Why Don’t Feminists Fight For Muslim Women?

Is Feminism purely a movement for the White, Middle Class? Has Feminism abandoned its raison d’etre to be a movement to ensure the rights, freedom & equality of all women?

In this thought provoking video, Somali born Women’s Rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali poses some tough questions to those who wish to describe themselves as feminists.

Claiming that the West has failed to find a nuanced balance between protecting immigrants from bigotry while challenging the dehumanizing, patriarchal social attitudes which have come with Muslim immigration.

 

This is an important topic in the light of  recent events. While huge coverage in Western Media was given to France’s attempt to ban The Burkini almost no attention was given to the Stop Enslaving Saudi Women Campaign run by Saudi women protesting Male Guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia which require women to have male permission before they can do basic things such as travel, work or have medical procedures.
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22 thoughts on “Why Don’t Feminists Fight For Muslim Women?

  1. You bring up an interesting question, one I’d like to take a stab at answering…

    Speaking as an liberal American woman, I believe liberals usually favor equal rights, wanting to eradicate racism, sexism, homophobia, unfair class differences and the like.

    BUT, these ideals can smack up against liberal goals of tolerance toward other cultures, religions, and belief systems. You get the “cultural defense” in courtrooms, for example, where defendants are given more slack when they were acting according to the culture in which they were brought up.

    So you get an issue like female circumcision. Some consider it a sexist travesty, while others see it as part of a cultural & religious value system we’re not supposed to interfere with.

    I personally think human rights and equal protection should trump religion, but my attitudes sometimes anger fellow liberals. They view Western interference into other cultures as condescending and inappropriate, smacking of Colonialism.

    And I think they aren’t sure how to handle this contradiction, so they back away.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Thank you for a great & interesting response! Personally, I ‘think anyone who considers female genital mutilation okay in any context, religious or not cannot be described as a liberal. If someone supports “human” rights then they must support them for all humans, not just for some. Especially with something like FGM, to deprive someone of sexual pleasure for life is probably one of most barbaric breaches of a human’s bodily integrity there is.

      Liked by 13 people

      • I completely agree with you and see this as a human rights issue. The same goes for violating women’s (or anyone’s) essential rights, especially when it’s taking place in countries that claim to protect them.

        We should all have equal protections, right? Granted, people do get in trouble for FGM in countries that ban it, but the same should go for any violation.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I think a lot of people, if not most, don’t want to talk about Islam or minorities through fear of being called racist or Islamaphobic. Your fellow liberals, if they even are liberal, probably don’t like your attitudes because you’re confronting them with certain harsh realities that they would rather not have to think about. My guess is they’re not as liberal as they’d like to think, they just hide behind the label because it gives them an easy excuse to not have to think about these things. It’s a form of cowardice on their part, so just bear that in mind the next time one of them gets angry or tries to silence you on this. You’re in the right, on this one, not them.

      Liked by 5 people

      • We’re on the same page with this one. 🙂

        And possibly others. It feels like liberals and conservatives have gotten so polarized that we’re oversimplifying issues sometimes. Even though I’m liberal, for example, I don’t like the tendency for tolerance to turn into the inability to ever criticize anyone or have standards of right and wrong (if that makes sense).

        And I think you’re right–there’s enormous fear of being seen as racist or Islamaphobic. But I care about women’s rights, so I’ve had many arguments about these issues…

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t want to give just a glib answer, and as a matter of fact, I wrote two comments which I deleted. I couldn’t get to the kernel of what I wanted to say, which is this. I believe that the problem may be the term, “Muslim”. It has become toxic in the West, particularly the US. A charity, like a politician, only has so much reserve to use before it runs out, and to use it to battle popular opinion (no matter ho misguided) may be a bridge too far.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So true. We’ll never have equal rights until we stop seeing things as women’s issues only. We should forget about religion and nationalism by respecting (truly, not only on paper) cultural differences. However, we should talk about human rights (not women’s rights) because we ALL are HUMANS. FGM, rape, stoning, domestic violence, unequal pay – they all are part of the spectrum, but just situated in different ends.

    Liked by 5 people

    • It agree to a point, but mysoginy and racism are not going away, and as you see now with the Right, they are only getting worse. Some rights have to be fought for everyday, because letting our guard down only invites more. I wish o could say that one day all women and people of color will be respected equally, but we all know that if that ever happens, it’s in a very distant future.

