Islam and feminism

L-R: Humera Khan, Laura Zahra McDonald, me, Sabrina Mahfouz.
L-R: Humera Khan, Laura Zahra McDonald, me, Sabrina Mahfouz.

Is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? That was the central question posed for a panel discussion I took part in at the Royal Court on 31 October. Part of the theatre’s “Big Idea” series, the discussion was titled “I Speak for Myself: Feminism and Islam”. It’s a big topic and the discussion was wide-ranging and interesting. Also on the panel – chaired by Dr Laura Zahra McDonald – were consultant and researcher Humera Khan and writer and performance poet Sabrina Mahfouz.

After the event, I blogged for the New Statesman with some of my thoughts on the topic. You can read the full post here.

So, let me answer my own question: is it possible to be a Muslim and a feminist? Well, of course. As in any other large group of humans (there are 1 billion Muslims in the world, around half of whom are women), a huge range of views exist. Some of these half a billion women are not feminists; some are. There is a distinction to be drawn here between Islamic feminists who explicitly draw their feminism from their faith, and Muslim women who also happen to be feminists.

“My journey into a nightmare war”

A Free Syrian Army fighter in Damascus.
A Free Syrian Army fighter in Damascus.

How did a young British man with no combat experience join the Free Syrian Army?

In a piece for the Guardian, I interviewed a London student of Syrian origin who went to join his cousins to fight in Damascus. Now back in the UK, he gave a vivid insight into the bloody reality of war.

I don’t know how to feel. Part of me is relieved that I made it back alive, but I feel guilty that my relatives and my people are dying. I have only minor physical injuries, but the mental scars are still there. I don’t sleep well at night and I often wake up screaming. Most people in Syria don’t have the option of running away like I did. But I am glad to be alive.

You can read the full piece over at the Guardian, and the cutting is below.

g2 cutting

A few links

Indian journalists protest.
Indian journalists protest.

Here are some links to my recent work, pulled from various corners of the internet.


Why another high profile rape case in India will fail to tackle the root causes of sexual violence (New Statesman)

This blog looks at the on-going Mumbai rape trial, and whether any significant change has resulted from the worldwide outcry about the Delhi gang rape case.

Hakimullah Mehsud was hardly Pakistan’s great hope for peace (Guardian)

Although US drone strikes trouble Pakistan’s politicians, peace talks with the Taliban leader may well have come to nothing.

When Malala Yousafzai’s book was released in October, there was a backlash against her at home – which risks obscuring a very real need to fight for education and against extremism.

Support from Anonymous appears to have given rape victim Daisy Coleman the strength to pursue justice. But does this kind of web activism risk undermining the legal process?

A new report suggests teenage combatants are particularly vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s vital that we support those who return from war.

It may seem like stating the obvious, but when cultural sensitivities lead to the toleration of FGM, it’s vital that we treat the practice as the crime it is.


I’m a regular contributor to Monocle Radio, and have appeared on several shows recently. I won’t share links to all of them, but here’s a selection of the most recent podcasts. On 5 November I talked over the day’s foreign policy headlines with Robert Fox on this show. On 28 October I provided commentary on talks between Karzai and Sharif in London. On 22 October, I set the day’s news agenda, talking over the top headlines on this show. Last week,  I was also on the Richard Bacon Show on BBC 5 Live, with a light-hearted look at the week’s headlines.

I also recently took part in a panel discussion at the Royal Court Theatre (31 October), discussing Islam and feminism. I’ll post about it in more detail at some point.