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Muslim feminists have their work cut out for them

  • 29 May 2017


Nobody likes Muslim feminism. I know this because I used to have a t-shirt that read 'this is what a radical Muslim feminist looks like' and I got my fair share of raised eyebrows and challenging questions.

The most obvious group that thinks Muslim feminism is oxymoronic are those who we've started to call the 'alt-right'. They subscribe to Huntington's 'clash of civilisations' and hate Islam with the proverbial fervour of Shakespeare's thousand suns.

This group salivates over images of burqa-clad Muslim women scuttling in fear from their bearded oppressors. It is not that they want to free Muslim women so much as it is they don't want the Brown Man ruling. This is why the Imperialist Lord Cromer spoke of liberating Egyptian women from Islam, while opposing British women's suffrage back home.

Scratch an alt-right Islamophobe and often a misogynist emerges. They hate feminism almost as much as they hate Islam. This is because theirs is a fear-based worldview in which the White Man's dominance is under constant threat. Feminism (along with Black Lives Matter, multiculturalism, LGBT-rights activism and a host of other lefty concerns) tells them they have had it too good for too long and it's time to spread the power and resources around a bit.

Of course, many alt-right subscribers have very little real power and authority, the poor schlubs are cannon-fodder to sustain the lifestyles of the 1 per cent, surviving off the pipe-dream that they could possibly, one day, join their ranks.

Then, there are the secular lefties, many of whom wrinkle their noses in distaste at the idea of Muslim-flavoured feminism. To be fair, they don't seem to like Christian or other religious feminists much either. In their eyes, all religions are inherently patriarchal, oppressive to women, and should be jettisoned in order to pursue emancipation and equality. There is little recognition that it is possible for believers to pursue a feminist agenda through respectful engagement with religious resources.

They infantilise Muslim women by denying their religious beliefs could be helpful, and accuse them of being brainwashed by the patriarchy. Prominent secularist and ex-Muslim, Maryam Namazie, for example, has called for forced un-veiling of Muslim women, arguing: 'It is about protecting human beings sometimes even from themselves.'

Of course, there are plenty of Muslims opposed to Muslim feminism too. Sometimes they misunderstand the concept, believing it is a Western plot to destroy Islam through corruption of family life; a criticism