Perverted Islamic Feminism

Perverted Islamic Feminism

By Nonie Darwish

AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish explains why we won’t see any uprising of Muslim women calling for basic human rights:


Many in the West are hopeful that Islam will undergo a reformation at the hands of Muslim women. That it is just a matter of time before Muslim women will wise up, figure out what must be done, and stand together in unity to march for their equality and human rights. That’s what happened with non-Muslim feminists in the West, so why not in the Middle East?

 The answer is complicated, but unlike Western feminists, who had no legal obstacles and who became media and popular culture darlings, Muslim women are facing an impossible task: legal, religious, constitutional and cultural obstacles. Muslim women not only reject a Western-style feminist rebellion, ut also never took any opportunity, even during the Arab Spring, to carry signs stating “End Sharia’s oppression of Women,” or “equal rights under the law for women.”

It is puzzling and inexplicable for the West to see Muslim women defending Sharia and Islam and even taking pride in wearing the Islamic head cover. Muslim women are not ashamed, and do not feel that they must explain their to silence regarding the rape of non-Muslim women and women of a different sects of Islam by Muslim men.

The West will understand the horrific culture of Islam regarding women if they apply principles of psychology, such as the Stockholm syndrome and PTSD.

For 1400 years, Islam has used women against each other, and that is another reason why Muslim women have not united to start a feminist movement.

An example of Islam’s use of women against other women happened recently in the Islamic State (ISIS), which created an all-female brigade for the purpose of apprehending civilian women who do not abide by Islamic law. The duties of that brigade are similar to the all-male virtue police in Saudi Arabia, but in the ISIS case, it is women who will arrest and apprehend other women. The all-female force has arrested women and schoolgirls, kept them locked up for hours, and even subjected some to whipping and humiliation for reasons such as showing hair from under a thin veil that does not meet proper Islamic standards.

Even within the Muslim family, distrust is prevalent because it is often the mothers and sisters who help and cover up for the men who commit honor killing of a woman within the family.

A feminist movement requires a degree of rebelliousness, but Islam closed that door of any hope for rebellion for women when the Quran condemned the rebellious woman by name. Islam gives the right to a husband to beat his rebellious wife, prevent her from leaving the house, and end her financial support. Muslim women are also encouraged and rewarded for shunning a rebellious woman.

It is the ultimate state of abuse when the slave is forbidden from rebelling or speaking out against a cruel master. A feminist movement within Islam without the approval of men is thus out of the question. All doors and windows are closed shut for women in Islam, under penalty of humiliation, beating and even death.

Over the centuries, Muslim women learned to cope with this horrific legal, religious and cultural burden placed on them, by adapting. In such an atmosphere, right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right, and the only way for a woman to be safe is to comply and express her pride in the Islamic bondage and learned helplessness.

Thus women in the Muslim world had no choice but develop survival tools and convoluted coping mechanisms similar to the Stockholm syndrome. They learned “if they can’t beat them join them,” and they had to improvise. So for Muslim women to achieve a certain level of power and respect, they learned never to defy their oppression, but to embrace it. They developed a warped and twisted sense of self, in which the self must be sacrificed for the sake of appearing obedient and proud to be a Muslim: a pride in bondage and high tolerance to oppression, not only on themselves but also towards other women.

Even today, educated Muslim women who consider themselves feminists support and defend Islam and sharia. Muslim feminist Linda Sarsour said: “I am a feminist and the reason I am a feminist is because I am a Muslim.”

Western institutions of higher learning have many eloquent and veiled academic Muslim feminists who defend Islam and Sharia. Over the years, Muslim women learned that defending Islam and Sharia would be very rewarding. Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations always rewarded loyal Muslim women with prestigious positions in American academic institutions to teach Middle East studies or Islamic studies. Muslim nations especially like to hire Muslim women and also Christian Arabs to defend Islam in the West.

