Enough with the Clothes Shaming of Muslim Women

By now most Muslims living in North America who have followed the Olympics even tangentially know about Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Muslim woman ever to compete in the Olympics in a hijab. The American Muslim community has been celebrating her well before she went to the Olympics and won a bronze medal. And rightly so. There is no doubt that Muhammad is an inspiration for young Muslim girls. Her accomplishments and her visibility should be celebrated. Though much has been made about her wearing the hijab in the Olympics, Muslim women have criticized detractors, rightly pointing out the normalcy of hijab in sports.

Today, on my social media, I’ve seen the (relatively subdued) celebration of another Black American Muslim woman athlete who just won a gold medalDalilah Muhammad. However, an interesting (I’ll just use that word for now) contrast was noted by those posting regarding the way Muslims had been talking about Ibtihaj and they way they talked about Dalilah, in that they hardly talked about Dalilah. While Ibtihaj has been, and is being, celebrated all over Muslim social media for a long time, Dalilah has barely been recognized. In fact, many Muslims just learned of her presence in the Olympics after she won, despite the fact she did receive media attention before she competed and the fact that she is the first U.S. woman to win gold in the 400-metre hurdle.

The discrepancy in the celebration of these two women by the Muslim community in the U.S., and Canada, has highlighted a very pervasive and disturbing problem within our community.

Clothes shaming. An act of making any person feel guilty or inferior for wearing certain clothes that deviate from traditional or orthodox religious expectations of modesty, which may or may not include hijab and/or niqab. The Muslim version of slut shaming.

(The term ‘slut’ has extremely negative connotations in the Muslim community and I would assume most Muslim women who do not cover would not want to “reclaim” that descriptor. I could not think of any other appropriate term and since Muslim women who do not cover are commonly made to feel guilty or inferior due to their choice of clothing, I thought this to be the most appropriate.)

Both women are brilliant athletes. Both women are Black Americans who come from a country that is brutally anti-Black and a Muslim community which includes non-Black Muslims who are incredibly anti-Black. One difference that is very notable is their choice of clothing. Ibtihaj Muhammad wears the hijab and covers her arms and legs. Dalilah Muhammad does not wear the hijab and wears shorts.

And the Muslim community’s reaction to Dalilah has been, as Sarah A. Harvard has summarised:

And this is a problem. It’s been a problem in our communities for a very, very long time. It’s a problem that exemplifies our misogyny and our adherence to patriarchy which result in spiritual violence against women.

Mainstream Muslim organizations, such as ISNA, tend to be male dominated, within their leadership, in their public image, and at their conferences. However, when women are included, women who cover, or dress more conservatively (with or without a hijab), are chosen above those who do not. All images of these organizations include covered or conservatively dressed women, as if to say that ‘real’ Muslim women must look like a certain way.

Muslim women who wear clothes that would be deemed ‘revealing’ constantly have their Muslimness doubted. Pay attention to the comments from Muslims on any post, anywhere, regarding a Muslim woman who dresses in this manner (e.g., Pakistani women actors or models) and you WILL, without any doubt, find countless commentors doubting her religious identity and referring to her as a ‘so-called Muslim.’

When a non-covering Muslim woman begins to cover, she is celebrated, showered with praises, and told how beautiful she looks. When a woman who covers decides to take it off, she often experiences the opposite.

When a woman who does not cover in traditional ways is the victim of sexual harassment or violence, she is blamed. “If she had been a good Muslim woman…”

When Thanaa El-Naggar wrote about Practicing Islam in Short Shorts one response implied that although she was still Muslim she wasn’t a believer, while another response suggested that, although she could choose to wear what she wanted, she was setting a bad example for young Muslim women and girls.

In our communities women who do not cover, or dress in conservative ways (again, with or without hijab), are not considered Muslim enough – not Muslim enough to be taken seriously, not Muslim enough to be invited on conference panels, not Muslim enough to represent Muslims, not Muslim enough for God. This is spiritual abuse. It is a form of violence.

It’s violence created by the male-dominated, patriarchal discourses common within our communities, and as such this is not a critique of dressing modestly or more traditionally, nor is it a critique of the women who choose to do so. Indeed, it is misogynistic to criticize women’s choice of conservative clothing. This is a discussion of a patriarchal discourse used to control women’s bodies; a patriarchal discourse that MUST be challenged.

