Muslim women’s voices and our bodies are reduced to proxy battlefields
February 4, 2018 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Muslim Women, Caught Between Islamophobes and ‘Our Men’ Muslim feminist, Mona Eltahawy writes about the difficulty Muslims face in confronting sexual assault and abuse allegations in the community in the face of internal patriarchy and external Islamophobia. Since this op-ed, Tariq Ramadan has been charged with rape. [Previously]
posted by cendawanita (15 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Because of how Malaysian Muslims are plugged into this particular part of the global 'ummah', this enraging nonsense have had its own local theatre - a 'reformist' NGO displayed all the classic male liberal attitudes in their insistence on defending him despite the updates in his case.
posted by cendawanita at 9:43 PM on February 4


Too often, when Muslim women speak out, some in our “community” accuse us of “making our men look bad” and of giving ammunition to right-wing Islamophobes.

But they get it wrong. It is the harassers and assaulters who make us “look bad,” not the women who have every right to expose crimes against them.


The article is very clear that it is Ramadan’s defenders invoking “our men,” not the author. It’s a pretty typical strategy of apologists. The article (go RTFA, it’s short and well-written) draws the incredibly precise line these women need to walk between entrenched sexism and gender violence in one side and racism and Islamophobia on the other. And that’s before facing the pervasive disbelief and maybeing that accompany every public announcement of sexual assault in the world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 AM on February 5 [13 favorites]


I first came across both Ms Eltahawy and Mr Ramadan via their highly visible spat over France's burqa ban, which she mentions in the article. She's not a fan of the full veil and it was alarmingly easy for him to take the moral high ground by essentially calling her a race traitor.

Here's a roundup of the #DearSister tweets she initiated last year. Also, via her website (well worth exploring) an unrelated but deeply relevant debate on al Jazeera: Is #MeToo a West-only movement?, featuring thoughtful commentary on the complicated issues this raises not only for Muslim feminists but for women of colour in general. (With Ranjana Kumari and Nana Darkoa Sekyiama as well as Eltahawy herself.)
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 10:27 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Ramadan is the Euro equivalent of one of those overly tan American megachurch pastors. His family have made a lot of money off of preaching at others and they respond to all criticism with the same tires old "we're brig persecuted for our religion, send money and supplies" speech Joel Osteen would. And he particularly catered to that kind of religious lady groupie type that these sleezy religious leaders love. It wouldn't surprise me if dozens more women end up coming forward because the French police didn't prosecute this without solid evidence.

Dear Muslim women, as someone born Catholic in the 1970s in a traditional Catholic culture good luck with this. You may find the only way to get true respect is to leave your church en masse though.
posted by fshgrl at 2:02 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


well, as a sunni muslim, and therefore theoretically not subject to any central authority, i kinda like exploring my reformist options. and i feel like it's not quite the useful advice as it is, because for many muslim communities, the legal impact of these attitudes are real, and matters very little whether someone like me 'officially' 'leaves' the faith or not, as the state is involved very much in labelling me a muslim and adjudicating accordingly, thanks to (in my case) british colonial legacy that introduced the concept of apostasy and blasphemy into local law.
posted by cendawanita at 7:26 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Mona Eltahawy is amazing, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak in person, and she is full of fire and incredibly smart. I love that she is a proud Muslim feminist, identified as both. She lives in the US and I urge anyone to hear her speak if she happens to be in your city (she does the university speakers circuit).
posted by honey badger at 8:58 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


well, as a sunni muslim, and therefore theoretically not subject to any central authority, i kinda like exploring my reformist options. and i feel like it's not quite the useful advice as it is, because for many muslim communities, the legal impact of these attitudes are real, and matters very little whether someone like me 'officially' 'leaves' the faith or not, as the state is involved very much in labelling me a muslim and adjudicating accordingly, thanks to (in my case) british colonial legacy that introduced the concept of apostasy and blasphemy into local law.

My original reply was deleted, I don't know why? But the issue here is not oppression by the state. It's men using that as an excuse to oppress women and other groups, take their rights, treat them badly and then deny responsibility and demand support despite their bad behavior because "we are your heroes, we stand up for you to oppressors".