Many in the West believe that Islam will reform at the hands of women, but I disagree, because an Islamic reformation requires rebellion by both men and women, and preferably a miracle from God.

AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish is the author “The Devil We Don’t Know” and president of “Former Muslims United,” a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

EX Muslims: We Envision A World Where Every Person Is Free To Follow Their Conscience.

EX Muslims: We Envision A World Where Every Person Is Free To Follow Their Conscience.

We think that the persecution and discrimination against those that leave Islam is only found in Muslim-majority countries and that our laws and attitudes protect them in the West.  Not so.

Is this not supposed to be one of the foundational principles of Western Society?

UN 25th September 2012

UN 25th September 2012

The like of CAIR go on and on about human rights but I guess this only applies to Muslims that stay within the fold.  But is it any wonder when we have Obama making statements like this?  What about the future must not belong those that oppress and discriminate against others?

I believe we need to support organisations  and individuals like Ex Muslims of North America.  In many ways they are at the forefront of the fight against Islam in our various nations and they can probably do more good for the cause of freedom in this regard than we can.

Apostates refused service at Wegmans bakery – fear of invoking offense led to discrimination, says Ex-Muslims of North America

June 20, 2016

Wegmans, a chain of 89 grocery stores, refused to bake and decorate a cake for a private celebration for those who have left the faith of Islam.

The request included a picture of the Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) name and logo, with a caption of “Congratulations on 3 years!”, but was refused by an associate from the Fairfax branch of the popular chain, stating that the request was “offensive”.

EXMNA representatives called Wegmans bakery to clarify, and were refused again, with no explanation on why the logo, name, and caption was considered offensive.

After conferring with management, the Wegman’s employee stated that her boss(es) would not change their stance on the issue. The associate further added that – the store had Muslim workers, “my employees may not know what this stands for, Ex-Muslims of North America, and I don’t have enough time and people to educate them on what it is,” and although they were not sure if the employees would be offended, they “can’t put them in that situation”.

“I’m shocked by the denial,” said Muhammad Syed, the president of EXMNA. “There is nothing about our name or logo that can be considered offensive to any reasonable individual. There are some, however, who take our very existence as an affront to their faith, and to them I have only this to say: We have every right to exist and be proud of who we are, and we won’t back down.”

EXMNA representatives reached out to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the constitutional separation of state and church, who agreed that the actions of Wegmans employees were unlawful and discriminatory. “Refusing to provide services to a group on the basis of their religion or lack of a religion is a clear violation of federal, state, and local civil rights laws—one we hope the company will move quickly to correct,” said FFRF constitutional attorney Andrew L. Seidel.
On behalf of EXMNA, FFRF is asking Wegmans to fulfill the original order without charge and educate its employees on their duty to serve patrons without discrimination.

“Ex-Muslims around the world are persecuted and threatened, even by their own family and friends,” Syed continued. “We assumed that here, in the United States, we could go about our business without disruption. Unfortunately, even respectable businesses would rather turn away a persecuted group than risk offence.”


Ex-Muslims of North America is a 501 ( c)(3) registered non-profit, dedicated to advocating for acceptance of religious dissent, promoting secular values, and reducing discrimination faced by those who leave Islam.

“Ex-Muslims around the world are persecuted and threatened, even by their own family and friends,” Syed continued. “We assumed that here, in the United States, we could go about our business without disruption. Unfortunately, even respectable businesses would rather turn away a persecuted group than risk offence.”

Originally posted 2016-07-01 21:02:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

On “I can’t condemn FGM because of my colonialist past”

On “I can’t condemn FGM because of my colonialist past”

A critical discussion of what drives the Regressive Left, and how progressive allies can help

Edit: Check out my follow-up piece, ‘In Defense of the Term Regressive Left‘, inspired by dismissive reactions to this one.

My dear liberal, feminist, anti-racist and otherwise progressive allies—

I want to talk about what we’ve been calling the ‘regressive left’, and invite you to a more critical humanistic attitude.