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  4. Really helpful video. Thanks for posting. erinb9 and elitsastaneva took the words right out of my mouth, so I’ll just add one point. It’s difficult to know when to intervene and when to simply support, especially when it comes to cultures with differing values. It’s kind of like how I understand our welfare system: intervention was critical when the system was put in place, but generations later, the same intervention is actually handicapping large numbers of people. Similarly, it’s hard to know when intervention for non-Western women would handicap a movement that’s already starting from within it. I can hardly bear to see and hear about the abject oppression of the women in these extreme cultures, but I just don’t know if external force is the answer in the long run. On the other hand, that sounds like what people said about Hitler, and most of us are glad he was eliminated. Perhaps we need to plan for the aftermath of interventions between governments or institutions whose values are diametrically opposed?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First of all, thanks for sharing Hirsi’s video. It was really informative.

    The current wave of feminism is frustrating. As far as I can tell, women in the West are able to live in comfort and equality, but a huge amount of feminists are trying to keep alive a concept of enemy in which white men are guilty of constantly oppressing women in the Western world.

    I think, feminists in the West do not support women living in the Islamic world for several reasons. The majority of feminists appear to be (extremely) left-wing, so they accept the “cultural differences” or they even reject to acknowledge that religion in the Islamic world is not progressive in any way, shape or form.
    (Also, I think that many members of the feminist movement are turned off by the idea to actually [b]do[/b] something instead of ranting on Twitter.]

    In addition to that, I would like to mention that I am residing near Cologne. Instead of feminists, conservatives and right-wing groups started to protest against what has happened on the New Year’s Eve. – The police was obligated to leave the word “rape” out of their reports and the news broadcasts did not cover the incidents for a couple of days. – Just a few weeks ago, “it turned out that the mass-assaults were not organised.”. After all this, feminists kept quiet or put into perspective that “Germans/white men have committed crimes as well.”.

    I’m sorry if I ranted too much.

    Kind regards.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I don’t think it’s true that feminists don’t fight for Muslim women. I’ve heard, seen and read loads of concern about women in Saudi Arabia and other places and there are a number of campaigns going on. So maybe it’s just that these things don’t get the publicity that a burkini ban does.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I am not a feminist, but I believe all, not just women. but importantly men too, should stand against the subjection/abuse of any human being. In western nations the line is easier to draw, in that there are laws that preclude hurting another human being (honour killings, rape, mutilation, kidnapping etc.) I hope these laws remain firmly in place. Everyone is entitled to follow their own religion so long as they do so within the law.
    Tackling the problem in other nations is more difficult (I don’t believe direct foreign intervention would help) this is where educating Muslim men is important as they have the means to do something about the situation. Though the feminists support is good, I don’t believe they would be the most effective in bringing about these changes as they are too far divorced from Muslim ideology which for example looks very adversely at any “immoral behavior” (sexual liberty, provocative clothing etc.) Groups with a closer affinity may be more effective in bringing them more towards center – particularly powerful/influential men who show respect for women.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Feminism” as an isolated term is not as particularly valid in post millenial context as it was through the 1960s – 1980s. There is an array of academic classifications identifying and specifying each type of feminist perspective possible. The fact that so many women are in high capacity positions has lead to “Governance Feminism”, a term applied to academic and legal perspectives on women having authority over lifestyle and outcome of other women. Governance Feminism though does not define itself as racism or bias, even though it can be read sort of like gender specific imperialism . Perhaps to alleviate arguments it may be more relevant to discuss the challenges of all class and culture of women participating together in global economic development and affiliated human rights? And wonder of course why I man is a man is a man, though women are not simply equal as women.

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  9. Very complicated issue. It seems some Muslim women who seem oppressed from “enlightened” Western standards are happy with their situation. If asked, they will say so. Ezra Levant, a Canadian media personality who is now on the fringes of the popular media (he wasn’t always), argues that they say they are happy because if they don’t, there would be a tremendous backlash.

    Should we take these women at their word or investigate and possibly intervene as we would for victims of say, a religious cult?

    The fact that ideas of “culture,” “tradition” and “religion” come into play makes it a political hotbed. So most people just say nothing. Which, of course, does nothing.

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  10. I think there is a problem with the way white western feminism relates to women from other cultures, but it’s not by failing to pay service to their struggles. Rather, I see a problem with they way they project their values and fail to recognize significant culturally relative nuances and meaning. Muslim women are to wear hijab by choice if it enhances their relationship to God as they experience it. On the other hand, the patriarchal culture which economically enslaves and over-sexualize women is centered in the west. Patriarchal western powers like Britain and the USA were the ones who initially empowered and continue to fund the warped Wahabi ideology that now governs Saudi Arabia.

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