Samina Ali

I see my work as part of the global movement by Muslim women — a gender jihad — to undo patriarchal and, at times, misogynist readings of Islam in order to reclaim women’s God-given rights.

Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award

presenter, the Nobel Women’s Initiative 2017 International Conference





Samina Ali is one of the most perceptive voices in Muslim America. I taught her book in my class at Harvard University and the students were so moved by it that I followed up by inviting Samina to campus. She is a gifted lecturer who was able to reach the audience by taking complex ideas about faith and making them easily accessible. She touched the audience’s minds and hearts — and was invited back again on several occasions. She’s smart, insightful and speaks from the heart. Her message is one everyone needs to hear.
— Ali Asani. Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Literatures, Director, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University
A fierce speaker, writer, curator, and activist, Samina is a powerful voice for greater understanding across what are all too often the differences that divide us.
— Catherine M. King, Executive Producer Global Fund for Women
Muslim women are much spoken of, seldom heard from, unless in the almost obligatory television scenes of bereaved Palestinian mothers or veiled Afghani daughters. Perhaps no other group is so misunderstood. But this is changing. Witness the timely Madras on Rainy Days by Indian-American Muslim author Samina Ali ... She successfully pinpoints the critical issues facing her characters as they attempt to reconcile Islam with modernity.

Samina Ali is an award-winning author, curator, and popular speaker. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2004), was the winner of France’s prestigious Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award and a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction. Poets & Writers Magazine named it a Top Debut of the Year. The book, about a young woman’s arranged marriage and political awakening, was partly inspired by Samina’s real-life experience growing up bi-culturally in Hyderabad, India and St. Paul, Minnesota.  Samina is currently writing a nonfiction book that weaves her personal story with a passionate appeal for women’s equality and justice.

The recipient of fiction awards from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Samina has been featured in The Economist, The Guardian, Vogue, National Public Radio (NPR) and elsewhere. A regular contributor to The Huffington Post and Daily Beast, she has written for The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.  

Her wildly popular Tedx talk, “What Does the Qur’an Really Say about a Muslim Woman’s Hijab?” has close to 4 million views. Samina also curated the critically acclaimed global exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices, which presents a groundbreaking collection of thought pieces and artwork from contemporary Muslim women who are defining their own identities and, in the process, shattering pervasive stereotypes. She is also a co-founder of Daughters of Hajar, an American-Muslim feminist organization.

In a piece for The Huffington Post about the Muslima exhibit, Samina notes, “The notion that Muslim women need outside guidance in order to dress appropriately—and I dare any of you to say that to Ibithaj Muhammad’s face—is one of countless belittling attitudes about Muslim women that I hoped to challenge in the global exhibition I curated for Global Fund for Women....The extraordinary inner strength of Muslim women is exactly what I hope shines through in the work highlighted in Muslima. Because the truth is that what a woman chooses to wear or not to wear on the outside in no way reveals that inner strength.”

Samina has spoken extensively at a wide range of universities, from Harvard and Yale Universities to community colleges, as well as at other institutions worldwide, including as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department and a featured presenter at the Nobel Women’s Initiative 2017 International Conference.

She lives in California with her husband and two children.



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