For an example one of the most egregious manifestations of the regressive left, let me quote Sarah Peace from her (very good) piece ‘Has it become racist to condemn FGM’ (if reading the full piece please be warned that it contains a graphic photograph and descriptions of FGM and violence done to women):


If You Convert You Die

If You Convert You Die

Thursday, August 13, 2009

By Nonie Darwish

Very few people in the West know what is going on inside the Muslim world and what it portends for them. The fact is that through the dominant media, such as CNN, Americans are subjected to much of the same misinformation with regard to Islam that I grew up with inside the Muslim world. The result is that Americans are in the dark attempting to formulate their strategy of how to defend themselves against the threat of terror, domestic jihad and Sharia. While Americans get ridiculed for being “Islamophobes,” the Muslim world itself is undergoing a huge and painful awakening.

For instance, a prominent Egyptian lawyer and women’s rights activist, Nagla Al Imam, recently announced her conversion to Christianity in Cairo, Egypt. The announcement brought shock waves in and beyond Egypt. This is perhaps the first case ever of its kind, where a Muslim woman, who is also a Sharia expert, has openly challenged Islamic apostasy laws from within the Muslim world.
Ms. Al Imam’s incredible courage was on display in an internet chat room, where she announced that she is not afraid, will stand up for the human rights of apostates and refuses to leave her homeland, Egypt. This was immediately followed by attacks and calls (‘fatwas’) for death of the 36 year-old graduate of Al Azhar Islamic University.
Egyptian media not only reported the threat but also participated in the attacks. Ms. Al Imam was literally entrapped by a TV station ‘Al Mihwar’ with the pretext of inviting her for an interview. Upon arrival to the TV studio she was told the show she was to appear on was cancelled. She was then taken forcibly to a room where she was held against her will for hours inside the studio. She was assaulted, threatened and insulted by several people. She was able to escape, and went to her internet chat room telling the world what happened and said she will demand protection from the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Such action is common not only against apostates but anyone who deviates from the dictates of Islam or demands reform. Many Muslim journalists, intellectuals and feminists who consider themselves Muslims but are critical of Sharia are often intimidated, threatened or even killed for the slightest independent views using the apostasy card to keep them quiet.
Another recent case in Egypt is that of a brilliant intellectual by the name of Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany. He was recently accused of apostasy even though he denied it on TV and insisted he is still a Muslim. But fatwas of death were immediately issued against him. Mr. El Qemany recently wrote the following:
“I was granted the State Award for Social Sciences, on June 25th 2009. The hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.
The following parties have participated in the statements of atonement:
  1. Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of atonement on July 10, 2009.
  2. The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of atonement on July 10, 2009.
  3. The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the atonement, and were presented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009.
  4. The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today.
  5. Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.
  6. The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me.
  7. A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my atonement as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009.
  8. Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009.
  9. The Sheiks of more than 5000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.
Due to the above, I call upon the conscience of all humanity in the free world to come to me and my children’s rescue by providing moral support and the condemnation and denunciation of the radical thinking with quick solutions to save us from the danger that is luring around us. This is a distress call to all bodies and individuals. A call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.
Signed: Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany- Researcher.”
In spite of the cover up, this is perhaps the first time in the history of Islam that Muslims finally have access to the truth about their own religion, thanks to the Internet and satellite dishes (invented by infidels). There are daily news reports of heart-broken Muslims who say they cannot believe what is written in Muslim scriptures and say that Muslims have been living under the greatest lie in human history. Others simply deny and say that it can’t be so. While Saudi Arabia is spending billions to Islamize the West, many Muslim prisoners of Islamic submission are dying or leaving the religion quietly.
The relatively few number of Muslims who dare to convert to Christianity do it in extreme secrecy. That is because the penalty for leaving Islam is death in all schools of Sharia, both Sunni and Shiite. Those who wrote Sharia centuries ago knew that keeping Muslims in total submission would be very difficult to maintain, and thus they established barbaric laws condemning Muslims to death for exercising their basic human rights to choose their own religion. Sharia never entrusted its enforcement only to the formal legal system. Islam promises heavenly rewards to individual Muslims who take the law into their own hands. Sharia also states that the killers of apostates and adulterers are not murderers and therefore are not to be punished. That is why, for Islam to achieve 100% compliance to Sharia enforcement, Muslim individuals are encouraged to take matters into their own hands.
The end result is a chaotic society where everything happens behind closed doors but at a very heavy price to interpersonal relationships. Fear and distrust of others exists in all Muslim societies. Muslims are not just distrustful of the West, but they are distrustful of one another. In Muslim society, people are often more afraid of their neighbors and family members than of the police. Thus, we see husbands or fathers pressured to apply Sharia by killing an adulterous wife or daughter, or a perfect stranger participate in the killing of an apostate in the public square. Very few get arrested or punished for such crimes across the Muslim world. The ingenious Sharia uses vigilante street justice to bring about Islamic submission. That is why civil unrest and honor crimes go wherever Islam goes. The power of Islam comes from turning Muslim against Muslim — with a reward in heaven.
The above two examples of Islamic tyranny are not unique to Egypt, but exist in all Muslim countries. Islamic tyranny is encapsulated in a law that some Muslims claim to be their religious right in America. Many American citizens who left Islam are living in constant fear from Islamist individuals and groups right here, in the land of the free and home of the brave. I am one of them.
On ‘There is no compulsion in religion’

