Key Points:

The chartered accountant in the yellow hijab likes exploding myths about Muslims.

Did you know, she says, that a ground for divorce for women in Islam is lack of sexual fulfilment? That this has been so since the seventh century?

No? Well, it's true, says Anjum Rahman. So how can that other myth be true, she asks, the one about Islam condoning female genital mutilation when this takes away pleasure for the woman?

How did we get on to this subject? Actually, Rahman brought it up. She sits upright but relaxed on the couch in her brick and tile home in one of Hamilton's brick and tile streets and says people would like to ask these questions but often don't. She would rather they did.

The mother of two girls is keen to break down stereotypes about Muslims, and Muslim women in particular.

Rahman is known, and becoming more so, for her outspoken views on her religion, her clothing, her politics. There's a feminist tucked beneath the scarf. It wasn't always this way, though there was always a rebel inside the Indian-born 40-year-old with the strong Kiwi accent. She spent a good part of her life being different and trying not to be.

A few years ago she made the decision to be herself. Just five years ago, shortly after September 11 - which in retrospect was bad timing - she began wearing the hijab, the scarf that covers the head of Muslim women but not the face, and loose, colourful Indian clothing.

Today she is a Labour list candidate, writes regular letters to the editor and sometimes submits longer opinion pieces. The last one was in response to a mufti in Australia, Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali, who in a sermon compared women without headscarves to uncovered meat and suggested they invited rape.

Rahman's response was swift and clear: Crimes of sexual violence are a man's problem. It does not matter how women dress. Completely covered women have been sexually abused, as have scantily dressed women, as have women in the safety of their own homes. The opinion piece was published in Australia, her first to go "international".

A week on, Rahman is telling me about the role of a mufti. A mufti, she says - and points out again that al-Hilali is not a mufti of New Zealand - is like a legal scholar who makes judgments on Islamic law and jurisprudence.

Mufti is the Arabic word that means someone can issue a fatwa (a legal opinion or ruling). You can't have everyone giving out legal rulings so a mufti has a certain amount of knowledge or training.

So, I ask, when al-Hilali spoke was he speaking on behalf of the Muslim community? No, no, she says, and he was certainly not speaking on behalfof anyone in New Zealand.

"As far as I'm concerned,'cause it's not like the priesthood or anything like that, all he is doing is giving his understanding or interpretation of how he sees things, right?

"Because on the same issue - on any one issue, say, for example, contraception - there is such a wide range of fatwas, the scholars differ greatly, scholars over time, scholars geographically. So if a scholar issues a fatwa, you take that and then you compare it with what other scholars have said on similar situations, and you go back in time, and you look at the reasoning."

And fatwas change over time. This has happened with smoking. Thirty years ago the fatwa on smoking was that it was okay. Within the past 10 years, with new information, the fatwa is that smoking is wrong. Not everyone follows it.

But it shows that Islamic jurisprudence is fluid, changing the same way any legal system does.

As for al-Hilali, well, what he gave was not a fatwa, "he was just giving a sermon and he said what I think are very silly things, basically very wrong. But it was just a speech by a guy."

RAHMAN grew up in an ordinary Muslim family used to Bollywood movies and Indian music. Her father, a scientist, got a job in Hamilton and she came here when she was 5. Her parents loved it and the family stayed. She played netball at school and loves the Black Caps. But she always felt different.

Her family "pushed the basics" of Islam, like prayer and fasting, but she was never forced to wear a headscarf. She thinks she did not adopt the scarf for so long because she did not have the confidence.

"I guess you get to an age where you're ready to say, 'Okay, I'll do what I want, I don't care what the rest of the world thinks."'

She remembers her father telling her when she was about 13, and not wanting to believe him, that she would always be different.

"He said, 'You know, you can do what you like, you can dress like them, you can eat like them, you can talk like them, but you'll never be one of them.' I used to say, 'Well, what does he know?' but he was just trying to say, 'You are different, you can't change that, you may as well, you know, be different'."

She reckons she is not quite Indian and not quite Kiwi. Neither here nor there.

"I call myself cultureless, in the sense that culture is the traditions and the customs that we develop so that we know how to relate to each other and so that we feel comfortable with each other."

Actually, in some ways it's liberating being cultureless. She does not feel bound by customs. If an Indian tells her "this is how we do something", she says, "that's fine, you do it that way," but it doesn't apply to her unless she can see a benefit.

Similarly with the Kiwi culture. She feels very much at home but she won't go out to a pub and get drunk. That is not part of who she is.

Wearing the hijab is. She even goes swimming at the beach in it. She cracks up at our astonishment. Heads turn, so she prefers to seek out quiet beaches. But neither is she bothered any more.

She wears the hijab primarily because the Koran says so. It is an act of worship, part of her faith. She will defend others who wear the burqa, a flowing garment which covers the face, leaving only the eyes, but it is not for her.

There are secondary reasons too, around issues of identity and modesty. She does not want men ogling her, she says bluntly.

"I don't want to be on show. You know, I have what every other woman has and I don't need to display it and I don't want to be looked at like that, I don't like it. If other people do, well good for them, but I don't and I think that's a valid choice to make."

She does not feel oppressed by making that choice. It would be oppressive if it restricted her from doing something and she knows women who have not been able to find jobs because they wear a scarf.

People sometimes say: "Why don't they just take it off?" And she will tell them: "No, because that would legitimise discrimination."

I tell her she doesn't seem to be at all oppressed and she laughs, but sounds a little surprised when I say she has been described as "lippy".

Part of her motivation for political activism is about creating an environment where people realise they have to know others before they judge them, she says.

Rahman is laughing again. The funniest people, she says, are the ones who assume you don't have a brain under the scarf, or the ones who assume you can't speak English and speak really slowly (she slows her voice down). She tells her daughter that if anyone says that to you, just go, "Oh, can't you speak English properly?"

Rahman's words are strong, yet life is not always easy. She refuses to discuss her marriage. At times she feels overloaded, wearied by the negative things said about her religion. Sometimes - often - she feels helpless and depressed.

When the London bombings happened, "I was like, 'Oh my God'. There are days where you just, particularly around then, I just felt I can't face the world and if I didn't have a job I wouldn't have left the house for a week."

She has had her share of taunts out in the streets of Hamilton too. A few months ago she was walking innocently along and "some idiot" told her it was 35 miles to the nearest airport. Despite the demure appearance, she's not perfect. Sometimes she ends up yelling at people, even swearing. Swearing?

"Yes," she giggles. "I'm just not patient at all. I tend to turn around and use the foulest language I know, which is really not good. It's against my religion ... "