There is no doubt that challenging this exclusion and this abuse is very tricky. We live in a world in which Muslim women who wear the hijab and/or niqab are targeted by Islamophobic violence. Hell, Muslim women and girls who simply dress conservatively, hijab or no hijab, are targeted by Islamophobic violence under the label of secularism. As Muslim women we need to protect each other from that form of oppression. We need to fight for the right of Muslim women to dress however they wish without threat of being targeted for being Muslim. Part of that solidarity and resistance to Islamophobia does mean promoting and celebrating representations of Muslim women in hijab and niqab. Absolutely. But within our own communities there are a group of women who are hurting spiritually and no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to help us fight this expression of misogyny within our own communities. Even when we try to tell our side of the story, as El-Naggar did in the Gawker piece, there are attempts to purposely obfuscate and distract from it.

Too many are mistaken that we cannot focus our energies on resisting both gendered Islamophobia from non-Muslims and spiritual misogyny from within our communities. Islamophobes will be Islamophobes and will use our internal struggles against us, regardless of what we do or do not do. But that doesn’t mean we let women be spiritually abused within our communities. It’s a fine balance but we have to at least begin to make an effort to find that fine balance.

50 comments

  1. rosalindawijks · August 20, 2016

    Full agreement. This obsession with women’s clothes & bodies needs to stop! And, as always, down with patriarchy, inshallah.

    Like

  2. Maha · August 20, 2016

    Interesting thoughts. While I agree that there is a clothes-shaming trend in Muslim cultures, as well as a blame-the-victim outlook on many harassment issues, there is a difference between cultural norms and religious requirements. And while I agree that nobody should be shamed for their decisions on how they dress, I am also not sure it is fair to compare patriarchial systems and misogyny with Islamic requirements. Wether we like it or not there is a link between requirements of our religion and dressing conservatively. And while I agree that each woman should be free to dress as she wishes, it’s nobody else’s business, the point of contention is when you place her under the Muslim label and ask why she isn’t being recognized or celebrated as such. Both athletes are Muslim and both are to be celebrated, but one has a label on her forehead (literally) and the other doesn’t. More generally speaking, publicly labelling someone unfortunately opens them up to criticism from the lense of that specific label. Dalilah Muhammad has a lot to be proud of and celebrated for, but by not visibly labelling herself has a Muslim she will not receive the same degree of public support from the Muslim community as her more visibly obvious Muslim athlete counterparts, and I think that’s fair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sobia A-F · August 20, 2016

      Thanks for you comment, Maha. What you’re saying is a common argument. However, my questions are “what are Islamic requirements exactly?” and “how is modesty defined?” There are only a few things (clothing NOT being one of them) which are clearly stated in the Qur’an as requirements. Everything else is a matter of interpretation. And there are multiple interpretations. The vast majority of these interpretations have been put forth by men – men who lived in patriarchal, misogynistic societies. The Qur’an doesn’t have a fashion section to tell us what modesty looks like. It only said to be modest. However, modesty is subjective and defined by societies…which are patriarchal and misogynistic. So how do we really know what non-patriarchal, non-misogynistic modesty looks like? Islam cannot be practiced without culturally informed interpretations, so culture and religion are inextricably linked. We cannot practice Islam without culture. How else would we define modesty? And if the culture we use to practice Islam is patriarchal then inherently Islamic practices will be patriarchal. My point is that we need to challenge those patriarchal interpretations and define modesty for ourselves. So if a woman chooses to wear a hijab and cover her arms and legs, then she will do so because SHE feels most comfortable in that and SHE feels that she is expressing modesty in the way she defines. Or perhaps modesty to her is about how she carries herself, and not her clothes, but she simply chooses to dress that way because she feels most comfortable. Similarly, perhaps a Muslim woman chooses not to cover and to wear above the knee length skirts because she feels most comfortable in that and she believes she IS being modest. Or perhaps she’s challenging what society believes is modest because society is patriarchal and thus misogynistic and narrowly defines modesty to control women’s bodies. SO I appreciated what you’re saying. I just believe that Islamic requirements are not at all clear cut and are very much open to interpretation, as they always have been. I believe we need to challenge what we have been “just IS Islam” and question where those rules came from, including the context in which those interpretations came about. I also think there is no separating culture from religion or religion from culture.