On ‘There is no compulsion in religion’

no compulsion in religion

compulsionThere is a huge misconception that I am progressively angrier about, largely because of the way it is wielded. It concerns 2:256, the famous Qur’anic verse that states ‘There is no compulsion in religion’, which is often quoted in part* and taken as evidence that Islam is tolerant of non-Muslims.

The rest of the verse continues with something like ‘truth is clear from error’, followed with something about how those who reject evil and believe in God are guided with a firm handhold and God can see everything you do. Here is a link to a Qur’an with three searchable English translations to compare the wording of the full verse, whose Arabic I have had memorized from when I was a child since it is a seminal verse often-discussed in sermons.


I don’t oppose the hijab because I was forced; I oppose the hijab because it sucks

I don’t oppose the hijab because I was forced; I oppose the hijab because it sucks

because it sucks

That’s right.

This is a post about a common misapprehension when discussing the hijab, one that has arisen a thousand and one times (or so it seems at the end of this long, long week, since I launched the Ex-Hijabi Fashion Photo Journal). The misapprehension is this:

Reasons the hijab may be oppressive to women:

1. If there is a lack of choice.

And that’s it. That’s the list.

To be fair, some people who operate under that misapprehension will sometimes say something about possible physical detriment too, vitamin D deficiency and rickets, which does happen to some hijabis, but that’s still consistent with thinking that any damage is all incidental. That is, people seem to think that there is nothing wrong with the hijab as such unless it is forced upon people. That it becomes an unsavory thing, a matter of detriment only insofar as it is actively imposed. You know, maybe a little bit like someone forcefeeding you good food–there is nothing traumatizing about eating good food, but when you’re forcefed against your will and choosing then it suddenly becomes detrimental.

But this bypasses the possibility that there may be something toxic about the ideology of the hijab itself. To me, the list is a lot bigger and more complex–more like a web, of the possible detrimental influences the hijab can pose in various contexts.

Disclaimer: I’m talking about one modesty doctrine in particular in this post. There are many forms of Muslim belief, practice, and interpretation, and not all women who wear the hijab subscribe to this ideology or have it imposed upon them. Some of them do it for non-modesty reasons entirely. Thus this post is not about every possible form or motivation of the hijab. This post is about the reality of the mainstream, traditional modesty doctrines in large portions of the Muslim world.

