Zara Kay

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POV! Original short description: "Australian activist"

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Zara Kay

Zara Kay pictured in 2018
Born 1992
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Nationality Australian
Occupation Atheist and secular activist, women's rights activist

Zara Kay (born 1992) is a Tanzanian-born ex-Muslim atheist, secular activist and women's rights activist, based in London. She is the founder of Faithless Hijabi, an international non-profit organisation that seeks to support the rights of Muslim-raised women, especially those who are in the process of leaving or have left Islam.[1][2]



Kay was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1992, and raised as a Khoja Twelver Shia Muslim.[1][3]Template:Rp Her mother is Kenyan, her father is Tanzanian.[3]Template:Rp Her parents were conservative Muslims; she has four sisters and one brother.[1] She began wearing the hijab from the age of 8, because she 'wanted to be more pure, I wanted God to love me more.' In hindsight, she said 'that's not a choice. That is coercion.'[1]

Education and career

Aged 14, Kay began to question her religion, wanting to know why she couldn't be friends with non-Muslims, listen to music, loosen her hijab or not want to get married at 18 (like some of her friends).[1] As a successful student, she finished high school at 15, moved to Malaysia to attend Sunway University and then Monash University's Malaysian campus in Bandar Sunway aged 16.[1][3]Template:Rp She stopped wearing the hijab at age 18 before she moved to Australia.[1][2]

After about 3.5 years in Malaysia, when she was 19, Kay moved to Australia in 2012[3] in order to continue her studies at the Australian campus of Monash University in Melbourne.[2] There, she finished her bachelor's degree in information technology and her master's degree in business information systems at the age of 21.[2] Kay got a job as an engineer for an IT company in Melbourne, and then worked as a technical support engineer at Google in Sydney until 2018, the same year in which she also became an Australian citizen.[4] She relocated to London in 2019.

Doubts and apostasy

Although she began to not wear a hijab in 2011 when she was 18, Kay still identified as a Muslim, and says she "even went on pilgrimage (ziyarat)" to visit Shia Islamic holy sites in Iran (including Qom and Mashhad) in 2011 and Iraq in 2013.[3]Template:Rp

Kay renounced Islam at the age of 24, because she saw the religion as incompatible with her own values: "I rejected a lot of Islamic values such as the punishment of gay people, inequality between genders and forced hijab."[4] Raised in a close-knit community, she says her decision to stop wearing the hijab and her eventual apostasy led to a lot of negative and hateful reactions from within her family and the wider social environment in Tanzania.[3]Template:Rp

Faithless Hijabi

Kay founded Faithless Hijabi (FH) in 2018 in Sydney. Faithless Hijabi is a storytelling platform that enables ex-Muslim and questioning Muslim women to share their stories of apostasy, doubt and freedom. While being a platform that creates safe spaces for women to express their dissent, Faithless Hijabi strives to take an active role in advocating for women's rights. FH is active on numerous social media in order to enable people to reach out for help. At present, the organisation primarily publishes stories and blogs in English, but has recently launched their Arabic social media pages.[5]

Faithless Hijabi was involved with the case of Rahaf Mohammed, the 18-year-old Saudi Arabian woman who managed to escape from her family in January 2019, but was held by Thai authorities at Bangkok Airport, after which she was able to raise international pressure via social media to let her continue to Canada.[2][5]


External links

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