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
Citizenship Australian
Alma mater Monash University
Occupation Information Technology
Known for 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 The languages of English, Gujarati, Swahili, and Kutchi were spoken at home, but not Arabic.[4]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 eight, 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 fourteen, 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 eighteen (like some of her friends).[1] After finishing high school aged fifteen, she moved to Malaysia to attend Sunway University and then Monash University's Malaysian campus in Bandar Sunway aged sixteen.[1][3]Template:Rp She stopped wearing the hijab at age eighteen before she moved to Australia.[1][2]

After about 3½ years in Malaysia, when she was nineteen, Kay moved to Australia in 2012[3]Template:Rp 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 twenty-one.[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.[5] She relocated to London in 2019.

Doubts and apostasy

Although she began to not wear a hijab in 2011 when she was eighteen, 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 twenty-four,[4]Template:Rp 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."[5] 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 After establishing boundaries, Kay and her family were able to repair a relationship, and she no longer felt threatened by community backlash.[4]Template:Rp


Kay was one of the guest panelists at the "Celebrating Dissent" event at De Balie in Amsterdam, where the film "Laïcité, Inch'Allah!" (which translated into English means Secularism, God willing) was shown.[6][7][8]

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.[9] FH's mission is "Educate through stories," and "to empower an underrepresented group of women."[4]Template:Rp

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 allow her continue to Canada.[2][9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Caroline Overington (14 January 2019). "Women pay heavy price for ditching Islam". The Australian (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 12 March 2019. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Phoebe Loomes (17 January 2019). "Ex-Muslim activist says renouncing Islam more difficult for women, invited constant sexual harassment". (News Corp Australia). Retrieved 12 March 2019. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Template:Cite episode
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Warraq, Ibn (2020). Leaving the Allah Delusion Behind: Atheism and Freethought in Islam. Berlin Schiler. ISBN 978-3899302561. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tim Hanlon (14 January 2019). "Former Muslim reveals she lives in fear of her life and has been called a 'sl*t'". Daily Star. Retrieved 11 July 2019. 
  6. "Laïcité Inch'allah". Fuuse. September 18, 2019. 
  7. Template:IMDb title
  8. "Celebrating Dissent: Neither Allah nor Master by Nadia El Fani". 1 September 2019. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Greg Brown (11 January 2019). "Secret women's network led the charge to help Rahaf Mohammed al". The Australian. Retrieved 12 March 2019. 

External links

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