And maybe you’ve heard or even expressed some of these sentiments before yourself, sentiments that bolster the above position:

  • “It’s just a piece of cloth. It’s harmless unless you’re forced into it.”
  • “Let’s just focus on the actual cause of this: the coercive actions of men upon women. I completely understand how damaging and horrible that is.”
  • “The only reason you’re so opposed to the hijab is that it was forced upon you.”
  • “Let’s not hate the wrong things. It’s the actions that were the problem, not the ideas! It’s better to be chaste than unchaste, to be decent than indecent.”
  • “It’s not hijab in Islam that’s the problem; those ideas about women’s bodies aren’t actually in the Qur’an and are just the bad interpretations of men. It’s not the REAL Islam”
  • “The hijab is as normative as a regular jeans and t-shirt; they are both pieces of cloth.”

The problem is that for far too many people the hijab is not just a piece of cloth. It is a normative doctrine that claims moral rightness, that speaks to what bodies mean and how they should be viewed and treated and displayed. There are REASONS given for why women’s bodies need to be covered up, and most of these reasons boil down to viewing people’s bodies as objects of discord (fitnah) that are imperfect (awrah) and that are a temptation to others, whose visibility is a matter of honor and shame. Subscribing to an ideology that views your body as a shame and denigration in those ways can be incredibly psychologically damaging even without the coercion. It can also be ultimately objectifying, as I argue HERE. Critiquing the hijab does not boil down to objecting to women being coerced into it. It’s about the value system and what it stands for. And plenty of women who were never pressured into wearing their hijabs in any way end up taking issue with it for completely valid reasons that are other than being victimized by a tyrant father. Don’t silence their experiences by making the entire problem about choice or lack thereof.

Now. Let’s get two things out of the way:

1. Yes, coercion can and often does pose psychological detriment.

Assuming coercion in the broad sense, to include shaming and pressuring as well as physical coercion. And no one is suggesting otherwise. That does NOT mean that it is the only possible thing that causes psychological detriment. I am saying that it is possible for a hijabi to NOT be coerced but to still suffer psychological detriment purely due to the demeaning nature of the modesty doctrine she chose to subscribe to.

2. Yes, the doctrine in question is incorrect, not least as demonstrated by sexual harassment rates in Muslim-majority countries and the prevalent existence of counterexamples where it is more than possible for women to walk around with bare skin without being irresistible temptations; ie, the modesty doctrines in question simply rest upon false grounds.

But the fact that these reasons are false does not suddenly mean that they are not still actively used and taught as ideology, does NOT mean that the doctrines don’t exist, aren’t normative, and aren’t active motivators of people’s actions-whether you acknowledge that they are truly ‘Islamic’ or not. That is irrelevant. It doesn’t render them without damage. It doesn’t erase their detriment if you call them by another label.

And YES, these are normative doctrines because they have moral content that other modes of dress do not. There is no doctrine or creed surrounding wearing jeans and a t-shirt that hashes them in terms of moral incumbency.

This is why it’s relevant to many who have voluntarily chosen to subscribe to the ideology of the hijab. Yes, one can be shamed and pressured into bodily conduct harm by purely being coercive. And the thing that is being coerced does not itself necessarily have to be a matter of shame and self-worth.  But it certainly can be. And the ideology behind the hijab as presented here *inherently entails* concepts of bodily shame and denigration by definition. That is to say, it is not only about conduct, about putting on or taking off pieces of clothing. It’s about putting on pieces of clothing in service of the goal of covering up one’s body, because it is the body that is the problem, and the clothing is there only as a means of hiding it. And when women’s bodies are viewed as problematic, that is where the oppression ensues. 

Structural oppression stems from dehumanizing ideology. It never exist in vacuum.

