opinion

Some people believe it's impossible to be a Muslim and a feminist. Susan Carland disagrees.

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Thanks to our brand partner, Telstra Smart Home

There are a lot of people obsessed with Susan Carland’s hair. I am one of them.

I’ve known Susan for several years now. I’ve been to her house for dinner. We’ve co-hosted podcasts together. I’ve met her daughter and her son who are now 15 and 11. I’ve worked with her husband Waleed Aly on The Project.

And yet….I’ve never seen her hair.

This has become something of a running joke between us. I sometimes ask her to describe it. Or send me a photo of it. That doesn’t sound creepy at all. We laugh about it often. I can assure you, Susan Carland laughs heartily and regularly about a variety of topics, even occasionally her religion.

Listen to Susan Carland and Mia Freedman on No Filter.

And this – along with so many things we discuss in this interview – will surprise people who think they know Susan’s life just by looking at her or passing her in the street.

You see Susan Carland is a devout Muslim woman, a religion she converted to from Christianity when she was a teenager.

She choose to wear hijab or a headscarft at the same time, much to the shock and horror of some members of her own family.

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While I can joke with Susan about her hair and her hijab – many many people don’t find it funny at all. They find it sad or sexist or un-Australian. They assume she’s oppressed and repressed and distressed – the victim of a religion they believe to subjugate women.

They assume that simply by being a Muslim, that means she condones female genital mutilation and the fact that women in some Muslim countries face the death penalty for being raped and in other countries are banned from driving cars or showing any part of their body or face in public or even leaving the house unless accompanied by a man.

There are many many people who believe it is impossible to be a Muslim and a feminist. Susan disagrees.

She disagrees so strongly in fact that she has written a book called Fighting Hislam – women, faith and sexism in which she argues that there are Muslim women who are fighting for gender equality inside their faith and that being Muslim and a feminist are not mutually exclusive.

While I can joke with Susan about her hair and her hijab - many many people don’t find it funny at all. (Image: Instagram)

This is a pretty controversial position to take. Just ask Yassmin Abdel Magied who ignited a firestorm of commentary and abuse when she got into an argument with Senator Jackie Lambie on Q&A earlier this year and declared that Muslim is the most feminist religion - to her.

That last bit is important and was missed by many who watched the show or read about it afterwards - including me.

This interview was a little bit fraught - even though Susan is a friend and someone I like a lot. Soon after that episode on Q&A, I interviewed Yasmin for No Filter and when I pressed her - fairly I thought - on her comments about Islam and feminism, she became angry and the interview fell apart.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice so before we began, I laid out some ground rules for Susan - and for me.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Telstra Smart Home.

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