      As for Dalilah not publicly labeling herself Muslim. She has said she is Muslim. She has stated that her faith is important to her. How much more public should she get? Why wouldn’t the Muslim community support her? And if they don’t support her because she doesn’t “look the part” then that is a sad commentary on our community and basically supports what I noted in the post. That’s exclusionary and spiritually abusive. It’s not fair.

      Liked by 2 people

      • A. Nazir · August 20, 2016

        Amazing!!! Well said. Spirituality and religious identity is not tied to the length of women’s skirts and sleeves people!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sobia A-F · August 20, 2016

        Thank you! Agreed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hanan · August 20, 2016

        Really? We’re still debating whether or not Islam requires a woman to dress conservatively and wear “hijab” I’m so sick of this. If you choose to be a muslim than you choose to take everything that comes with Islam. Full stop!

        Like

      • Sobia A-F · August 20, 2016

        We should never stop re-engaging with the texts and re-interpreting based on current understandings and realities. There is no full stop.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Maha · August 20, 2016

        Sobia I respect your views from a revisionist Islamic perspective, but as such I cannot relate to your argument because I myself am not a revisionist – our schools of thought conflict. The majority of Islamic schools interpret modesty in similar manners. I myself do not wear a hijab but I cannot deny its place in my religion. Quranic references and Hadith are clear, and the Quran tells us that the examples of our prophet have a key place in our religion. I am not a religious scholar so I won’t get into a debate about revisionism with you – everyone is free to interpret the Quran as they wish. But in the same vein you are placing unfair expectations on the majority of Muslims that interpret modesty in the more obvious sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • srbuss · August 22, 2016

        Aly Raisman has been celebrated within the Jewish community for her Olympic success even though Halachic (orthodox) Jewish law requires a certain type of “modest” dress which Aly did not wear. The Egyptian beach volleyball team wore birkinis this year which upset many Egyptians as this has never been their cultural norm, even though Egypt has a Muslim majority which is religious. The covering of women has taken on a political role since the preeminence of the Wahabi interpretation of Islam (via Saudi Arabia) after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Evidence of this clear–look at how traditional hijabs throughout the Muslim world now all increasingly follow the Saudi design. This trend also corresponds to the American Muslim community (as well as Muslim communities elsewhere) equating piety and devotion to the wearing of the hijab.

        Like

      • Hina · August 23, 2016

        would like to add to it…..

        Christian used to dress modestly as well, replace hijab with hats. These women’s used to be considered respectful and anyone who didn’t dress in this manner weren’t viewed in same respect as religion wise goes. Same thing I see happening to Islam with very liberal views abt Muslims women’s dressing. Islam has its conservative dressing for men and women not only women, many people don’t understand this. Today we have liberals talk abt Muslim women who dressed according to Islamic dress code being celebrated more then one who isn’t. Well the one dressed in Islamic dress code went through lot more in life to get where she is with hijab is for sure more commandable then the other Muslim women who’s dress code isn’t Islamic. She didn’t strive as hard as Ibtihaj, but they r both celebrated for their acchivement, while the other with hijab acchived lot more then just a bronze, she acchived it in her hijab announcing it to the world watch out here comes non oppressed Muslim women, who represented our religion in positive and gave a massage to ignorant people out there Muslim women r as free as she is rn, while the other just won her gold being her self only. I love them both but of course without saying Ibtihaj represent my religion and all Muslims women in the best of positive way possible. So excuse us for being extra appreciated for being a Muslim.

        Islam religion doesn’t force anyone to do anything, it isn’t forced on anyone but to be Muslim u have ur guideline and its up to u what u want to follow and what type of Muslim u wish to be. Some choose all of don’t

        Like

      • Sobia A-F · August 23, 2016

        What you’re saying is the problem. Why would a woman with hijab be considered more representative than the one who does not wear it. Your comments represents the exact problem I’m highlighting.

        Like

    • Henna · August 23, 2016

      Very well said, agree with u Maha

      Like

    • Hina · August 23, 2016

      Agree with u Maha 100%

      Like

  3. Mahmood Sabri · August 20, 2016

    Thank you for highlighting the success of Dalilah Muhammàd. I did not know that. Muslim media should have been fair in covering this good news also. As far as who should be the role model for female Muslim athletes, I
    think the verdict is in.

