Race, faith + femininity with Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Pinning down certified style icon Yassmin Abdel-Magied was not easy. She’s busy. Busy making a change. Busy writing her second book, You Must Be Layla which is out in a few weeks. Busy being questioned about her faith and subsequently – busy being questioned about other Muslim women. The level of questioning and explanation required from women of colour, about other women who share the same race or faith is remarkable. We don’t question Fiona Bruce about Hatey Dropkick’s behaviour, yet WOC, and particularly Muslim women in the last two weeks, are expected to be experts on a British Bangladeshi teenager in Syria.

This week, Yassmin went on BBC news to talk about Mariam Khan’s release of ‘It’s Not About The Burqa’ a collection of essays by Muslim women – exploring the different individual experiences and thoughts on faith, race and sexuality – and without any irony, Yassmin and Mariam were asked about their thoughts on Shamima Begum. The media narrative continues to be one dimensional when it comes to Muslim women.

Imagine having your race and faith constantly questioned (and having to continuously defend your existence on the behalf of a multitude of people). The sheer strength to deal with it would drive most of us to destruction, but Yassmin is not most of us. As well as being an author, she’s also a broadcaster and an activist (and previously a mechanical engineer). An all round super human.

Speaking last year, she said “I’ve never had the space to explore what it means to be a Muslim woman of colour without everybody asking me all the time what it means to be a Muslim woman of colour.” That’s exactly why we’re hosting her at Second Home – to do just that.

Yassmin comes to our new site in London Fields, for a conversation on Race, Faith and Femininity on Monday 25th February. Joy Francis, founder of Words of Colour will be hosting the discussion, find more details here. We asked her a few questions ahead of the event.


What would be your advice on overcoming adversity?

“I hated hearing this when I was first told this, but it’s really true. Time will pass. If something feels like it will never end, take stock in knowing that it will, eventually. Nothing is forever. Also, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and my faith allows me to believe that no-one is given more than they can handle. So when you’re uncomfortable, you are growing (as long as you are safe, of course!)”

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

“I recently read All About Love by bell hooks and thoroughly loved it. It’s a classic. I’m also partway through Death of the Gods by Carl Miller and it’s a great look at how tech is changing power.”

What have you been working on lately?

“I’ve just finished my second book, launched in a couple of weeks – You Must Be Layla – and I’m heading to Australia to go on tour next week! I’m also in the process of writing a couple of screenplays. In other news however, I’ve partnered with The Other Box to do some cool things for creatives of colour (stay tuned on that) and am building an online / mobile platform to record sexual harassment anonymously at events so that we can push the accountability of a safe space onto organisers rather than individuals.”

Like we said, Yassmin’s busy.

It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariam Khan is available to purchase in Libreria.