Aya Haidar – Feminist

I was born in the States, grew up in London (via Saudi Arabia), French educated, speaking five languages, in a Muslim household, to Lebanese parents and later marrying an Irishman.


London is my home and i feel blessed to have been raised in such a diverse melting pot, that i never felt as an outsider. Within my close group of friends at school we counted over 20 different nationalities and over 15 dialects between us. My parents maintained firm Arab Muslim customs at home, where we spoke Arabic, ate typically Lebanese food and adhered to Muslim traditions.

I started fasting at the age of 8, under no pressure from my family. It was rather a curiosity for me which i adapted to and actually looked forward to year on year. Myself and other Muslim classmates would hang out in the school library during lunch and have the best time!

My mother ensured we grew up with an open and balanced view of religion. She was happy to answer any questions we may have had, and encouraged us to attend friend’s Bar/BatMitzvahs as well as midnight mass at our local church every Christmas. Small introductions but important ones nonetheless as she felt it was important to understand by learning about other religions, as our primary teaching in the Qoran.

Another really strong influence in my life is my grandmother. I would spend most afternoons with her and almost every weekend in her company. She just turned 98 earlier this year and is still a beacon of morality and knowledge. She still fasts, bends down on her knees to pray and has the most beautifully respectful, progressive, and informed outlook on Islam and her practice. She performed her first Hajj back way before airplanes first took flight, so learning about her life and religion and how she sees it progress and shift within societies is always fascinating to me.

My late father taught me all i need to know about morality and understanding. From a very young age he taught me about respect. I remember once referring to my mum as ‘just a housewife’, he was quick to correct me and explain to me that the role of a mother and housewife is the most noble of jobs. It is the ultimate selfless act to nurture and care for those you love and that my mother works harder and more tirelessly than anyone else he knows. Just because she doest earn a wage for it doesnt mean it isnt work. I only got to understand the true meaning of his words when i became a mother myself. He also always made sure my sister and i ¬†understood that education should always take first priority. He always told us that you can lose anything in this world, from the clothes on your back to the roof above your head , but nobody can take away your education from you. My father was a very wise man, the ultimate feminist in my eyes.