I support my sisters in France- Ignorance is more dangerous than my religion
There are a lot of terrible things happening to my sisters in Islam over in France. Violence so severe a woman has miscarried her baby from an attack.
France has been notably Islamaphobic for a while now, and I hope as many of you as possible are kept safe from the hatred ignorance breeds when it comes to Islam and women who choose to veil.
Sending love and positive vibes.
Hoping that one day people’s minds open and hearts soften and we are no longer subjected to this violence.
A Muslim commits an attack = Eats, sleeps, & breathes terrorism. A non-Muslim commits an attack = He had mental issues & a rough childhood."
Greek ultra-right party leads rally in Athens against construction of capital’s first official mosque.
May 27, 2013
Members of the ultra-right National Front have led dozens of protesters in a march against the Greek government’s plans to build the first state-funded mosque in Athens, the capital.
The government has budgeted about one million euros ($1.3m) to build the mosque at a reduced price because of the country’s economic crisis, which has delayed the process. However, construction was expected to begin next year.
The protesters, including a woman dressed in nun’s clothing, waved Greek flags at the rally on Sunday as they shouted: “We don’t want sharia, we want Greece and Orthodoxy” and “No to mosques, give money to the schools.”
Emmanouil Konstas, the National Front general secretary, said that plans to build the religious centre were unacceptable and that the government should refrain from catering to the religious needs of immigrants while the country faced an economic crisis.
“It is unacceptable in every way,” Konstas said.
“The religious needs of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants shouldn’t be a matter of concern for the government; they should be deported since they came here illegally. And for the rest who are here legally, there are enough places for them to pray,” Konstas said.
“Also, during this harsh economic crisis, it is unacceptable for so much money to be spent on the building of a mosque.”
Athens is the only European Union capital without an official Islamic mosque or cemetery.
Local residents who had joined the demonstration said that they were scared of Muslims coming into their working-class neighbourhood.
Some Athens citizens have blamed immigrants they say have entered the Mediterranean nation illegally for crime in their neighbourhoods.
“I am scared because many things have happened here in the area with the Muslims and secondly, why are they building it here and not in the rich neighbourhoods of Athens? Where they think we are racists and they are okay,” said 45-year-old Smaragda Taladianou, who has lived at the neighbourhood all her life and attended the protest.
“They can build it but we will tear it down,” said another local resident, 49-year-old Chrysoula.
The only mosque in Greece exists in the northern border town of Thrace, near Turkey, where another Muslim community of about 100,000 live.
More than 100 makeshift mosques are found in basements around the greater Athens region.
Without an official mosque for the Muslim population prayer must be held in these spaces or in sports stadiums during holidays.
Copyright © 2013 Aljazeera.
[Photo © AFP]
My brothers are being burned alive, because they believe in peace.
By Zeinab Khalil
April 11, 2013
Femen, a Ukraine-based self-identified “sextremist” women’s movement, labeled April 4 as “International Topless Jihad Day.” It was meant to be a day of global demonstrations in support of a young Tunisian woman who sparked many reactions when she circulated photos online of her naked body marked up with politically-charged messages that challenged social norms. Years ago, when the veil-ban was a hot topic in France, Femen staged protests where they dressed in burqas before collectively stripping. More recently, the group demonstrated in Stockholm in front of the Egyptian embassy with their bare bodies displaying phrases like “Sharia is not a constitution,” “Freedom for women!” and “No Islamism, yes secularism!”
Before hearing anything about this event, April 4 was a big day for me, too. After months of rehearsing, it was the night I would perform in the campus production of The Hijabi Monologues. I was excited for this rare platform to share the stories of Muslim women’s diverse, complex experiences; honest and humanizing narratives that discuss our celebrations and challenges.
