The Full Story
Forgotten Feminists is an opportunity for you to join me in conversation with inspirational women from restrictive religious backgrounds who have fought and who have overcome. You know some names already: you know Malala Yousufzai, you know Ayaan Hirsi Ali. But there are countless women who have survived insurmountable odds, overcoming the most vicious of obstacles, and whose names you will not recognize. They are the unsung heroes. The warriors hidden in the shadows. They are the Forgotten Feminists.
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Nada, author of Gaslight Avenue: Based on a True Hummus Story, upset the town when she swam against the tide. Now this Palestinian-born Canadian writer and womanist is addicted to helping other women reckon with the same patriarchal world she escaped from to live their best lives with full bodily autonomy, free of religious toxicity, misogyny, and conformity.
Lina grew up a minority Christian in Cairo, Egypt. Frustrated with the sexist society around her, she moved to Canada in her 20s. Here she discovered that, in the name of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, people in the West fail to realize that within every cultural community, there are some unique minds and souls that think differently, and they deserve an equal opportunity to be heard and to express their views. In order to try and correct this egregious wrong, she published a book called "Liberation – Secrets of the Soul,” it is a collection of short stories, revealing existential moments in the lives of ordinary women, from a variety of cultural backgrounds, as they journey to self-fulfillment.
Ellaf came to America as a refugee from Iraq when she was just a baby. When she was 14 years old, she was sent back to Iraq to get married. After years of sexual, mental, and physical abuse, she found the courage to escape. Join me as we listen to Ellaf tell her story of not only surviving a child marriage but of thriving as a graduate student, an entrepreneur and the proud mother of three children who she saved from the generational trauma that repeated itself unhindered until it was met with Ellaf.
Jaleh is the author of 'Public Secrets of Islam'. She was born in Iran under this current Islamic regime. She has always been a fierce supporter of women and against the brutality of political Islam. Her public criticisms have meant that she can no longer return to her homeland. In 2015 she survived an attack by an ISIS supporter at a free speech event that she had organized. Jaleh will tell us all about growing up in Iran, the terrorist attack that she survived, we will talk about her book and so much more. And, of course, she will also share with us her thoughts on the recent protests in Iran.
In some ways Anya and I are total opposites and in other ways, we lived parallel lives. While I was tyrannized by a far right ideology, her experience was that of tyranny from the far left. Anya is from the Soviet Union. As everybody else there, she was heavily brainwashed into the communist ideology. While she didn't have to wear a hijab, there was plenty she was forced to do, think, and say - whether she liked it or not. She is of Jewish descent and, due to systemic antisemitism, her options in life were limited. She had to wonder, which university is accepting Jews? Which jobs are open to Jews? etc. It took her years of reading books that were prohibited, having discussions with trusted friends and thinking, thinking, thinking to clean-up her mind and open it up to free critical thinking.
Hanna was born and raised in America with two Moroccan immigrants as parents. Her morals developed through immersion in a society that treasures individual liberties and the simultaneous exposure to the pitfalls of collectivistic culture within Islamic societies. Today, as a gay ex-Muslim, Hanna is an adamant defender of human rights and, more specifically, freedom of speech. As a Critical Thinking Fellow at the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation, Hanna has hosted several events with prominent human rights advocates. Currently, Hanna is attending medical school and holds bachelor's degrees in Biomedical Sciences and Sociology.
Leorah is native Sudanese but was born and raised in Saudi Arabia where, along with her brother, started to learn Quran and Islamic Studies as soon as she could speak. From there, their lives took very different paths- After enduring many years of abuse, as well as being buried under a niqab and being subjugated under Islamic laws, Leorah is now married to the man of her dreams. She is married to a Canadian Buddhist man who supports her in living the free life she was deprived of growing up. By stark contrast, however; her brother ended up joining the Islamic State (ISIS). Join me in speaking with Leorah about the two drastically different paths she and her brother took and how their choices have impacted themselves, each other, and all the people around them.