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 20, 2016

      I’m not sure what you mean by “the verdict is in.”

      Like

      • Mahmood Sabri · August 21, 2016

        It means that contrary to popular opinion, Muslim dress code is not a hinderence in athletic performance. Also, most practicing Muslims would like to see Muslim women comply to Islamic dress code to the best of their ability.

        Like

  4. grudge1000 · August 20, 2016

    In response to the article: there is a conflating of ideas being presented here. To regard the choice of a women to dress however she likes with what a religious tradition considers appropriate in terms of clothing are district points that should not be conflated. A women has a freedom to do as she wishes but so does a religious tradition to its own view to what is appropriate. To demand that the religious tradition approve and agree with whatever any women freely chosen to put on is not a reasonable expectation.

    One can disagree with opinions and ideas relevant to any tradition when it comes to what is says concerning clothing but to not engage with that tradition and expect it to confirm to individual choices of clothing is a bit much.

    Muslims celebrate women who cloth in traditional clothing more than they do with women who are in obvious contention with the religious tradition. To say this is bad and that all women regardless of what they are wearing ought to be celebrated for their achievement conflates the achievement with the reason as to why they are being celebrated by a religious community who pay close attention to what they wear as a religious indicator of their identity. Muslims want to celebrate not all things under the sky but that which we identify with as muslims. Clothing plays a big role to that identification. To expect muslims as Muslim to celebrate that which they don’t identify with is to expect something really un fair.

    This is not a question of violence, this is not a question whether women have legal right to wear what they want ; this is a question of whether muslims ought to support something they disagree with or not. Its like being told to celebrate muslims eating pork in a competition. Or better example, muslims winning a goldem globe awards for a film rated R. Though they be muslims and have won and it took great skills and dedication to get their; the fact that pork is harram, and intimacy outside of marriage is harram, is the determining factor of disappointment and the reason for the non celebration for a community that specifically identifies itself on religious ideas. Though sports are acceptable, certain clothing is not acceptable to muslims.

    This feels like accusing muslims for having different value than others. We celebrate those things that are of value to us. Those that are not we don’t. This is not a wrong. But we are made to feel it is because if one don’t agree with the liberal views than they are wrong by default.

    We have different departure points that disagree on important points including clothing. Accept the differences. They are legitimate. It not a legal over step by muslims in western democracies. So let’s stop judging muslims by the standards of those it disagrees to begin with.

    Muslims have adopted to soo much Liberal values and views to such an extent that within the muslims they stand to to disagree with each other with in congruent paradigms. The liberal and the islamic don’t always agree. When they disagree we should not readily problemetize the islamic. In this case , this is what has happened: why you muslims don’t celebrate an athlete who wears clothing you believe to be impermissible? What a confounding question muslims are raising for themselves.

    On a personal note: I am happy to hear anyone who had any affiliations with me that have won on the Olympics. While I was watching when the somalies playing for different nationalities won I was happy. When Canadians were winning I was happy. When blacks were winning I was happy. The celebrations was meaningful because all these categories intersect for me. When someone wearing a hijab win guess what intersects? So don’t blame muslims for not celebrating under categories not so meaningful to their identities.

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 20, 2016

      Thanks for your comment. I think my response to Maha addresses your comment as well.

      Like

      • Ismail · September 6, 2016

        Thanks for responding. This response is a bit long but I hope you are able to excuse that. I agree that religion is fused to culture and that cultures are patriarchal. This also means therefore that religions are patriarchal. Patriarchy is problematic especially for women and interpretations of Islam would also have to come to terms with the problem of patriarchy. Part of that effort is as said in the comments by you is to engage with the religious tradition and never stop engaging it to find an authentic and functionally enabling understanding or interpretation that one can adopt if they want to commit to religion in modernity, in this case Islam. This is all agreeable.

