling with something we need help with, joyous about something else and everyone has the same need to feel good about who they are. We can become resources for one another and support one another’s lives and choices.  

If being open, vulnerable and interdependent is synonymous with being hurt then consider what led to that conditioning. Consider also that who you are now is different and that you have a choice about who you would like to create meaningful connections with. Effective ways of doing this are to firstly decide that you would like to be close to other people and have them as a resource in your life and to be a resource in theirs. Give up controlling the outcomes of your interactions and enjoy the journey. Make authenticity a priority and share openly of yourself and listen intently to the person sharing with you. Allow them to sponsor your life and your growth and do the same for them.

Steven Covey, in his magisterial work, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ talks about an individual’s journey from dependence, to independence through to the highest realm – interdependence. Covey goes further to say that it is only with true interdependence that humans achieve their highest goals and ambitions. Interdependence relies upon us fulfilling the needs of others and, in turn, opening ourselves up enough to have our needs met by others. 

So before we decide to open ourselves up and be vulnerable it is useful to think about how and where we can do that and most importantly who with. 

Let us use this table to do that – 

Resources I have How they contribute to my life 

How can I access them When I will do that  

  1. List all the people who you would consider your resources, those who make you feel good when you engage with them. They might be partners, family members, friends, colleagues.
  2. Identify how each of them contribute to your life in a positive way. Really think about this task as it might not be in ways that you expect so be really honest. 
  3. Now consider if there are any obstacles to you accessing them and if so what they might be and how you will overcome them i.e. my partner is busy at work so to connect I will invite him/her on a date where we can talk. 
  4. To give yourself the best chance of it happening set a clear date in your mind when you will aim to do that. 

So take off the armour and open up the channels for meaningful connections, use and be used by others as a resource to love and be loved, support and be supported and to nurture and be nourished. No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

By Aamna Khokhar

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

30th January 2020
by She Speaks We Hear

Interview with Activist and Chaplain, Zahrah Awaleh

To commemorate Black History Month we have interviewed activist and Hospital Chaplain Zahrah Awaleh. You can vote for your favourite Black Briton here and learn about others. For BHM events across the country you can go to

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview as part of Black History Month. First of all tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in Scunthorpe, South Humberside, in 1974 and grew up there till I was 12. My father came to the UK in the 1950s as a Commonwealth citizen, since Somaliland was a British Protectorate till 1960, to find work and responded to the call inviting subjects of the empire to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War. My father, Ali Noor Awaleh, worked in the British Steel Corporation for decades, and I still see remnants of British Steel everywhere. For example, where I live in east London the street lamps are made in Scunthorpe as they have the name of the then owner, Corus, on them. That’s my dad, right there, and although he’s no longer with us, I feel his presence in so many ways, and that one was one I recently discovered and delighted me.

I went to secondary school in Sheffield, where there is a thriving Somali community right to this day. When I lived there in ‘86-’90 I was amongst the old seamen families from Somaliland, where my parents come from. Coming from a small steel town where racism was the norm and ethnic minorities were a tiny minority and moving to Sheffield  which had older established minority communities such as Yemenis, Somalis, Pakistanis, and Afro Caribbeans felt like I had joined society, I belonged in England and I became proud of my identity as a black child, a Somali, a child of diaspora, and a British citizen. I learned who I was, and how I got here and the Somali community and its centre on the Wicker was crucial to that formation. I felt I belonged to a distinct Somali community, having no blood family living in the UK, and I belonged or at least had a right to belong to British society.

“It’s not the job of minorities to “teach” white society how to be fairer and more equal, they know how to do it, they just need to act. “

What does Black History Month mean to you?

BHM is an opportunity to remind the wider British society how people of African and Afro Caribbean origin got here and the history of empire. We can all learn what they have contributed to British society in spite of all the various obstacles of discrimination, and what structural discrimination and injustices they still endure because of systemic white privilege and white supremacy. Society is not built for minorities to succeed or receive fair treatment, and that is a process of inquiry to ask why, and how is white society going to fix this or change it to make it fairer. It’s not the job of minorities to “teach” white society how to be fairer and more equal, they know how to do it, they just need to act. 

