Stories of Men

Our Voices is now sponsored by the RYA

Islamophobia in the UK: Our Voices with Aisha

This episode of Our Voices focuses on Aisha and her experiences of Islamophobia in the UK. She talks about the racial trauma she has suffered due to looking different and what led her to create ‘Skater Uktis’.

First experiences of racism

Aisha was born and raised in the Middle East but she came to London initially to study. She talks about how comfortable and safe her previous environment had been in comparison to living in the UK. It was being in the UK which first made her feel different to others: “The college I studied in was very white. I was also the only person in my entire college wearing a headscarf. So I stood out like a sore thumb.” 

Aisha’s new surroundings became particularly challenging when she witnessed a group of white males at her college who were publicly mocking her religion and her headscarf. This was one of the few times when Aisha witnessed the bitter realities of Islamophobia in the UK. Aisha’s friend stood up to defend the religion saying

How dare you? How can you say such awful things about Islam? You don’t know anything about it.

But the males continued insulting the religion until Aisha’s friend revealed that she too was a Muslim, she just happened not to wear the headscarf. This fact finally quietened the boys. It was clear that they had made certain assumptions about Islam and its followers. Aisha asks “What’s the education system teaching these people for them to have such skewed and narrow-minded views towards others?”

The challenges of trying to fit in

Facing prejudice in this way by people who have never spoken to her, or most likely any other practising Muslim, has caused Aisha to feel “hurt and rejected”. She believes that many of the misconceptions people have about Muslims are based on a misrepresentative media narrative. This has caused her to ask herself questions about assimilation:

“To what extent do we water down ourselves and our faith to be accepted, while also holding on to our faith… race, or culture? The thing that makes us who we are.”

Even by asking such questions, it is clear that people have made Aisha feel that it is her responsibility to combat anti-Muslim bigotry by somehow becoming less obviously Muslim. This should not be a requirement in modern, liberal society.

Nevertheless, Aisha openly speaks about the challenges of being a non-white person in the UK:

“Seeing the racism, seeing the Islamophobia – a lot of us have to go the extra mile to be accepted. We have to be extra friendly and extra nice, which isn’t fair, but it’s the reality because otherwise, people will think the worst of you.”

It is clear that the UK stacks the deck against those who do not obviously conform to the majority race or religion. When you sense that both the government and the media are operating against you. It must only intensify the racial trauma that being from a minority background in the UK brings.

A Terrifying Encounter

Since her experience of bigotry at college, Aisha has sadly witnessed 100s of incidents of a similar nature. One particularly hurtful and frightening example of this occurred while she was going door-to-door working for Unicef. She was trying to raise awareness of a refugee crisis but it was at a time. This was during which Islamophobia in the UK was at its height. In her own words:

This white woman opened her door and it was quite a posh house. She opened the door, saw me and screamed at me, saying get out, get out, and started effing and blinding saying, you get out before I call the police.”

Aisha was naturally shocked at receiving such a reception while attempting to raise awareness of an extremely important cause. She found herself running away from the house in terror. Reflecting afterwards on the experience, she says:

“If I was a white woman without a headscarf standing in front of her, things would have been absolutely different. And that’s the sad reality.”

The experience Aisha suffered had a significant psychological impact. Facing the threat of the police based purely on how she looked made her feel “criminalised and demonised” and caused racial trauma. Such was the trauma she experienced that she needed to take time away from work.

“I never felt so unwanted and unsafe in a country before and I’ve travelled to quite a few countries in my life…this is what Islamophobia in the UK is doing.” 

Fighting back against prejudiced preconceptions

Fortunately, Aisha has found a way to battle discrimination against Muslim women via creating Skater Uktis. This is a global organisation of female Muslim skateboarders.

“Our two main goals are to develop ourselves spiritually in our religion as well as to develop ourselves as skateboarders”.

Naturally, Islam and skateboarding are not two things that a stereotypical view of the religion would associate. In this way, Skater Uktis challenges the preconceptions so many people in the UK have about Muslims, particularly Muslim women, by actively showing Muslim women in sports. “We wanted Muslim women to be seen in every scene. We wanted to show that Islam doesn’t limit us, it empowers us to be practising whilst doing the things we love.”

Combating Islamophobia in the UK

As well as challenging stereotypical attitudes of Islam, the organisation has also challenged traditional perceptions of skateboarding. It is often assumed that this is an activity for white males but Skater Uktis shows that Muslim women around the world have a passion for this activity too. The organisation currently exists across 17 different countries, including Australia, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Through the organisation, Aisha believes that she is subtly challenging Islamophobia simply by showing the reality of the Muslim experience. Skater Uktis demonstrates that it’s not necessary for a Muslim woman to water themselves down for acceptance. This is a unique way to fight Islamophobia in the UK and worldwide. Quite the reverse.

By showing the variety of interests a Muslim female can have and by showing how those interests can cross typical cultural and gender divides, Skater Uktis acts as a shining example of how much more we can unite by showing our true selves.

Only in the most insecure and backward-looking of societies should individuals feel unsafe due to not belonging to a majority race or religion. Aisha’s experiences help us to recognise the true, multidimensional human being behind the outside appearance. Being willing to engage with people on a level beyond the superficial is what helps to provide understanding, tolerance and respect. Surely Aisha, just like the rest of us, is entitled to this.

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.