Samira is half Arab, half Danish, however growing up the cultural and religious values of her father were way stronger thank her Danish side. When she became a teenager, the conflict between her two cultures caused a lot of turmoil and confusion for many years. She eventually felt the only way to free herself from the dichotomy was to leave Islam. But the break was a painful one. Her family disowned her for her choice to liberate herself and she missed her dad and her siblings. After a tragic loss of my first husband (an American non Muslim), she went back to her family with her 4 year old daughter. She was so devastated from the loss of her love that she decided to convert back to Islam and marry her cousin. Her second marriage was a disaster. Life under such strict rules was hell. After two years she left with both her kids, took off her hijab, and never looked back. But living under suppressed rules for so long had left an impact. At first after leaving Islam she was in no man's land. She felt ashamed for showing my hair and wearing normal clothes. There are so many long, difficult, and lonely phases to leaving Islam. So much rebuilding that needs to happen- especially for women. Samira and I will talk about all those challenges and offer advice for other women starting on their journey to freedom.
Iman escaped Saudi Arabia where she was treated like property in 2003. She graduated medical school and escaped to Canada where she now is witnessing the erosion of freedoms and is sounding the alarm through her podcast "One Godless Woman". For her unapologetic and fierce activism, she being sued by a Muslim Brotherhood entity in Canada. Iman will tell us all about her journey from muzzled Muslim girl covered head to toe in black living under Sharia to freethinking woman wearing whatever she wants and saying whatever she wants in Canada.
Aisha is my first cousin 🤍 Her dad was my favorite uncle. Aisha grew up in New Jersey with her mother and sister when her parents divorced. In college she met a man and fell in love, the only problem was- he was Jewish. Her mother disowned her when she decided to marry him. To protect her younger sister from being "tainted" by Aisha's influence, she took her and left for Egypt without even telling Aisha. After many years of trauma and healing, Aisha now works as a faith leader supporting others at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Join us to hear the incredible story of this incredible woman.
Rabyaah grew up in Yemen before coming to the US at the age of six. She is the founder of Arab Women’s Voice and she co-founded the Yemeni American Coalition for Change to support grassroots movements in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. Rabyaah was also chosen as a national Bernie surrogate in the 2020 Presidential race. Rabyaah began to question the extremists in her community and the Islamists in US government around the Arab Spring. Her criticisms caused so much backlash, but it didn't stop her. She is committed to continuing to speak out for the good of her community- as she wants to see Muslims progress and prosper. She is also determined to continue to speak out for the good of her country- as the danger of Islamists in government needs to be exposed.
Elizabeth was born in the UK to a British-Italian family and grew up as a (semi/non-practicing) Christian. Following her own spiritual journey alongside a cultural exploration of Arabic language and culture, she later converted to Islam in her early 20s. Having since left Orthodox Islam, she is an advocate for liberalism in Islam. An award-winning activist, passionate about protecting human rights, promoting peace, and strengthening intercultural and interfaith cohesion, Elizabeth's main interests include women’s rights, refugee and migrant rights and issues surrounding multiculturalism, anti-extremism and community cohesion – in particular, Jewish-Muslim relations. A renowned and curious chatterbox, Elizabeth loves exploring other cultures, travelling and tweeting!
Weam Namou was born in Baghdad, to an ancient lineage called the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians who still speak Aramaic), and came to the U.S. at age ten. She is an Eric Hoffer award winning author of 14 books, a two-time international award-winning documentary filmmaker, a poet, journalist, and the founder and president of Unique Voices in Films, a nonprofit organization. She is currently working on her first feature narrative film, Pomegranate [in post-production]. The script of Pomegranate was selected as a quarter finalist by Francis Coppola's Zoetrope. Weam is the executive director of the Chaldean Cultural Center, which houses the world's first and only Chaldean museum. https://weamnamou.com/
Nada grew up in Bahrain where she was forced into hijab as a young child, she struggled to live within the tiny framework that was afforded to her. And then one day, a picture on Facebook, where she proudly shared that she learned how to use chopsticks, blew up her whole life. Her family threatened to kill her and there was no looking back. Now, free from any familial demands, Nada lives in California working as a Medical Interpreter.