And here I will get a little bit personal. I’ve been told that people ‘completely understand’ why I find it necessary to speak about the hijab so much, because I was coerced into it, of course! Of course!!! To them I say: I don’t know what you think you understand about me, but not even nearly half the damage for me has come from the fact that I was forced to dress in certain ways. Much of it came from the fact that the reasons for that coercion shamed my very existence and reduced me to a dehumanized object of discord. You do not get to deny basic human psychology that has proven conclusively that this sort of shaming that seeks to convince people that they are inferior can lead to psychological damage as severe as PTSD at times. If you insist that my damage came from only the coercion then you do NOT understand, will NOT respect what I say about an experience that I have had and that you have not and thus you canNOT effectively conceive of, and that you care more about abstract ideological defense than the actual reality of what it is for women. You are committing the ‘No True Muslim’ fallacy, along with the common generalization errors, the detriment of which I lay out HERE. 

And if you think you know because of who you know, I’ll remind you that what you see externally does not map onto internal lived experience. You can’t SEE everything. You clearly can’t see what this experience is like if you are denying half of it and contradicting the lived experiences of women, the testimonies they have about their bodies and lives.

In line with that, I should stress that I am not at all suggesting that all women who wear the hijab, whether by conviction or coercion or a complex combination of the two, must necessarily or do suffer any sort of psychological damage whatsoever. Again, clearly not all women who wear the hijab wear it for the reasons stated, or subscribe to the ideology I’ve presented–there is significant variance. Plenty of women find it to be an emotionally fulfilling experience, and that is all well and good. But I’m not talking about those other more benign possibilities. I am rather suggesting that we take the damaging potential of the hijab as ideology seriously, and to listen to how it has actually affected people’s lives. I’ve known women who have had no choice regarding the hijab and have not viewed themselves to have been any the worse for it,and who am I to say any differently? On the other hand, I also know women who HAVE suffered detriment due to the ideology of the hijab and they are being silenced and that is oppressive. The point of this post is to oppose to the assumption there is nothing problematic in the doctrine itself, that it cannot at all pose psychological detriment to anybody by virtue of its ideological content.

As for the “let’s just focus on the important thing: coercive actions” bit, I reject the idea, too, that a focus on actions presumes a lack of focus on the cultural ideology that motivates and inspires those actions. We focus on ideology precisely in service of affecting people’s actions, because actions are motivated by justification and ideology. I reject any presumption that certain modes of bodily conduct for women are ‘better’ than others. That is normative. Hell, that is the definition of normative, and by placing a matter of bodily autonomy into a category of moral superiority, you are pitting rights against perceived ‘duties’ and are treading unstable ground. To be perfectly clear: I AM rejecting the idea of chastity or modesty as an absolute moral good. I AM focusing on the hijab itself instead of the coercion, and I AM doing it deliberately instead of out of confused hurt resentment because someone made me wear the hijab therefore I must always irrationally hate it, oh noes. I’m not a confused, traumatized victim who has unjustified but understandable sentimetns, like someone who has an irrational phobia, or like I’m too stupid to differentiate between hating the attacker and hating the tool used. Seriously?

No, I am objecting to the ideology behind the hijab because it offensive and demeaning to women AS SUCH. I am rejecting chastity and modesty as useful or correct norms. That is PRECISELY what I intend to be doing. I am not chaste and I do not want to be, and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not ‘decent’ and I do not want to be, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not rejecting these attributes because modesty is forced upon women. I’m rejecting these attitudes out of ideological conviction, because they are nonsense, and gender theory acknowledges them to be so completely independently of any structural coercion.

That being said, I oppose attacking and demeaning those who do wear hijab, even if I think the ideology behind the hijab is a toxic and detrimental thing. (See my essay ‘Don’t Judge a Woman by her Cover for more on why it’s never okay to judge an individual for their clothing choices).

