Part-time ‘feminists’, full-time bigots and sexists: the fake allies of Muslim women

YB LSE segregationIn March this year the Islamic Society at the London School of Economics held a gala dinner that segregated men and women, erecting a 7ft screen to split the hall in two – in order to prevent any other type of erections, they’d argue.  Unsurprisingly, those that don’t hold the view that the presence of women in a room with men automatically leads to a raging boner and ultimate sin took issue, and rightly pointed out that gender segregation is in fact a tool to control and repress women the world over and that there is no place for it at public events in our progressive society.

However, something did happen that surprised me in the aftermath of the gender segregation row at LSE.  Defenders and supporters of gender segregation in the name of Islam were asking “what do Muslim women want?” Suddenly it seemed that the voice of Muslim women was of paramount importance and their choices needed to be heard.  That’s all very commendable, but forgive me if I don’t buy it.

Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward

Where were all these champions for Muslim women when at the age of 13 I wanted to take off my hijab? Where were all my fellow Muslim supporters then? No – you all tried to shame me, telling me I was flouting my obligation and duty as a Muslim, that I would be little more than an unwrapped lollipop for flies to feed off.

A few years later when I wanted to leave home to go to University, were you all there with your inspiring parables of independent strong Muslim women such as Khadija, in command of her own life and business, to convince my parents not to fight me and let me go? Of course not; Khadija’s story is only useful to you when you need an example to demonstrate to non-Muslims that your Islam allows women to take charge of her own destiny. And who came to stand by my side and tell others to respect my choices when I fell in love with a non-Muslim man and sought to marry him? Didn’t you all forbid me outright? What happened to a Muslim woman’s choice then?

Perhaps I’m insignificant. I’m just one person after all – too small and singular to command solidarity. But then what is your excuse for your silence on the many millions of Muslim women today in Iran, in Saudi, in Afghanistan and throughout the Muslim world who are denied their rights to choose where they go, who they see and what they wear, all in the name of your Islam?

A group of women protest against wearing the Islamic veil, while waving their veils in the air outside the office of the Prime Minister, Tehran, Iran, 6th July 1980. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

A group of women protest against wearing the Islamic veil, while waving their veils in the air outside the office of the Prime Minister, Tehran, Iran, 6th July 1980. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

Surely, as such vocal champions of freedom of choice their plight must worry. The great injustice dealt to them under the guise of your religion that you proudly claim ensures so many rights to women is surely worth at least a feeble protest from you? Instead, I bet you are raging at me whilst reading this, trying to find me on social media so you can send me a barrage of abuse. I see you.

So the question on my mind is this: could it be that you only care to defend the choices of women who toe your line, and prop up your ideals? Is it really choice you are defending, or is this about protecting yourselves and your ability to carry on imposing restrictions on all of us? That would be the very opposite of choice.

Yet it’s not just your hypocrisy that galls me so. There’s another group that apparently champions the right of women to freedom of choice. Let me address them too. You stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me, or so I thought. You tell me how brave I am for taking up this fight against misogyny in Islam, even in the face of abuse and threats. You shower me with praise at every given opportunity and rally more supporters for me. But then I noticed something. Perhaps it was when you described Muslim refugees as being a threat to “our women”, as if they are simply objects that belong to you, and every Muslim male is a threat to your possession. Or when  you implied that the Bosnian genocide was an exaggeration. Maybe it was when you shared a derogatory joke about hijabis, and then stayed silent when Muslim women were (and still are) attacked here in the UK  simply for the way they dress.

Sunday Times

Sunday Times

Then there’s that time you defended to the hilt an out-and-out racist as a legitimate critic of Islam, despite his many explicitly derogatory and racist statements about Muslims in general. You acted as an apologist for a group of violent, obnoxious anti-Muslim thugs, describing them as frustrated and misunderstood, with only our country’s best interests at heart.

And I have not forgotten the time you watched in silence whilst I was accused of being an apologist for Islam and a “Taqqiya artist” whatever the hell that is, when I called out an obvious racist. Funny how you only fight my corner when my oppressors and abusers are Muslim, when the tool with which I am beaten down with is Islam. I’m sorry to break this to you, but you are more like those Muslim men you join me in condemning than you perhaps realised. You too are only interested in supporting a Muslim woman’s right to choose when her choices sit comfortably with your wishes and prop up your world view.

We’re not on the same side either.

Yasmin Baruchi

Yasmin Baruchi

Yasmin Baruchi predominantly blogs on issues relating to Islamic extremism, with specific focus on its impact on women. Yasmin is of Indian Muslim heritage and writes from the perspective of someone who has had to tolerate and challenge norms designed to control and restrict her choices in the name of religion and culture for far too long. A mother by day and an activist during baby nap times - fighting for the freedoms she wants her children to have that she never did.

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