Dalal grew up in the US and Saudi Arabia and now lives in Ireland. At 18, she was forced into a marriage with a man she describes as having “more rights over my body than I did”. Dalal speaks openly and honestly about what it was like enduring years of abuse by her parents and what it took to leave her abusers and start anew. In the years since, she has grown mentally and physically (competing in powerlifting competitions!). She now lives in Ireland with her Belgian partner. Dalal’s personal story is meant for those who need to know that they are not alone. She wants to bring awareness, encouragement, and inspiration. Her motto is “If I can, then you can too”
Born in South Africa, Ayesha is a Cape Malay woman who grew up in Australia. Despite her Western upbringing, Ayesha's story features the familiar battle for independence and freedom that many women from Muslim backgrounds experience all over the world. In the process of finding herself, Ayesha faced many losses and hardships - including losing the love and acceptance of her family. Now living happily with her partner of 8 years, Ayesha has found a new family who accepts her unconditionally for the person she truly is. With 3 university degrees and a successful career across a range of disciplines, Ayesha now works with the Free Hearts Free Minds team to empower other people across the world to embrace their individuality and be their unapologetic selves.
Though she was born and raised in Saudi, Meshair’s parents are from Somalia. She travelled for the first time when she was twenty-five years old and continued travelling ever since. Traveling the world made her mind and heart expand. It filled her with love and left no room for hate and regret. She is now married to the man of her dreams, François- a French Pastry Chef who fills her heart with love and their home with sweet smell of freshly baked cookies and lavish decorations of petit fours!
Wafa is a Tamazight Tunisian Ex-Muslim, holder of a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, and a university educator. She currently serves as the director of the Translations Project, a program of the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. She is also a board member of Inara, the Tunisian Association of Irreligious and Free Thinkers. She is human rights and civil liberties activist, an advocate of the Ex-Muslim organizations for acceptance of religious dissent and promotion of secular values, and an activist for the linguistic and cultural rights of the indigenous Amazigh people of Tunisia and North Africa.
Wasila grew up back and forth in between Yemen and Austria- experiencing culture shock over and over throughout. She lived in this confused state until she decided to drop everything and choose her own happiness! Wasila is now married to the love of her life, a German man, and they have two daughters together. She has a successful career in a university as an administrator for international students. She is also co-founder of www.healingoasiskids.com where she teaches children yoga accompanied by a guided meditation which narrates scientific topics to children in a mindful way.
Raised in a traditional Omani home, Reem always found herself battling being true to herself or being aligned with her culture's traditions. The journey to being true to herself was not a easy one; from leaving her home country, to disentangling herself from a difficult divorce and being estranged from family, to finding strength in other like-minded women and meeting a partner who helped her spread her wings and fly. Reem is on her way to become a pediatric surgeon and is very passionate about women's issues in the Middle East.
Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, she came to Canada, 24 years old and covered from head to toe. After an entire shift of her worldview, a TEDx Talk, backlash and death threats from her community and family members, Amal continues to live her life standing for her rights. Today, she supports others to reclaim their power from religious, societal, and political oppression through her organization I’m All Courage.
As her family slept, Saudi born Ghada quietly escaped from the house and eventually out of the patriarchal society she was born into. She had to lose everything in order to gain her freedom. Now, after seeking asylum in the US, she- along with her two black dogs- is about to start a new chapter of her life with her Texan groom Jim.
Somali refugee, orphan, and survivor of FGM, Sara is the most earnest US patriot you will ever meet. At 17, when she arrived in the US, she didn’t even know how to write her own name. Now, thanks to the support of her new great country, she not only learned how to read and write, she is an educator.
Raised Mennonite, Deb met a charismatic Muslim man who was lecturing and debating in a local university. She was swept off her feet and soon found herself the mother of four children and in a polygamous marriage with a member of the Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir. She is now embroiled in a custody battle to protect her children- including her openly LGBT teenager with a father who believes they are an abomination.
Though Aliya was raised in the US, at 17 she was forced to marry her 25 yr old cousin in Pakistan. Despite all odds being stacked against her, pregnant with her second child, she decided to fight for her freedom- and ultimately, freedom for her children. Her story is truly inspiring and motivating for every person stuck in an impossible situation who cannot see a way out. She is a testament to human resilience. Her example shows us all that anything worth having is worth fighting for and that freedom is worth any cost.