London-based Hip Hop duo Poetic Pilgrimage say their rap career isn’t at odds with their Muslim faith.
In a new interview with Al Arabiya, the two women, Muneera Williams and Sukina Owen-Douglas, address a “dichotomy” between expectations about their music and the reality of their own lives within their faith.
“Some days I’d walk down the street in my hijab with my headphones on listening to the Wu-Tang Clan,” a 33-year old Sukina Owen-Douglas told the site. “I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and laugh. Someone would see me and probably think I can’t speak English properly, but I’m actually listening to rap.”
Owen-Douglas adds that they purposefully defy conventions.
“They think we’ll do some poetry, or sing, or be really soft,” she says. “But I used to rap really hard, and I think it was because of these stereotypes…I wasn’t overcompensating, but we were trying to be like, we can rap just as hard as the guys. We’re not these kind of fragile, petalled flowers.”
Muneera Williams offers that the stereotypes Poetic Pilgrimage combat by making music are specific to their lives as Muslim women.
“It’s really because we’re women, or we’re doing music,” Williams says. “There’s this idea [in Islam that] our voices are beauty, and we shouldn’t show our beauty.”
Both hijab-wearing performers seem clear that they defy expectations with their rap, particularly to non-Muslim listeners.
“We get expectations of what we should be,” Williams offers. “People are always like, you should write a song about the Quran. They want us to be their poster girl and not say anything against [Muslims].”
Owen-Douglas sums up the duo’s unique identity with a comment about her own style and cultural starting point.
“My national dress isn’t a Shalwar Kameez – it’s H&M,” she says. “Some people think the…west and Islam can’t meet. But we can’t ever have that stance because that’s who we are.”
Read the full interview here and check out one of Poetic Pilgrimage’s songs below.