        Is this really the only issue at stake here though? After all the investigations and re interpretations, what is really at the heart of this discussion is can or will the Muslim be able to live with Others who have different values than him in liberal democracies or in his own terms. As Maha has said, the bulk of Muslims have settled on a particular understanding and interpretation. In this case, clothing matters as a signifier of religious practice even in sports for Muslims. They as a collective follow, as they see it, the Muslim motto of forbidding the wrong and encouraging the good. To this end, when watching modern day olympics they support those that adapt to their interpretation . To articulate the point that they all have it wrong in their interpretation is proper, if the point is in conversation over interpretations; but I think they are being found at fault not for that but for acting on their beliefs. Beliefs that are contrary to cherished and popularly held liberal values. This is the pivot of the issue. This is unfair. The issue is really not just about clothing: it would be alcohol, adultery or even idolatry. They would still be accused of of shaming practices for finding fault (in a liberal democracy or Muslim sovereign lands) specifically concerning Muslims, who drink, commit adultery or anything you can imagine to be at odds within Muslim practices. CAN THE MUSLIM PUBLICALLY STAND TO DISAGREE AT ALL?. Or is he at fault for differing.

        I think your concerns over patriarchy are legitimate if it is in conversation with Muslim tradition but the implications are wider and more nefarious than that for Muslims in the modern period. Muslims in the past have faced similar challenges to carve out a distinctly different Muslim identity, lives, manners, practices, values and beliefs . They had their detractors of their own and God said to them…

        “And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, “Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance.” If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper” (2:120).

        In our modern context, to not support an athlete because you find them wrong for not practising a religious precept of hijab even an alleged precept is not ‘spiritually abusive’. IF IT IS; THEN THINKING ANY ACTION IS HARAM WOULD BE ‘SPIRITUALLY ABUSIVE’. I would agree it is exclusionary but religions define themselves through difference.

        Am reminded by another verse that speaks to this theme of what it means to be a Muslim. It’s a long passage but it if you are patient I think you can see the point. It’s 29:1-13. It speaks about not having to follow and obey parents if they teach idolatry, it talks of Muslims who think saying I believe is enough and not wishing to struggle with actions that affirm that belief, it speaks of inventing new precepts because the commandments of God is seen as troublesome. The best thing about liberal democracies is that they allow for the quranic statement “For you is your way, and for me is my way”(109:6) on issue of belief, culture, aesthetics, and value. Of course with the acceptation of law for Muslims in liberal democracies. Muslims equally stand challenged in their sovereignties on their right to disagree on legal issues.

        I would concede one thing though, is that most Muslims don’t follow this precept which might take away the charge of being spiritually abusive.

        “And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah , lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do” (6:108).

        The modern equivalent of this would be not to insult anyone in what they do lest they insult what you do. If Muslims manage to do this ,they ward being called spiritually abusive. But they would nonetheless still be in disagreement on esthetics, culture, beliefs and values. I wonder if they would still be considered shammer’s ? To be respected would they still have to celebrate and be joyful over all athletes regardless of the fundamental disparities that exist, in this case the hijab ? Clearly the issue is not just over insulting and being disrespectful of people’s choices of clothing and their freedoms but an overall disapproval of Muslim difference in values. The irony is that we are not being respected for our difference because we don’t respect the difference of others.

        I will end with this. On the issue of irreconcilable differences God gave the advice:

        “And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and assuring it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. To every one of you We have appointed a right way and an open road. If God had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may try you in what has come to you. So be you forward in good works; unto God shall you return, all together; and He will tell you of that whereon you were at variance” (5:48).

        Like

    • Hina · August 23, 2016

      Agree with everything u said and also would like to add to it…..

      Christian used to dress modestly as well, replace hijab with hats. These women’s used to be considered respectful and anyone who didn’t dress in this manner weren’t viewed in same respect as religion wise goes. Same thing I see happening to Islam with very liberal views abt Muslims women’s dressing. Islam has its conservative dressing for men and women not only women, many people don’t understand this. Today we have liberal talks abt Muslim women who dressed according to Islamic dress code being celebrated more then one who isn’t. Well the one dressed in Islamic dress code went through lot more in life to get where she got with hijab is for sure more commandable then the other Muslim women who’s dress code isn’t Islamic. She didn’t strive has hard as Ibtihaj, but they r both celebrated for thei acchivement, while the other with hijab acchived lot more then just a bronze, she acchived it in her hijab announcing it to the world watch out here comes non oppressed Muslim women, who represented our religion in positive and gave a massage to ignorant people out there Muslim women r as free as she is rn, while the other just won her gold being her self only. I love them both but of course without saying Ibtihaj represent my religion and all Muslims women in the best of positive way possible.