As a Black Muslim British woman, what identities do you hold on to?

I am a woman and love being a woman, despite the sexism I have faced within family, community and society. However, I can’t separate my identities and neither can anyone else, so I’m Woman, Black African, Muslim, British and Somali and foremost I am a Black African Woman because I relate to their experiences the most because we share them. The person that had the most profound influence on me after the Prophet Muhammad as I was growing up was Malcolm X. He articulated in precise and intelligent language the horror of white supremacy and how to question and challenge it as a Black person and relate it to the wider white supremacy of empire, colonialism and how pan-African unity was one movement to tackle it along with other similar movements. He blew my mind at the age of 16 and opened my eyes to global anti-racism, and he did the same for millions of others of African and other descent.   

Have you experienced any racism or Islamophobia growing up or in your adult life?

I grew up in a working class steel town where most people were decent I would say, but I lived with daily experiences of racism and micro-aggressions due to the culture and system of white supremacy in British society. I rarely experience Islamophobia now I think anti-black racism is more prevalent in my life and in the lives of my children from a predominately south Asian Muslim population where we live in east London. The school children that my children make friends with have been raised to see them as inferior, all of them, because it was the process of colonialism and white supremacy in India that brainwashed their ancestors and that has lasted till this day. That doesn’t mean that we should just accept it, on the contrary it is our duty as humane people and Muslims to speak out and stand up to challenge and tackle it. I discussed this with my children’s school and they are taking measures to address racism and anti-blackness within school and in wider society. I must add that within Somali communities we are also brainwashed by colonialism and empire, so I have experienced tribalism, colourism and racism within my family and community and stood up to it. 

You like to write, what do you write about?

I write about what interests me and have discussions about it on Facebook and love the way it brings people together to deconstruct issues and understand them from different perspectives. 

You’re a hospital chaplain, how did that come about?

I worked in youth careers guidance for 10 years and I decided to work more closely with Muslim communities again and support patients, helping to reduce health inequalities in the acute hospital setting. My sister had died recently, and I wanted to do something relevant to provide spiritual care to all patients, whatever faith or belief they had. I had been teaching yoga in the community too, and I hoped to bring it into my role as a chaplain, so when I approached Macmillan Cancer Centre at UCLH where  I worked and they welcomed me to teach, that was such an honour and responsibility and I loved it and learnt so much.

How did you get into Yoga and how does it help people with illnesses?

I have always loved sport and movement and I love to dance, so when I was introduced to yoga at university it just felt right. I still have contact with that first teacher and she is a close friend and mentor of mine. Yoga is a way to integrate the mind and body and rebalance the inner and outer of what we experience. We are so busy and preoccupied with the senses that we use for the external world, we forget about our inner world of emotion, sensations and even our physicality so our bodies suffer and we may become sick. Yoga can help prevent the build up towards illness by making us aware of what feels right and wrong, so we take action if necessary, including going to the GP and having specialist care when needed and using complementary therapies. We do not have to just get on with life in pain and suffer. Yoga can also be a therapeutic tool to cope with illness and life limiting conditions, reduce pain and increase mobility, and re-educate us about better use and integration (i.e. literally ‘integrity’) of our bodies and minds over our lifetimes to feel more human and whole.

“I hustle, I don’t juggle. Women have been hustling, i.e. using intelligent organisational skills and prioritising their time for their families and work, since time.”

How do you juggle motherhood, work and all the other projects you’re involved in?

I hustle, I don’t juggle. Women have been hustling, i.e. using intelligent organisational skills and prioritising their time for their families and work, since time. I allocate, I’m not a martyr and I don’t want to die an early death, actual or spiritual, so I ask for help and assistance when I need it. This is key, because often women think they need to do it all themselves, when they don’t, because men certainly don’t and have no issues with that so why should we?

Thank you so much to Zahrah for answering our questions in such an insightful and personal way. Interview by Sharmeen Ziauddin.She is passionate about politics and faith and you can find her tweeting about these things @britpakgirl.

Image credit: Elainea Emmott