The Kinder, Gentler Face of Islamophobia

Before I begin, I would like to point out my ignorance when it comes to the Islamic faith. I have attended some talks about the basic beliefs and customs and have engaged in conversation with probably only a couple of Muslim people directly addressing their beliefs. So, like many North Americans, what I know about the religion of Islam is not a whole lot.

What I do know, however, is the basic reasoning behind traditional Muslim attire which includes the western-perceived oppression of clothing that covers most, if not all, of a Muslim woman’s body. The intent, as I have come to understand it, is to appear humbly and modestly before the eyes of Allah and to shed all possibility of sexual objectivity from the worshiper. The same basic rules apply to the men but it seems that a great deal less of the male body seems open to be objectified sexually (as it is also in western traditions, if I might quickly point out!).

This is not an argument in defense of Muslim customs. If asked, point blank, if I think women should adopt the traditional dress seen in traditional Islam, my response would be “No”. I believe that such dress helps dehumanize women and robs them of their rights to self-expression. Yet, having said that, I also acknowledge that this is not my call to make.

Becoming a Muslim means accepting the rules and regulations of Islam, which I have not and, in all likelihood, will not do but this does not make me a moral authority to deny others from accepting the terms. The rules pertaining to dress, which one must accept, is pretty clear so we must accept that Muslim women are fully aware of the conditions of their faith. What the protest pictured above fails to acknowledge is that Muslim women might actually be consciously concealing their sexuality as a testament to their faith.

Are some women oppressed under the name of Islam? Of course, in the same way that some women are oppressed under the banner of Christ. Are some women beaten, mutilated, and killed in the name of the Prophet Mohammed? Yes, but jumping to the conclusion that these circumstances represent the entirety of the Islamic faith would be like jumping to the conclusion that the Westboro Baptist Church represents all of Christiandom. In North America, we hear an awful lot about terrorizing Muslim extremists and this starts to paint a distorted picture. Seldom do the Muslim families that budget their resources and bemoan their occupations make the news because, well, they’re far too busy doing “normal” things to appear on American television.

My point is, the above protest, assumes that all Islamic women are oppressed and want nothing more than to shed their clothes and run naked through the streets. This is, as nice as the sentiment is, Islamophobia. Furthermore, the fact that it is not recognized that Islamic women might be putting on restrictive garbs by choice is something I find baffling. What about nuns? They too are religious women that have opted to conceal their body in a garb (very reminiscent of a burka) but we don’t see anyone staging a protest, screaming, “Nuns! Let’s get naked!”

I believe this is because us Northern Americans can recognize that nuns have opted into their lifestyle whereas we assume, thanks to misrepresentation of the media, Muslim women have been oppressed into their role.

It also suggests that nakedness equals universal freedom which I have issues with. There are many ways in which one can define “freedom”, being naked being only one of them. But there are also definitions of “freedom” that being naked might actually hinder, like the freedom to worship the religion of your choice. Perhaps some Muslim women keep their garbs on in order to maintain their freedom to practice Islam as it is defined in the Qur’an.

Islam has come to represent an oppressive and extremist religion in the way that it is defined by News coverage in North America and in the way that we, as a culture, don’t take the time to ask the critical questions about Islam. We assume that our notion of freedom must be their notion of freedom. That if we feel free getting naked, then so must they. We have normalized western culture and in a fight for the freedom for Islamic women, we have neglected to ask exactly how Muslim women would define freedom. If to us having lots of sex equates freedom for women, then it must also for Muslim women. At least, that is the assumption.

Right, Samantha?

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7 thoughts on “The Kinder, Gentler Face of Islamophobia

  1. Gotta love the sign that reads, “I am a woman, not an object.”

    OK then, you couldn’t possibly be drawing people’s attention because you:
    a) are using the sexualization of women to sell an idea just as the media uses this gimmick to sell products and services to the male public
    b) are catering to the male gaze
    c) fit society’s expected beauty standards: young, thin, white, etc.