      Like

  5. Gitanjali Kolanad · August 21, 2016

    “The liberal and the islamic don’t always agree. When they disagree we should not readily problemetize the islamic.” Here’s the problem right there. Yes, we should, because we live in a liberal society. In an Islamic society, liberal values are problematic, right? So in a liberal democracy, Islamic values that are at odds with that will and should be problematic. That is where I think we are right to resist niqab, burkinis and yes, even hijab in sports. If you want to fight, fight for the rights of all Moslem women not to wear those things, which will be a real battle, involving sacrifice and true struggle, and once that is achieved, wear whatever you like in my liberal democracy. But when you ‘fight’ for your right to wear a niqab in Canada or a burkini on the beach in France, your ‘struggle’ is not worthy of even being called that name. It is extremely hypocritical.

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 21, 2016

      I’m sure you know that I completely and utterly disagree with you. It is just as oppressive to tell women what they can’t wear as it is to tell women what they have to wear. I’m sorry, but I’m an intersectional feminist and I believe in the right of all women to be able to choose what they wear. It’s a basic right.

      Who said in an Islamic society liberal values are problematic? The hijab, niqab, and burkini are not at all at odds with living in Canada. If you think they are then you don’t know Canada.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Ismail · September 6, 2016

        Liberal democracies of the kind espoused by John Rawls best accommodates religiously practising Muslims I think and Canada comes most closest to that bases on my experience.

        Like

    • Ismail · September 6, 2016

      In a liberal society citizens are equal regardless of their religious affiliations; that is what is remarkable about liberal democracies. The topic at hand is whether Muslims out to celebrate an athlete whose choice of clothing is at odds with their communal values. The issue at hand is not connected to law but of culture. The liberal state has no jurisdiction on this matter; so Muslim citizen are not constitutional bound to celebrate or support anyone. The decision is left to their choice. Part of that choice is particularly motivated for the Muslim by religious identity. And clothing is connected to that. If Muslims value particular clothing and wish to especially support athletes they more identify with, this is their business and no liberal democracy has an issue with that in terms of the state and its laws. But the state is pushing new boundaries by over stepping its jurisdiction and dictating social life and cultural practices. This is not fair on liberal democratic grounds. So you value that which you value and let the Muslim community value that which they value. If the values, any values, in this case Muslim values contradict constitutional principles than I would be the first to agree, that should stop. But in this example of athletes being supported for the choice of their clothing and Muslims celebrating one Muslim athlete over another because one wears hijab and the other doesn’t is not at all close to an infringement of liberal democracy. It is an infringement on social and cultural values of liberalism. But that is acceptable in a democracy. Dissent is respected within the law. The modern world has to learn to get use to diversity of values and believes. Liberal democracies have created a balance by focusing on jurisdiction of law; where the law is operative and where it not. If we conflate all value with law then particular value impugn on the rights of others. Values are separate from laws. If we have this distinctions in mind then the Muslim can support or value all sorts of things most of society find culturally problematic. This difference is protected by law.

      Like

  6. thomas · August 21, 2016

    An interesting article, but please… America is not “brutally” anti-black. There are some in America that are just as there are some in America who are “brutally” anti-Christian, anti-Asian, anti-Hispanic and, yes, even anti-white. But our country, as a whole, is pretty damn tolerant and it is sad how so many continually proclaim that it is not.

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 21, 2016

      The US IS brutally anti-Black. The US was built on anti-blackness. From police brutality, to the industrial prison complex, to the school to prison pipeline, to the introduction of drugs into Black communities, to the purposeful and strategic denial of access to financial independence and security, the enslavement and subjugation of Black peoples never ended by the system. Yes, the US is brutally anti-Black.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Fahad · August 21, 2016

    I’ve read your reply to the other comments, but it seems like your concept of modesty in Islam is very uneducated. Maha’s comment basically hit the nail on the head with the difference between Islamic requirements and “patriarchal interpretations.” I’m sorry to tell you this, but it IS clearly defined as to what is considered modest in Islam. While it is true it’s not mentioned in the Quran, you seem to completely ignore the Hadith, or the sayings of the Prophet. In the Hadith there are guidelines for modesty (for both women AND men, btw). I’m not sure if this was just bad research or being willfully ignorant, but it seems like you would rather push an ultra feminist agenda instead of taking five minutes to do research on an authenticated Hadith about modesty in Islam.

