WOMEN'S RIGHTS

02.13.16 7:46 AM ET

Banned in Pakistan: A Muslim Porn Star’s Sexual Crusade

Pakistani-American adult film star Nadia Ali is famous for wearing a hijab in her porn films. She says she’s challenging how the veil suppresses women’s sexuality.

A woman enters. Donning a hijab, she prepares and serves dinner for her turbaned husband. She appears subservient, but when the man isn’t looking, swipes his car keys, slips on a pair of high heels, sneaks out the door of their posh mansion, and speeds off. When she returns, the enraged man grabs her by the neck and drags her into the house. She pleads with him not to use “the stones” to torture her, so he opts for beating her with a switch. The woman screams, “I’m sorry! I did something for you,” but he doesn’t relent. He begins to get aroused by the pain he’s inflicting, and before you know it, the veil is lifted and we’re in the midst of a full-fledged porn scene.

Welcome to Women of the Middle East, a controversial adult film that comes with the tagline, “They may look suppressed, but given an opportunity to express themselves freely, their wild, untamable natural sexuality is released. This may just be what was in bin Laden’s porn collection, experience it for yourself.”

The veiled woman is played by Nadia Ali, a 24-year-old porn star and first-generation American from Pakistan. She’s been in the adult industry for just a year, but doesn’t mind pushing religious boundaries in the name of XXX entertainment. Oh, and she’s also a practicing Muslim.

Ali is often filmed wearing her hijab—and little else—while engaged in various hardcore sexual activities. Hijabs, or veils worn by many Muslim women to cover their bodies in the presence of males outside of their immediate family, are deeply rooted in Islamic culture and religion. Tied to the Quranic concept of female modesty, they’re also viewed by detractors as a way to subjugate and silence women. For Ali, donning a hijab in porn is empowerment. Determined to break down the barriers of this age-old taboo, she doesn’t think of her work as anti-hijab porn, but in a culture where it is conceivable for a cleric to ban women from touching bananas and cucumbers due to their phallic resemblance, she hopes to inspire change.

“I’ve been told, ‘you’re not a Muslim, you’re a disgrace to Pakistan, Pakistan won’t accept you,’ but I do come from a Middle Eastern background and I am Muslim, not the way my parents are, but by practice,” Ali tells the Daily Beast. “My sister covers her head, she’s modest, married, and has kids. My mom covers her head and prays five times a day, I pray two times a day but I’m still a practicing Muslim.”

According to Ali, one can be a practicing Muslim and a porn star. Aware of the potential conflict, she felt any consequences she might face over her choices would be worth it in the long-term. And since homosexuality is technically illegal in Pakistan, which is trying its damnedest to ban online porn altogether, she intends to film plenty of girl-on-girl action this year, too.

How does your family feel about your career in porn?

All my family members know I do porn since it’s gone viral. I’ve hit a lot of numbers and it’s become a huge thing in Pakistan.

Do you still have family in Pakistan? And does this affect them?

I’m definitely not welcome back into the society of Pakistan, but when it comes to my cousins and blood cousins, they are still cool with me. They aren’t okay with what I’m doing but they’re still cool with me. They have no complaints but might wish I’d never done it. Some of my family from Pakistan came to America on scholarships for their expertise and genius minds and I’m over here being an American choosing a different route, and that disappoints them.

Why do you wear the hijab in your scenes?

Growing up I’d hear rumors like, “That girl’s a slut, don’t let the scarf fool you.” I kept those scenarios in mind. If a Hijabi were to be horny and wanting to fuck how would she fuck? I bring that to life on camera and people get mad about it because they want to keep it modest.

Do you wear the hijab to increase publicity?

I have brown eyes and brunette hair. If I didn’t wear my cultural stuff and picked a name like “Sally” then I might get famous, but it wouldn’t be interesting. But I do come from a Middle Eastern background, I have the gowns, I celebrate the culture, and speak the language. Coming from an Islamic background and doing this, that’s a taboo. The people are forbidden to see those things.

Is there another aspect to it, a bigger message you want to get across?

I am doing porn as a Pakistani woman for the liberal movement, bringing women in a scarf or a head wrap to the camera. Now it’s no longer behind closed doors. I don’t bring religion into porn. I’ve asked directors to take the word "Muslim" out of porn titles before. For me it’s about the Pakistani culture, not the religion. This year I plan to do a lot of girl-on-girl and solo scenes to show the world that Middle Eastern girls of Pakistani descent really do get horny. Since they are so forbidden to fuck, I want to show how they fuck girls and masturbate. I’m going to bring that to life.

Has your Pakistani heritage or culture influenced your sexuality?

It has influenced my sexuality. Growing up, my dad disciplined me to be the smartest, brightest kid, but I was told guys can get away with things and girls can’t. Then it was seeing my sister’s first marriage—how she had to play the submissive even after he broke her heart so many times, and she still had to be a good wife and good daughter.

Nadia Ali.

Kelly Madison Media

Nadia Ali.

So your sister’s lifestyle wasn’t for you?

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Me, I’ve never been married and have dated out of my race. I wanted to break barriers. I can be submissive depending on the situation but I am very dominant and powerful. I don’t like to let guys get away with shit. I’m not your typical Middle Eastern girl.

Last year, Lebanese-American porn star Mia Khalifa received death threats for wearing a hijab in some of her movies. Are you worried about that?

I have received death threats too and I either ignore it or I give a positive kind of response to it. We need to calm it down and be nice to these people. We shouldn’t trigger them, but also don’t be afraid to be bold in your opinions, but also be kind. Don’t react to negative things and life will be more peaceful.

I’d heard somewhere that you were banned from Pakistan for doing porn, is that true?

If I were to set foot in Pakistan and people were to recognize me there’d be consequences and I’d rather not take my chances. Being banned won’t stop me from talking.

Now that you are rapidly gaining media attention, what are your goals?

It’s more than porn, it’s more than sexuality. Doing porn was a breakthrough in how women should be able to masturbate; women should be able to do these things. I want to be a voice for women in the world. I am all about the women’s movement and want to help other women take a stand. I also support my fellow men that are part of the positive movement, but I’m against sexual double standards. Being in America, I can be a voice for Islamic women—someone has to be. Even if I have to hit the headline news over and over again in a negative way, then let it be. It needs to be heard, and I am glad I have done these things. Women, you need to be strong and build your own empire, no matter how long it takes. Pass that strength onto your next generation; stick up for your sons and daughters. You don’t need a man to start a revolution.