Meet The First British Female Muslim Hip Hop Duo – “Poetic Pilgrimage”


Who says faith and feminism don’t go together? Meet the first all-female hip hop Muslim duo who say they aren’t here to be poster girls for faith, but they are here to break down stereotypes. British women Muneera Williams and Sukina Owen-Douglas are collectively known as Poetic Pilgrimage. They converted to Islam 10 years ago and have been performing their duo for the same amount of time also.

They regularly tour and play shows and are well-used to criticism from both the Muslim and non-Muslim sectors of society. Not only are they defying cultural and religious beliefs which state music and women speaking in public is not appropriate, they are also taking on the mostly male-dominated music genre of hip hop. Their inspiration is Malcolm X, a revolutionary who was both hated and revered for his revolutionary ideas.

It’s a dichotomy both girls welcome as they believe in challenging the status quo.

The girls told the Telegraph in the UK that when most people see them, they don’t expect what comes out of their mouths.

“They think we’ll do some poetry, or sing, or be really soft. 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,” says Sukina.


The duo doesn’t falter under negativity, rather these days it makes them laugh when they hear comments like “I’ll pray for you sister” from other Muslim men.

“It’s really because we’re women, or we’re doing music,” said Muneera. “There’s this idea [in Islam that] our voices are beauty, and we shouldn’t show our beauty.”

Meanwhile Sukina’s husband is one of her biggest fans, and doesn’t allow other members of the Muslim community who urge him to keep his wife in line.

“He’s always like, have you heard my wife rap? That’s not beautification – she’s scaring people.”

“We get expectations of what we should be,” said Muneera. “People are always like, you should write a song about the Qu’ran. They want us to be their poster girl and not say anything against [Muslims].”

They seem to be willing ambassadors of breaking down barriers. They want to represent a new wave of Muslim women who don’t want to be confined to the way the media or even the West portrays them. It is something Progressive Magazine touches on in a recent article titled “Can Islam Be Compatible With Feminism?”


The writer says the first two things people think of when they hear the word “Muslim”, are terrorist attacks and the oppression of women. While this is definitely not a lie, given that fundamentalism is on the rise in many Arab regions, feminism has allowed some Muslim women a voice to express themselves and show a different perspective.

“Just as most Christians reject the murder of abortion doctors in their name, Muslims around the world would prefer not to be represented by violent fanatics,” writes Amitabh Pal. “We living in the United States need to recognize the complexity of Islam—and give reformers space—instead of tarring all Muslims with the same brush.”

The Poetic Pilgrimage duo are adding new colors to that paint palette not just by their music but also their appearance. They wear the veil out of respect for their beliefs, but their other fashion choices are more representative of millennial Muslims.

“My national dress isn’t a Shalwar Kameez – it’s H&M. Some people think the West is jaded. And the west and Islam can’t meet. But we can’t ever have that stance because that’s who we are,” said Sukina about their fashion choices.

“A big thing is how we express ourselves through our clothing. You come to Islam and you’re trying to figure it out you know.”


“People say the hijab is oppressive,” says Muneera. “But in lots of cultures covering your head has always been ennobling. It showed you can’t mess with this woman, she’s of a higher status.”

They don’t choose to ever wear a Niqab as they want to show their face and engage with fans.

The unique cultural positioning of Poetic Pilgrimage is something that is more needed in our societies globally. We need figures who are willing to challenge existing boundary lines in order to create broader definitions of “normal”.

“We represent everything that is difficult. We’re black Muslim women. When people see us dressed colorfully as Muslim women, white women smile at us. Maybe they’re not used to it and want to interact with us. But either way, people look at us and confront the prejudices they have. They think if they can be Muslim women and be fun and enjoy what they want, then I can be whatever I want.”

The girls were featured in a documentary made by Al Jazeera (below) who portray them as women challenging the cross over space of culture and religion.

“By inhabiting the intersection between cultures whose values on the surface seem so conflicting, Poetic Pilgrimage challenge a plethora of dearly held convictions from all sides of the cultural spectrum. Many Western feminists believe that promoting women’s rights from within an Islamic framework is a futile exercise, while in the eyes of some Muslims, female musicians are hell-bound.”

Al Jazeera also claims the girls’ initial doubts of becoming Britain’s first Muslim hip hop was appeased when they found out both Islam and hip hop “share a genesis as being the voice of the oppressed, which included historically progressive rights for women.”

“Sukina and Muneera continue to question and challenge ingrained attitudes and beliefs within the Muslim community, but also within themselves and Western society at large. Expressing these observations through rhymes, poems and songs is their way of making sense of the world, and as a side effect they are creating a bridge between two seemingly opposed camps.”

You can see more about the duo by watching this short documentary made by Al Jazeera on Muneera Williams and Sukina Owen-Douglas, aka Poetic Pilgrimage:

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