To Femen, however, this sort of initiative would be cast as irrelevant, even pitiful, because as it turns out, I, along with millions of Muslim women around the globe, am suffering from a case of “false-consciousness.” To Femen, the very idea behind hijab, and, more generally, religion (read: Islam) is intrinsically, solely and perpetually harmful to women. This is where Femen comes in to save us and help us realize a self-affirmation that we otherwise would never experience. Thanks to the efforts of those who staged topless actions in front of mosques and embassies across Europe with makeshift beards, towels on their heads, painted crescents on their breasts and signs that read, “Muslim women, let’s get naked!” I should now feel supported, affirmed and liberated.
Shockingly, I don’t.
My aversion to Femen has little to do with their sensationalist tactics and everything to do with their exclusivist approach to feminism, imperialist rhetoric of salvation and simplistic assumptions on liberation, all of which are far from what the group’s message sets out to be: radical and progressive.
The group’s exclusivist approach reminds me of the first and second waves of feminism in the United States, where the mainstream women’s movement marginalized women who didn’t agree with its approach and instead sought to define its own concerns and struggles as the most pressing and as “universal.” As a result, Third World feminists during this era were pressured to choose between adopting the struggle for women’s liberation or ethnic liberation. They defied this restricting binary framework and instead called for a more interconnected approach that simultaneously addresses multiple structures of oppression. There are valuable lessons to be learned from this phase of the women’s movement, but Femen isn’t paying attention. The group insists on a selective approach that highlights oppression, prioritizing gender and leaving all other markers of identity — race, religion, sexuality and class — unnoticed on the backburner.
Even more unsettling, Femen’s calls for “Muslim women, unveil!” summon images of colonized Algeria, where French women regularly staged public “unveiling ceremonies” for Algerian women under the cry of “Vive L’Algérie Francaise!” Local norms, especially around women’s sartorial choices, were used by colonists to justify subjugation. In order to progress and “civilize” the indigenous, Algerian women were made to unveil so that they could become “free” under French occupation. Femen adopts a similar tone where Muslim women can only realize liberation through the imposed aid of their white European counterparts.
I’m tired of the trite Eurocentric assumption that one’s feminist credentials are reflected and validated through choices of dress. Time and again, mainstream Western feminism has sought to dictate and prescribe the concerns and needs of other women without including them in the conversation. By deciding that the biggest challenges to liberation are rooted in “culture,” Femen dismisses the multiple elephants in the room that stand in the way of liberation.
Guess what, Femen? Challenging society’s patriarchal norms is on my daily agenda, but I’m just as equally enraged with the racist, corporatist, global imperialist structures that perpetuate patriarchy and wreck women’s lives over and over again — especially women who look like me whom you claim to be liberating. In fact, your efforts don’t support my sisters, but distract from the fearless organizing they do every single day, even if you actively choose to overlook it.
The feminism that I know isn’t one that denies the agency of women or feeds off of explicitly racist tropes that infantilize women. While I find Femen’s approach off-putting and regressive, I won’t allow this to have me second-guess my commitment to various feminist causes. Feminism, like most other movements and ideologies, has been used overtime to justify militarism, war, neoliberalism and colonization. Despite this, I’ll continue to advocate my own understanding of feminism — one rooted in equality, humility and self-determination.
To my well-meaning saviors, please understand that the misogynistic, racist ordeals I experience regularly aren’t oppressions that I can disentangle from one another. In this sense, your bigoted, exclusivist movement becomes an additional battle and a burden to Muslim women activists instead of a source of empowerment. Understand that you can’t save or support women whom you see as lacking the ability to make critical decisions of their own. So either take a moment to listen to the voices of the Muslim women you drown out and accept that their experiences are legitimate, or get out of our way.
Zeinab Khalil is an LSA junior.
Copyright © 2013 The Michigan Daily.
International solidarity should take its cue from the women affected, not try to impose values on communities
April 11, 2013
Another week, another heated debate over the tactics and language used by the feminist protest group Femen, which last Thursday launched an International Topless Jihad Day. The group, started in Ukraine, uses topless protest as a way to raise the profile of women’s rights. The day of action was called in response to threats received by a Tunisian Femen activist, Amina Tyler, for posting topless pictures of herself on Facebook.