In short: my ideological opposition to the values of the hijab are precisely because clothing and baring of skin are morally neutral matters, and one’s self-worth or value or morality does not rest in them. That does not mean that I think that it is ‘better’ if people do not wear the hijab, that baring your head or skin is somehow morally superior in turn. It means that I think that clothing should not be a matter of ‘better’ or ‘worse’ to begin with, and that is where the problem lies. The objection is at the meta level: it’s not that it is morally wrong to wear or not wear certain things; it is morally wrong to place moral value and human worth in whether one wears or does not wear certain things. It is morally wrong to devalue human bodies as such unless one dresses in a certain way. Because it leads to coercion, mistreatment, and power inequalities, yes, but it also because it is a fundamentally flawed notion in itself.  Upholding the values of bodily autonomy means rejecting particular personal modes of bodily conduct as normatively required, not as discrete personal choices. I hope I don’t need to spell out that this also means rejecting a normative claim that women ought not to wear the hijab or value modesty for themselves. Everyone has the perfect right to think what they will and do what they will about their own bodies.

That being said, the presence of free choice, of bodily autonomy, does not render all ideologies of bodily conduct equal.


Women’s Rights vs Anti- Muslim Bigotry: An Unfortunate Tension

Women’s Rights vs Anti- Muslim Bigotry: An Unfortunate Tension

Today the Arab American News begrudgingly reports, “We hate to do this but…investigators say that the Muslim girl lied about getting attacked by Trump supporters on a NYC subway. She was out drinking with friends and made up the story to ‘distract her angry father.’ She ran away from home a few days later but was found–and charged for falsifying a police report.”

HECK, I think, this is that moment… that moment when someone hides behind plausible, culturally legitimized anti-Muslim bigotry to shield themselves from the obscured/denied epidemic of patriarchal control and misogynistic abuse endemic to Muslim communities…

What manifest tension in the lives of us from Muslim backgrounds such an incident embodies. For the sobering, pervasive phenomenon of anti-Muslim bigotry is not only acknowledged, but legitimized and heralded above all other concerns where we are from, while other human rights abuses and bigotries continue to be silenced. And where  do those stuck in the middle find themselves? With no support and acknowledgement from either side, it seems.

Her name is Yasmin Seweid. She told a plausible lie to cover a sin that ought not be sin in a free and liberal world–partying with friends–but that is the gravest of sin in her own community.

And of course, though she told this lie for fear of what her father would do to her if he knew the truth (and how many lies have we all told to escape the wrath of the honor-crazed men in our families?), her community has nothing but hate and blame for her for doing something so foolhardy to discredit a minority population already at risk– with no thought or consideration to the minority within the minority at much more consistent and severe risk, because the numbers of women controlled and abused cannot compare to those threatened on subways for their hijabbecause the lives and bodies of Muslim women mean shit all and only the integrity of the outward-facing Muslims and their image matters.

And so silenced pandemics of control and abuse continue to flourish in Muslim America, Bravo.

And sure enough, “Don’t read the comments” holds true here as ever, for the comments are full of this young woman’s community members full of censure and blame, advocating she be imprisoned, denigrating personal conduct absolutely irrelevant to her lie, in general blaming her for the violent actions of others towards Muslims. All, apparently, on the shoulders of a teenager who made a surely foolhardy and very likely unethical choice in how she chose to deal with the predicament too many women from conservative patriarchies face– yet her constraints, rather than being a salve, seem only to further condemn her among her Muslim community:

One comment reads “It’s morons like her who make Muslims look bad! You wanted to go behind your parents back staying out, drinking with a guy you knew they wouldn’t approve of so you decide to play the victim card and pull a disappearing act?!? Muslims in America have enough to deal with without a spoiled little brat like you making up false hate crimes. You deserve to go to jail!

Another commenter writes, “That’s not the full story. She was not out drinking with friends. She was having sexual relations with her boyfriend, and her parents disapproved. She had to make up the story of abuse to gain the sympathy of her parents. Due to her promiscuous behaviour, her parents shaved her hair as punishment. I guess Hijabis are in reality Hoejabis.”

