Monday, October 24, 2016

Sisterhood: Support the plight of Women who aren't given a choice regarding Hijab

The following is a guest post by Yasmine:

Yasmine (@ConfessionsExMu) is an Arab-Canadian university educator who has recently written a memoir entitled ‘Some of my Best Friends are Jewish, and other confessions of an ExMuslim’. In it she describes how, even though she was born and raised in North America, she endured the same traumas that are familiar to Muslims across the planet. As a child, she was beaten for not memorizing the Quran. As a teenager, she was forced into a marriage to a member of Al Qaeda (after he was bailed out of prison by Osama bin Laden himself). And as an adult, she wore a niqab, and lived in a home/prison with paper covering all the windows. Yet, somehow, with nothing but a high school diploma and a baby in tow, she got out. Despite the dark themes, Yasmine’s message is one of hope to her fellow ExMuslims. Find Yasmine on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr.

Earlier this year Yasmine was also a guest on the Polite Conversations Podcast. You can listen to our chat here: 


At a conference for Women in Secularism recently, I was honoured and privileged to spend three days with some kick ass feminists from around the world.  Maryam NamazieBonya Ahmed, and Sarah Haider were there (amongst many others) to represent those of us with Muslim backgrounds. 
A commonly repeated frustration during the panel discussions and questions, most notably by an anonymous Saudi male, was this notion that we need Western feminists to reach out and support our sisters in MENA (Middle East North Africa).
Maryam Namazie outlined the absolutely heart-wrenching situation for women in Iran—a situation that gets zero traction from the same media outlets that flooded our news feeds with condemnation of the Burkini Ban.  Why are we so outraged when women are told what to wear in France, but we ignore the same situation in Saudi, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, etc? Why are the women in France more valuable than the women in MENA? Where is the outrage? Where are our allies?
Source: Getty Images
We will fight for your freedom to wear what you want…but not if you’re in the Muslim world

As if the universe had heard our pleas, a few days later we met Nazi Paikidze. She is the US Chess Grandmaster who refused to wear the hijab when competing in Iran. A Western feminist was finally standing up for the forgotten and ignored women in the Muslim world. She exhibited, what Asra Nomani calls, ‘moral courage’, pushing back in the face of an oppressive system and saying NO. She certainly didn’t need to. She could have easily thrown on a scarf, whatever… she could just throw it off a few days later.  But she chose to support the plight of women who cannot just throw it off. 
And what did she get for it? Condemnation. She was smeared as an anti-Muslim bigot, told to mind her own business, told to respect other people’s culture…the ludicrous onslaught of criticism continued.

Even prominent feminists in the Muslim world, like Mona Eltahawy, would prefer that non-Muslim women ‘shut up’ about the issue.


Did white people in America shut up about Civil Rights? How about the ending of apartheid in South Africa? Did that happen because non-Black, non-South Africans decided to ‘shut up’? How about feminism in the West? Was that achieved because the men all agreed to shut up? 

Asking your allies, who are in a position to help support your cause, to 'shut up' has to be the most nonsensical, counterproductive assertion ever.


Not all of us are this divisive though, many women see us all as sisters, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Western feminist allies, please, do not be bullied into 'shutting up' because of a few narrow-minded comments. Identity Politics will only divide us, and divided we fall. 

Let us all unite: men, women, western, eastern, I don’t care who you are.  I don’t care what your skin colour is or what your ethnicity is. If we agree on the same humanist values of equality, fairness, justice, respect, and rights for *all* women across the planet, then take my hand. Join me and the millions like me who are thankful for your support. 

In the triage of Women’s issues: being assaulted, fined, and imprisoned for not adhering to a dress code mandated by your government is paramount. Tweet your support of #MyStealthyFreedom, #NoHijabDay, and #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen. 

As Maryam Namazie said in the conference: Women’s Rights are universal.

If you do not agree with that statement, that’s your prerogative. Don’t support us. But, please just get out of our way. Do not hinder our progress by silencing us or by bullying our allies into retreating from supporting us.


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