With slogans such as “nudity is freedom” and statements such as “topless protests are the battle flags of women’s resistance, a symbol of a woman’s acquisition of rights over her own body”, Femen claims the removal of clothes in public as the key indicator of the realisation of women’s rights and the most effective type of activism. Everything else is seen as not radical enough and failing anyway. By these standards, countries in north Africa and the Middle East and communities from those countries living in Europe are seen to be falling far short.
It argues that it is “transforming female sexual subordination into aggression, and thereby starting the real war” by “bare breasts alone”. Using your naked body can be a legitimate form of a protest of last resort – there is a long history of using naked protest and the threat of it outside Europe. However, the way it has been used by Femen feeds into and reinforces a racist and orientalist discourse about the women and men of north Africa and the Middle East. With statements such as “as a society, we haven’t been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women”, Femen positions women of the region as veiled and oppressed by their men as opposed to the enlightened and liberated women of the west who live in a developed and superior society where they have the “freedom” to remove their clothes.
We know this is not true. Black women (and I’m using black as a political term to denote shared and continued experiences of racism and colonisation) are not all (and only) oppressed and black men are not all oppressors. Women in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do not live in a feminist utopia. There continue to be active and vibrant women’s rights movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The feminist story belongs to all women, everywhere.
Femen’s actions also come at a time of intensifying international backlash against women’s rights that is increasingly being framed, perpetuated and accepted by male elites as rooted in “the west” and imposed on other countries in a form of cultural imperialism. Unfortunately, statements from white French women saying things like “better naked than the burqa” feed this narrative and are more likely to damage rather than support the struggles of the women they call their sisters.
Its defenders may say that Femen means well but having good intentions is far from enough. There is a long and problematic history of colonial feminism and the “good intentions” of outsiders using racialised notions to “save women over there”. This actively causes harm, including when communities react to this by holding on to static notions of “culture” and “tradition” in the face of outside challenge as a way to resist colonialism and racism. Women’s rights becomes the battleground with feminists from these communities and countries often left in a double bind, stuck between trying to reject racist ideas of black men and communities and challenging their attitudes.
We need a politics of international feminist solidarity that integrates a gender, race and post-colonial power analysis and takes its cue from the women affected and those who are already challenging gender inequality. As I have argued elsewhere, a more holistic and nuanced approach would consider how patriarchy combines with racism, neo-colonialism and global capitalism to create a fundamentally unjust world. We need to think about how our decisions, from where we shop to the issues about which we remain silent, affect the lives of women and girls in other countries.
Femen has continued to be unapologetic about its tactics and language and refused to address its blatant racism. When you are criticised by those “for” whom you are meant to be working, the response should be to think critically on your actions. Its latest piece offers no self-reflection or attempt to acknowledge criticism from women’s rights activists from the region, only self-aggrandisement. To paraphrase Gayatri Spivak, white women will not save black women from black men. The role of feminists from outside should be to support the work of the women in the communities concerned, not add to the problem. International feminist solidarity is crucial but this is not the way to do it. A true ally does not use racism to attempt to defeat patriarchy.
Copyright © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited.
By Laila Alawa
Muslim-American activist, blogger and outspoken feminist
April 10, 2013
I am a proud Muslim-American woman, and I am tired. I am tired of being told that I am oppressed. That I have no voice. That I need to be liberated.
I am tired, and I am speaking out for the rights of my and other fellow Muslim sisters to be able to dress and be how they wish to be.
When I first heard about the ‘titslamism’ campaign that the radical feminist organization FEMEN was undertaking, I regarded it with apathy. Their original mission seemed to be intended to raise awareness around the Tunisian activist Amina Tyler, a woman who posted a photo of her bare breasts to the FEMEN Tunisia Facebook page and received backlash from the Tunisian government for doing so. As a result, FEMEN opted to begin protesting in front of Islamic centers around the world, baring their breasts in an effort to deal with Islamism.
