“A lot of people love to doubt Muslims, especially Muslim women of colour. So we’re like, ‘forget their stage! we’re going to build our own stage’.”– Cadar Mohamud
Cadar Mohamud is clear about her vision for co-starting the digital sisterhood podcast. “It’s a love letter for the sisters,” she says, taking a reflective pause between each phrase as her co-founder, Muna Scekomar gives affirmative nods to everything she says. We are having a zoom video conversation on everything about the digital sisterhood podcast and the first thing that catches our attention is the strong chemistry between these two women. From a distance, one would assume that their relationship has been a long time coming. But it was shocking to discover that this is not the case. Cadar tells us that she has actually never met Muna in person. “Muna reached out to me in January this year,” she says. “When Muna came across my Instagram page, She was like,’ hey! I think we could do something together. Would you be interested?“
Before that day, Cadar had already created The Digital Sisterhood space. However, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do with it. Her personal Instagram page is a space where she shares nice cinematic photographs of her activities in her local masjid and her community, so she was very excited when Muna reached out to her. “I was like, hell yeah! I’m into this. Muna set up a google meeting and we hit it off at our very first meeting. We had the same perspectives; the same outlook on life and we were on the same page with the way that we wanted to amplify Muslim women’s voices.”
“When people asked me ‘oh! how are you breaking stereotypes?’, I was like, ‘I don’t know what you guys are talking about?“– Muna Scekomar
While Cadar lives in Canada, Muna works from Egypt. Muna tells us that she had been praying to meet like-minded people with whom she shared the same vision. The chemistry between them, which happens to be the backbone of the digital sisterhood podcast is proof that her prayers were answered. With a social media following of almost 8000 in less than a year and a top 20 rating on the Apple podcast, these women have taken the world of Muslim women by storm, building a loyal worldwide fanbase of women who tune in regularly to listen to their raw, transparent and vulnerability-invoking conversations, giving us a candid insight into the Muslim woman’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
When asked what it was like growing up, Cadar tells us that she grew up in a Muslim household but she didn’t start learning about Islam until she was twenty years old. In her words, “My identity as a Muslim woman was really cemented when I started learning about Islam privately“. Muna, on the other hand, grew up in Syria, before moving with her family to the UAE. Her father was an Islamic scholar and she attended private Islamic schools. “Islam always made sense to me,” she tells us. “I could always go back to Islam as the sane part of my life when everything else didn’t make sense to me” However when she went to college and had her own time and space, she discovered that all her life, she had been practising Islam out of habit and not out of consciousness. “I felt like I had to rechoose Islam“. she admits.
Muna experienced a culture shock when she moved to the west. She found the “unislamic” cultures strange “When people asked me ‘oh! how are you breaking stereotypes?’, I was like, ‘I don’t know what you guys are talking about?” A lot of people were surprised that she was doing “normal” everyday things as a hijabi, like playing sports. Whereas, she grew up in an environment where women could do anything and everything they wanted to do with the hijab just being a part of their everyday lives. “So when it came to media and video production, a lot of people found me strange. But they were the ones making me feel strange. To me, everything I was doing was just normal.“
When we ask how they would describe each other, Muna says Cadar is hilarious, driven and caring. Cadar, on the other hand, describes Muna as introspective, boisterous and understanding. Each of them brings very unique qualities to the show and according to Muna, “Collaborating with Cadar on this project has been the most amazing journey that I’ve ever been on” The ability to be able to connect with people around the globe thrills her. “People come to the studio, feeling safe enough to tell their stories, sharing things that they have never told anybody,” she says. She feels proud that they have been able to build this safe space for Muslim women, which neither gets boring nor looks like a routine. “The digital sisterhood podcast is never a priority to me” Muna continues. “I feel like the moment it becomes a priority, it begins to fall apart.” Salah and worship are her greatest priorities in life. And she believes that everything else falls into place when she puts God first.
For Cadar, the idea behind the digital sisterhood podcast came from a place where she was feeling really sad and lonely. Sisterhood was one of the things that drew her closer to Islam in the first place. She found this really fascinating and against the widespread testimony that women are not capable of loving one another. “Every day, when I go into the studio, talking and listening to stories, I am grateful for the blessing of sisterhood. And I believe that the digital sisterhood has experienced this level of growth because we’re constantly grateful.”
In September 2021, the digital sisterhood team introduced a novel, innovative, life-changing conversation-starter game called Vibe-check into the Muslim community. Created to help Muslims find true love, the game has 8 categories, 135 prompts. The idea behind the game came at a time when Muna and Cadar had no idea of how to fund the podcast. The light-bulb moment, however, came when Cadar found herself in a clubhouse conversation where people shared horror stories about their experiences on matchmaking apps. Shocked that women were finding themselves in vulnerable situations, she knew that she wanted to do something to fix the problem. “So I went on the stage and told everyone that I would create a google doc of questions they could ask potential spouses, which would protect them from finding themselves in vulnerable situations with shady men” Cadar explains. She created and designed a list of questions that was ten pages long. “When I released it, I got 4000 downloads in three days. And it was completely free“. She didn’t feel comfortable putting a price on it because she felt that it was a necessity. The number of downloads made her realise that there was a very high demand for it. “And that was the day I realised that ‘hey! what if the digital sisterhood created a card game out of this?” she revealed.
The digital sisterhood team spent six months working on the card game project, which was intended for people who want to get to know each other for marriage. “The vibe check was the first idea that Cadar shared with me,” Muna tells us “And the podcast was just a side project“. Cadar is proud of what the team has achieved. She tells us that there’s a need for more black Muslim women to create things for our communities. “We have a lot of content out there, but nothing centralises us, our needs and what we’re looking for. And for me, I was like, ‘It’s time!’.”
The digital sisterhood team is currently working on building a community. They plan to organise retreats and conferences. They also plan to do a world tour in which they get to connect with sisters from different parts of the world. “Our stories are universal,” says Cadar. “So we want to create an international community where we can have real talks and be inspired by one another“. She stresses that as Africans, black women inherited the art of storytelling from their ancestors, so the digital sisterhood is tapping into the incredible power of storytelling to change lives. “Nobody is allowing us to be on their own stage”, Cadar emphasises “A lot of people love to doubt Muslims, especially Muslim women of colour. So we’re like, ‘forget their stage! we’re going to build our own stage’. And our stage will compete with theirs until they realise that these people cannot be ignored!“
For Muna, the digital sisterhood is one of those projects in which she had hoped to conquer her perfectionism. She says that she has experienced a lot of growth by creating content and putting it out there and not minding whether it’s perfect or not. Their audience has definitely helped them to see the value in the work that they’re doing. “I see the digital sisterhood growing and having a base in every country; empowering. educating and connecting women worldwide and organising events such as summer camps for kids” says Muna
With so much to talk about, the conversation stretches for more than one hour. There are giggles and laughter in between, and words of encouragement shared amongst ourselves. “Don’t believe anybody that tells you you can’t do it,” Cadar says “Whether your face is darker, whether your skin is covered and whether or not you’re visibly Muslim, do not believe them! You belong in every space that you walk into, and you control your own narrative.” And as the conversation comes to an end, Muna shares a valuable piece of advice she once took from a friend; “Don’t see yourself through the lens of anybody else,” she says “But through the lens of God. Let other people say ‘no’ to you; don’t ever say ‘no’ to yourself.“
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