Can you be an independent woman and a good Muslim?

Mehreen Baig

TV presenter Mehreen Baig wants to know if you can be an independent woman and a "good Muslim".

"Some people will say you can't be a strong woman because Islam is oppressive, others say you can," the former English teacher tells Newsbeat.

In a new programme called Islam, Women And Me, the 28-year-old hears from women who claim Islam is a feminist religion and others who believe it's inherently sexist.

"In a world where often Muslim women are spoken for and spoken about, it's good to speak to women first-hand," she says.

Mehreen says that growing up her family were not practising Muslims but they were strict - and before she raises kids she wants to know whether that was because of religion.

Image caption Mehreen Baig and Muslim feminist activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied

"I wasn't allowed to do a lot of things my friends were doing, things like going on school trips or sleepovers or wearing my school skirt.

"I never questioned if it was my religion or culture or just my parents, but as you get older you start to question things," she says.

"It may even be worse for girls growing up now, they hear so many things in the news about being a Muslim woman and being a British woman, almost like the two can't go hand-in-hand."

Mehreen, who appeared in the Bafta award winning Muslims Like Us, feels her religion "empowers me as a woman", but during the programme meets a woman who has left the faith.

"I found that conversation to be quite challenging - but it raised all the relevant questions, which set me off on my journey to find answers too."

Image caption Mehreen attends a Sharia Council to witness women trying to divorce their husbands

"The question I get asked a lot is 'how can you be part of a religion that is so sexist or inherently misogynistic?'

"It's really upsetting. Islam is a major part of my life and I am no way the Muslim representative of the world, but the way I have been brought up, I feel my faith empowers me as a woman."

She says she hopes the programme will reach out to other Muslim women but also educate non-Muslims.

"I could have created a show that was really fluffy and positive and showed loads of girls who wear a hijab and they're all really empowered. But that wouldn't have achieved anything."

You can watch, Islam, Women And Me on BBC One on 6 February at 10.45pm.

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