Or so they purported.
In actuality, however, their campaign is not aligned with what they supposedly intended. FEMEN and its supporters have banked on what they feel is ‘politically correct’ these days to tap into: a healthy dose of Islamophobia with a heavy dash of sex appeal. Inna Shevchenko, the leader of FEMEN, backs up these allegations in a response she wrote addressing the very Muslim women who protested the efforts of her campaign to ‘free’ them:
So, sisters, (I prefer to talk to women anyway, even knowing that behind them are bearded men with knives). You say to us that you are against Femen, but we are here for you and for all of us, as women are the modern slaves and it’s never a question of colour of skin. … And you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day but don’t deny millions of your sisters who have fear behind their scarves, don’t deny that there are million of your sisters who have been raped and killed because they are not following the wish of Allah!”
As the very woman who is supposedly being ‘freed’ by these protests, I am offended and disgusted. As a covered Muslim woman, I am greeted on a daily basis with passersby who tell me that I no longer need to wear the headscarf because I am in America. In this exact statement supposedly freeing Muslim women from the clothes they seem ‘forced’ to don, there is a level of oppression being expressed, as though there is only one way to be ‘free.’ The same beliefs are employed in FEMEN’s offensive and ultimately pointless protests.
I anticipate there being a number of comments posted to this article notifying me that my father will stone me once he hears that I’ve spoken out (he will not, he is a sweet, supportive man, as most men are in the Islamic faith), that if I were ‘back home’ where I ‘came from’, I would be forced into a hut with four other women and raped on a daily basis under the guise of Islam (I come from Syria and Denmark, neither of which engage in those supposed practices, practices that are not condoned in Islam, although unjust instances of domestic violence still occur under the guise of the faith). So, for any readers who quickly scan through this piece and begin complaining about my so-called oppression, recognize that I am fully free and require no sort of help on your part.
FEMEN protests display a blatant expression of orientalism and colonialism in their belief that there is only one way to be free: through the utter disrobing of all garments covering the body. In perpetuating the belief that there is only one way to go about being free, FEMEN provides a narrow-minded solution that is not feasible for anyone else to fit into. Rather than being revolutionary, FEMEN utilizes the same rhetoric used in colonial history to simplify women to just their attire as a representation of their ultimate freedom. Amusingly, topless protests are not even legally permitted in the free nations in which the FEMEN protests take place — effectively contradicting the freedom that FEMEN attempts to express to Muslim women as being the only way to live. I have not heard a single Muslim woman speak out about how she now feels freed due to the FEMEN protests.
Why is that the case? Is it because all of the — as Inna so condescendingly put it — “bearded men with knives” are holding Muslim women back from speaking out? No.
It is because we have no need to be freed by a group of condescending protesters, all skinny, white and fitting squarely into the acceptable media paradigm of ‘true beauty.’ It’s like a random stranger telling you how to eat ‘better,’ even though they have no information on who you are or how you manage your daily nutritional intake.
Just as many past colonialist movements have only served to hurt, rather than help, the very people they pretend to care about, so too does FEMEN with its movement to ‘free’ Muslim women from the imaginary oppressors. n its attempts to bring attention towards the movement, FEMEN blatantly shut off any attempts for a dialogue, telling Muslim women that we have no right to speak out on the very issues that we are supposedly being hurt by.
I speak out not because a bearded man told me to, not because I am nothing but, as Inna stated, a puppet for “dictatorial countries to promote the official position of the government… .” I speak out because the FEMEN protests offend and infuriate me, as a Muslim woman, as a covered woman, as a feminist, and as an equal human being in this world. I am tired, and I am speaking out for my own and fellow Muslim sisters’ right to be able to dress as we like and be who we wish to be in this world.
My choice to cover is my own, and FEMEN’s very protest to uncover is oppression in itself.