Tribalism isn't good for women. I'm Irish Catholic, I know that very well through personal experience and through friends and family. Women in the north on both sides were kept down for years and abused in service to their menfolk because those men could not be questioned by the community at large due to their standing as defenders or speakers. I live in the US now and I see it with evangelicals and all the pot growers around here too. Larry Nassar didn't get away with abusing all those kids because US gymnastics was a failing, hated organization. Quite the opposite. It's the same thing the world over. And sometimes all women can do is leave the group.
posted by fshgrl at 3:02 PM on February 6


The only women so far who've been actively able to 'leave' either has the means to literally leave the country or has enough class privilege to live 'underground'. State enables the patriarchy. It's not the same situation where the law is secular, where your religious affiliation is very much a community matter and maybe of concern to the state in terms of census and service provision. in many places such matters where sexual abuse is very much a pertinent area worth adjudicating has somehow fallen into family law and thus Islamic law. And I can't even talk about pursuing reformist solutions in the open, because again, they're often labeled unIslamic and with it, state punishment for being deviant.

Tribalism isn't good, but your solution not only denies the practical reality as it is right now, but what about women who still very much wants to remain Muslim? I am appreciative of what you're trying to say, but ppl are literally also living in fear of their life.
posted by cendawanita at 5:29 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


And look, even in non-institutionalised Muslim communities like in the west, it's still tone-deaf advice for those who wants to very much continue practicing as Muslims. And it's not like there already aren't an exodus, but yeah, let's just leave the women who aren't smart enough to follow behind.
posted by cendawanita at 5:33 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


The story and abuse of women took place in Europe. I understand what you are saying and that your circumstances are different but those women absolutely did and do have the option to leave their church if it refuses to support them. One of them was a convert, if you read the article.

And it's not tone deaf, it's an experience I lived through. My family and community went from very religious to not at all in one and a half generations. 5 or 6 of my uncle's and great uncle's were priests. My godfather was a priest. My grandmothers generation went to Mass every day and twice on Sundays. When my parents married everything my mother owned became my father's. Birth control and divorce were illegal until I was a teenager in my country. Women my age were sent to Magdalene laundries. Please don't tell me what I know about living in religious cultures. My siblings and I are pretty much athiests now and will never go back to the Church, same for 99% of our friends.
posted by fshgrl at 1:09 AM on February 7


Plus it's not advice, it's a statement of fact. Nuns tried to reform the Catholic church, they did. I went to a nun run school and they were liberal and educated women who wanted it badly. But in the end you might want to keep practicing but ultimately you might not be able to within the church as it exists. I'm happy to take the good parts from my 12 years of religious schooling and leave the bad behind.
posted by fshgrl at 1:14 AM on February 7


okay. i've mentioned already we have no central authority. i've mentioned already about exploring reformist options. i've also made this fpp, but i'm the one who's not read the article?
posted by cendawanita at 1:17 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


do i have to include a primer on islam on every fpp subsequently, is that what i need to do from now?
posted by cendawanita at 1:19 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Muslim women rally around #mosquemetoo, a hashtag started by Eltahawy.

Muslim women are using #MosqueMeToo to share their experiences of sexual harassment during the Hajj pilgrimage and other religious settings.

Egyptian-American feminist and journalist Mona Eltahawy first talked about her experience of sexual assault during Hajj in 2013.

She is behind #MosqueMeToo.

Muslim men and women from around the world started using the hashtag yesterday and in less than 24 hours it was tweeted 2,000 times.

posted by cendawanita at 5:13 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


My Journey to Define Libyan Feminism by Samah Elbelazi

At that time, my understanding of feminism was associated with women’s liberation outside the circle of culture and religion. It scared me since I am who I am because of my culture, my community, and my religion. This feminism has my respect, but it is alien and does not call for my needs. For a long time, I resisted feminist discourse or, to be clear, white western feminism. Its discussion about equality, oppression, and marginalization is different from mine. I knew that as a Muslim woman, I had no room in this discourse.

Until one day, things started to change.

I had a conversation with my dissertation chair about the theoretical framework of my dissertation. He started the conversation by saying: Go and read about feminism, since you are writing about Muslim Libyan women’s experiences. My immediate answer was, no. I do not think this theory is for Muslim women. It represents non-Muslim ideologies that I do not see welcomed in my country. Not because they are bad, it is just because they are alien.

My advisor looked at me and said: who told you to use a western non-Muslim lens when studying a Muslim population? Go and find your own feminism. Feminism is not monolithic or rigid. Go to your culture, your holy book – call this feminism whatever you want to call it, but next time when we meet, I will ask you about your definition and understanding of your own feminism.

posted by cendawanita at 6:02 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


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