THE intense media coverage of Islamic extremism has left many British Muslims feeling stigmatised and stereotyped.

In Bradford, the Muslim Women's Council is concerned about the negative impact this is having on the reputation and welfare of ordinary Muslim’s across the district.

Now the organisation is providing an opportunity for women from different backgrounds - academics, professionals, mothers and students - to unite and seek possible solutions to some of the most important questions facing British Muslims today.

Islamic extremism and its media portrayal is the focus of Daughters of Eve, a two-day conference organised by Muslim Women's Council (MWC), bringing together women from around the UK.

The first Daughters of Eve conference, in 2011, was attended by more than 300 women from across the UK.

This year's keynote speaker is Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, lawyer, politician and parliamentarian. Other speakers are Aina Khan, Islamic family law specialist; Ustaad Ahtsham Ali, National Muslim Advisor to the Prison Service; Dr Shuruq Naguib, a lecturer at Lancaster University, and Rabiha Hannan, co-founder of New Horizons in British Islam.

Bana Gora, chief executive of Muslim Women's Council, said the conference would give women a "united voice" at a time when British Muslims are facing challenges.

"We will provide a safe environment for women - Muslim and non-Muslim - to come together and discuss and debate issues of importance," she said.

The aim is for Daughters of Eve to become an annual conference, each with a topical theme. This year's event is called Human Rights, Human Wrongs; Muslim Women Creating a New Narrative.

'We will create a space for discussion on the historical rise of extremism and combatting extremism in our communities, as well as critically thinking about areas that need reform in Islamic Family Law," said Bana.

"The media reporting of Islamic extremism and the CTS (Counter-Terrorism and Security) Bill makes Muslims feel like they're under a microscope.

"We are sick and tired of the overwhelming expectation for Muslims to apologise for actions of ISIS and other terrorist incidents. As normal, working Muslims in Britain this has nothing to do with us, yet Muslims are stigmatised. We're trying to gauge from women their feelings about this."

Added Bana: "What we are hearing from (Muslim) women is that issues they're concerned about are issues most women are concerned about - education, housing, poverty, lack of employment. We shouldn't feel responsible or apologetic each time there is a terrorist attack or a beheading.

"This conference allows women to look at potential solutions to protect themselves as Muslims in British society."

The conference will also provide the opportunity for women to discuss concerns about Islamic extremism and its effect on Muslim families and young people.

“As mothers and sisters, we need to protect our future generations from the toxic effects of extremism," said Bana.

Also under discussion will be women's concerns about being stigmatised because of their dress code. The MWC was recently involved in a focus group with Cambridge University looking at hate crime. A member who took part believes she has been singled out by other parents at her child's school, in a predominantly white village, because she wears a hijab.

"There have been six separate occasions when people have spoken to me about parking near the school - I park in the same place as other parents but I'm the only one stopped. A woman even filmed me walking with my children to my car. I'm convinced it's because I wear a hijab," she said.

"This is new for me; I'm 30 and have never encountered racism. In Bradford there are Asian communities and you feel safety in numbers. It's a great place to live.

"But as a Muslim woman, in some areas of Bradford, I'd be labelled because of how I dress. People are influenced by news stories that de-humanise the Muslim community and create a climate of fear and resentment.

"The hijab is something personal. It shouldn't be a political thing but it has become that."

Bana said there is a significant under-reporting of racial incidents affecting Muslim women.

"More women wear the hijab now, which is largely down to personal choice and solidarity, but the dress code is very visual and attracts negative attention. This has worsened in recent years, with wider global events such as Syria. We're expected to carry Islam as our identity and be responsible for everything that goes with it," she said.

"It's similar to how Irish people were treated in the 1970s because of the IRA."

She added: “Muslims form 4.8 per cent of the population in England and Wales. The population has increased from 1.55 million in 2001 to 2.71 million.

"Muslim women have a vital role to play in public and private life, their participation has been prominent throughout Islamic history and in the current context the role of British Muslim women has never been more important. Their influence within families and communities is key to positive social change.

"Muslims are the second largest faith based community in the UK. Over the past few decades the UK has seen major demographic, social and cultural changes with Muslims at the heart of critical debates and analysis with particular reference to mainland and global security; cohesion, participation and integration, marriage, immigration and educational and economic disadvantage, and have faced ongoing discrimination.

"In the media Bradford has become synonymous with everything that is negative about Islam and Muslims. But for those of us who live here, the Muslim pound and our professionalism and hard work has been crucial in sustaining this city. Bradford is a multi-ethnic city where the Muslim pound makes a significant contribution to the local economy."

The Daughters of Eve conference, organised in partnership with Bradford Council, will involve speakers, discussion panels and Q&A sessions. There will be a bazaar, beauty rooms, study workshops and an evening of entertainment from Poetic Pilgrimage, a hip hop duo of Muslim women who rap about feminism and Islam, with a three-course meal provided by Bradford restaurant Mylahore.

A Shariah Law roadshow on the Sunday afternoon, open to men and women, is led by law specialist Aina Khan who runs Register Our Marriage, calling for marriage law equality and raising awareness of women's rights in marriage and divorce.

"The conference will bring women together to share experiences and network. It's not often that women from across the UK have this opportunity," said Bana. "The 2011 conference was the first national conference for Muslim women in Bradford, and women attended from across the UK.

"We want to build on that, creating a narrative for women and a platform for debate. This is the kind of national networking event that usually takes place in the south, It’s time to showcase our city."

* Daughters of Eve is at the Mercure Bradford Bankfield Hotel, Bingley, on Saturday, May 2, and Sunday, May 3. For more information, or to run a stall at the bazaar, call (01274) 223230 or visit