Follow Laila Alawa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lulainlife
Copyright © 2013 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
April 10, 2013
On 19 March 2013, the French Court of Cassation (Cour de Cassation) found that the dismissal of an employee of a private child-care facility in Chanteloup-Les-Vignes (Parisian region) motivated by the fact that she was wearing a headscarf in the workplace was discriminatory.
The Court found that the internal regulation of the facility, establishing a general prohibition to wear religious symbols for employees, was at odds with French Labour Code, according to which restrictions on the human rights of the employees, including their rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion or belief, can be justified only in relation to a specific occupational requirement and insofar as they are proportionate to the aim sought.
Amnesty International maintains that the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion or belief can be restricted in some instances including in the workplace. However, such restrictions are permissible under international and European human rights law only under specific conditions. In particular, an employer can for example lawfully restrict these rights on the basis of a legitimate aim including the protection of public safety, order, health, morals or the rights and freedoms of others. Any restrictions should also be proportionate and necessary to the aim sought.
However, the restriction imposed by the child care facility on its employers could not be seen, as acknowledged by the Court, as stemming from a specific occupational requirement taking into account the tasks assigned to the employee and the working environment in which she operated.
Amnesty International is concerned about the recent declarations of the French President François Hollande, who argued in a TV interview on 28 March 2013, that new legislation was necessary to enforce the respect of “secularism” for employees in private child care facilities receiving public funds.
Amnesty International calls on French authorities to avoid the introduction of a general prohibition on religious and cultural symbols and dress in private child care facilities and to ensure that any restriction stems from a genuine and determining occupational requirement, in line with the interpretation of such notion given by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Amnesty International calls on the newly established observatory on secularism (observatoire de la laïcité) to fully take these principles into account when discussing the potential introduction of new legislation prohibiting the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress.
A bill aimed at imposing the respect of neutrality in private-child care facilities, structures hosting minors put under state protection and child-minders was adopted by the French Senate on 17 January 2012. The bill is currently pending before the National Assembly.
Article 1321-3 of the French Labour Code states that “internal regulations cannot restrict individual and collective rights and freedoms unless these restrictions are justified by a professional requirement and are proportionate to the objective sought”.
With respect to permissible restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion or belief, the Human Rights Committee, the body tasked to monitor the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) found that the request from an employer to wear a helmet did not discriminate against a Sikh mason who wanted to wear a turban in the workplace because the restriction to his right to freedom of religion was based on a legitimate aim, namely safety (Karnel Singh Bhinder v. Canada, no. 208/1986).
Restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of religion or belief can also be justified on the workplace if they stem from a genuine and determining occupational requirement, as established by the EU Framework Employment Directive (2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000) that France has transposed into its domestic legislation.
Amnesty International argues that a prohibition on wearing religious or cultural symbols and dress may for example be justified with regard to state officials such as law enforcement agents, public prosecutors and judges exercising potentially coercive powers of the state
The Court of Justice of the European Union pointed out in the case Wolf v. Stadt Frankfurt am Main (C-229/08) that a difference of treatment on a prohibited ground, age in that case, does not amount to discrimination only if stemming from a requirement for the specific occupational activities in question or for carrying them out.
The observatory on secularism has been established by the President François Hollande on 8 April 2012.
Draft bills before the National Assembly: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/propositions/pion0061.asp
Judgment of the Court of Cassation:
Copyright © 2013 Amnesty International.
You say you live the way you want. Being fifth wife in harem the maximum you can be is the favorite wife… Right?
Sisters, we don’t care how many times your men are praying, but we care a lot what do they do in between. We care a lot about violence and aggression, we care a lot when your fathers, brothers and husbands are raping and killing, when they call to stone your sisters, we care a lot when they burn embassies etc, and all that for Allah!"
— FEMEN Leader Inna Shevchenko, Topless in the Country of Hijab?, April 8, 2013