    No, you are not serving in the role of an object in any way.

    I’m guessing the irony was unintended.

    Have y’all heard of PETA? They’re real popular with feminists here in the states.

    • I know very little about PETA, to be totally honest. I am aware that they are an animal rights advocate organization that uses pretty “in your face” techniques to get their point across but that’s about the extent of my knowledge.

      And thank you for pointing out the additional irony! I was too busy focusing on the issues surrounding the “Muslim Women Get Naked” sign to realizing the issues surrounding the “I am a woman, not an object” sign. It would seem that this was a poorly executed protest for a couple of reasons. I’ll be sure to cover all of my bases before I expose myself for a cause! 🙂

      • PETA has had plenty of protests and actions that involved naked female members and naked female celebrities. US feminists have been criticizing PETA’s exploitation of women at least since the 90s. Take a look at this Google image search for an idea of how bad they are.

        Given the long, terrible history of Western colonization of Islamic countries, do people really think that Muslims are going to listen to their former and current colonizers as they critique Islam? Given the growing racism and hatred toward Islam in Western nations, do these people think their protest will be interpreted in any way other than a bunch of white Europeans being clueless bigots?

        Nothing blinds like privilege.

  2. I’m all for looking at the primary contradiction, in a Maoist sense, when looking at other contradiction. Certainly there are contradictions surrounding women in Islam and in the Islamic world. But the primary contradiction is traditionally imperialism, and national oppression. So although I’m sure this group is trying to handle the other contradiction with the best of intentions, they are doing so at the expense of furthering the primary. This seems like the 4th type of liberalism to me.

  3. Informed rational freedom loving people have all the reasons in the world to fear islam. The twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. Even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    Mohamhead was a 7th century murdering warlord who rose to power on a river of blood surrounded by thugs and gangsters using intimidation, violence, deception and trickery to expand their criminal empire while mercilessly suppressing and killing their opponents and enriching themselves on stolen booty.

    The evil koran is a collection of sayings and speeches by this diabolical madman claiming divine guidance from some mythical sky-god which has inspired generations of crazed fanatics to abhorrent behavior resulting in historys worst ever crimes against humanity starting 1400 years ago and still continuing even today.

    Islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

    and some snappy graphics, great for emailing…

    • Oh dear.

      Well, it seems you have all but made up your mind on Islam, which is an opinion you are entitled to and one that I am not going to try to sway you from.

      But I do question your motives. You post some “snappy graphics” which are actually leaflets that reiterate everthing you say in your comment. I also can’t help notice that you don’t address my article directly in any way; it seems that the article only needed to deal with Islam to get your attention. It sort of looks like you didn’t even bother to really read the article, actually. So, you seem, to me anyway, like a solicitor of sorts, dedicated to spread “the truth” about Islam all the while knowing better than to get into that conversation with Muslim “thugs and gangsters” and us blinded by “the twin fogs if political correctness and ignorance” because, well, you’re “informed” and “rational”, aren’t you?

      And that’s all, well, sort of ironic actually since you represent the very problem I’m talking about above. You have framed your stance as the logical stance of the sane person and any differences of opinion are either psychotic or misinformed. Congratulations: you are a text-book example of normalizing Western behaviour!

      And sure, I’m certain that you are convinced that you are acting with the best of intentions. But I wonder how many Muslims you have spoken to about their faith when forming your opinions. Or, more specifically, how many Muslim women you gave spoken to? My assumption is “not very many”.

      I also find your graphic “synopsis” of the Islamic faith interesting. It seems to me, that if you remove all words that directly link to Muslims (like “Qur’an” and “Mohammed” [both of which you spelled incorrectly, for your information]) then you colorfully sum up one of two major religions on Earth. One is, of course, very welcome in many Western homes and is argued to be a religion of love and forgiveness despite it’s history and the other, well, THAT one is a religion of crazy people in the Middle East.

      Just saying.

    • I can’t believe you prefaced this with the terms “rational and informed”. Stormfront is thataway ===>

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