Never mind her right as an adult to self-determination, never mind whether she wanted to wear hijab or not, never mind her bodily autonomy, her fear, her concern for her safety NEVER mind–never mind the violation to her body so casually just described–slutshaming, denigrating her for her personal associations, advocating incarceration and violence towards a woman in this position is the default assumption it seems, and surely her transgrasseion merits holding her responsible for the potential violence and bigotry deliberately committed by others.

And yet another: “If anything happens to my mother or my elderly women neighbors becausw [sic] of a hate crime idea given by any of this disgraceful girls wearing the hijab, locally and out of state, makr [sic] my words i swear to God I will find each one of you and i will seriously smack you across the face.

How fucked up is this? Instead of conmmensurate accountability for injustice against someone falsely accused, the blame launched against Yasmin today holds her personally accountable for the unrelated actions of others– not the wolves to blame, the actual predators and those who breed them, but the person who cried wolf in a moment of selfishness or fear or lapse of integrity–while at the same time denying the constraints underlying her actions (notice ‘spoiled brat’ and ‘making it up’?) and demonizing her for citing them to begin with–surely her immodest conduct is the disgrace here, and her story of a controlling family is a fabricated lie. This is how she is treated for daring to dissent to her community’s norms. This seems to be the greater sin, far greater than the lie, where these people are concerned.

If only I had the eloquence, the words, to emphasize how the above comments are nothing anomalous, but the mainstream we hear, we heard growing up, bandied in our communities and mosques and social settings. ‘Hojabi’. Slut-shaming. Blatant denial and disingenuous rationalization of manifest sexism and inequality. Violence and cruelty hidden and obscured and dressed in the comfortable trappings of respectable conservatism.

I don’t know what her full story is, heck, and I surely would not have behaved in the same way, but heck do I have sympathy for Yasmin Seweid today.

Can you imagine how much fear she had to have had to tell a lie like this and then run away from home rather than face her father? I have attempted to run away from home as a teenager, alone, bereft, nigh penniless, to escape the prison of my home life and my father’s violent wrath at the perceived transgression of my immodesty and there have been few so terrifying circumstances in my life.

For neither the cold streets nor hell have fury like that of a particularly possessive Muslim father scorned.

I am tired of the pretense that there is no tension between the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry and the fight for the rights of women and LGBT folk and general dissenters in Muslim communities. It is simply untrue, and it s clear which is always given precedent. Especially when the sense of scale is so skewed. Legitimate human rights abuses toward Muslim women, eg the burkini ban, are so disproportionately focused on in comparison to a far more staggering scale of transgressions and abuses towards women in Muslim communities globally. The most urgent of causes are absolutely drowned out, and I am convinced it is unintentioned but not therefore any less of a problem.

Surely anti-Muslim bigotry is a sobering phenomenon steeped in prejudices that need to be fought– but too often this fight is embodied in a denial of other very real and pervasive forces of oppression, going so far as to justify and enable the grossest of human rights violations such as female genital mutilation, and to champion Muslim-brand purity culture in the form of ideological enabling and normalization of hijab— the very critical spirit towards conservatism and patriarchy, the very standards progressives hold for themselves, for women and queer folk here, seem to suddenly break down to waffling, fumbling tolerance for atrocity, packaged in terms less offensive and stark.


Every damn leftist thinkpiece claiming that the oppression of Muslim women is a lie or hijab is feminist or it’s a racist myth that homophobia is a thing in Islam or that non-Muslims are treated and viewed as equal in Islam embodies this tension.


If it is marginalization one cares about, it cannot be carried forth through such facile double standards. It is possible to defend a community against unwarranted hate and bigotry without burying all of its sins and painting its monsters as saints. Our families and home communities need not be perfect, sinless, free of our own deep bigotries and aggressions to warrant defense against unfounded attack. Enough.



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