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 21, 2016

      Your response is quite clichéd, unfortunately. Those of us who ask for re-engagement with the texts, re-reading of the texts, and understandings of the texts from current cultural, social, and political contexts always get the same response as you’ve given. Thank you, but it doesn’t sway me.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Fahad · August 22, 2016

        What do you mean “re-engagement of texts, re reading of texts”? The texts have been there for 1400+ years, how much more re reading and interpreting do you want? Like Maha said, ultimately it’s your choice to do what you want. I come from a Muslim family where no one wore hijab until two weeks ago when my sister started it out of her own choice. But we all recognize that there ARE guidelines to modesty. You remind me of some individuals who want Islam to change its stance on homosexuality just to “get with the times”. Islam will always uphold its traditions and values regardless of what movement wants it to change. Also, don’t you find it a little hypocritical that you don’t want people to dictate their beliefs on you, but you yourself want a reinterpretation of religious texts to fit your own agenda?

        Like

      • Sobia A-F · August 22, 2016

        There is nothing hypocritical about wanting new interpretations. You can still choose which interpretation you want to follow. The whole point is to not impose any one interpretation on Muslims, the way you want to do.

        And yes, there are interpretations of Islam in which homosexuality is not sin and I choose those because they don’t deny the humanity of a group of marginalized people.

        Islam is not a person that “it will always uphold its traditions and values.” It’s the people who decide what the traditions and values are. It always has been. And it’s precisely because the texts have been around for 1400+ years that they need to be re-interpreted on a regular basis.

        Again, still not at all swayed by your clichéd responses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fahad · August 22, 2016

        “We also sent Lut : He said to his people : “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” Qur’an 7:80-81 (Direct Translation)
        So since you already avoid Hadith, I pulled a direct quote from the Quran. The only way you, or anyone, could interpret that as “accepting of homosexuality” is if you’re illiterate, or willfully ignorant. May Allah save you from being weak minded and ignorant.

        Like

      • Sobia A-F · August 22, 2016

        *eyeroll* And may She save you from being arrogant.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fahad · August 22, 2016

        Ah… The clichéd response of those who have no counter arguments.

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  8. Jonathan Evans · August 21, 2016

    Sobia, Thank you for this nuanced, well-reasoned essay. It is not an exaggeration to state that your argument here is of monumental significance to our Muslim community, and its underlying principles are useful for addressing many forms of discourse policing that pervades orthodox Islam, our communities, our organizations, and our masajid. In my experience as a Muslim convert, there has been an expectation that as a Muslim one should adhere to certain shibboleth-like markers of conformity. Should one choose to drink alcohol, not fast, not pray, be gender non conforming, or have sex outside marriage, for instance, such a Muslim will often be isolated, both by others and by herself in order to avoid conflict. This kind of alienation of the heterodox from Muslim communities leads to greater conformity within those communities and a kind of hermetic barrier, either you’re in or you’re out. As the parent of two young Muslim children, I am committed to ensuring that my children can make whatever personal life choices they wish to without feeling excluded from their Muslim identity or community. I am categorically opposed to moralistic judging of non harmful personal choices of others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sobia A-F · August 21, 2016

      Thank you! I appreciate your kind words. I know there are many others who feel as we do and I hope we hear from more and more Muslims on this issue.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Ismail · September 6, 2016

      Everyone is free to think as they see fit. All thoughts and ideas however are not synonymous. Islam is not identical with every position out there ever thought out. Clearly there are positions that are unislamic if any at all. Perhaps a lot is contested but that would not mean all is. The practices of drinking alcohol, sex outside marriage, no prayer, no fasting, that these have no bearing or connection to Islam or Muslim identity is obfuscation. You don’t want to alienate muslims from the community that is good. However, In that attempt you alienate or distance Islam from the muslim community . What remains distinctly of Islam if any and all ideas and practices are subsumed under it? Perhaps their will come a time when kufr is just another legitimate Islamic practice that the community has alienated. Shirk is un Islamic is a moralistic judging of a non harmful choice. What is driving or motivating this unintelligible views. Perhaps it is a cognitive dissonance that Islam teaches contrary to our own lived experiences and emotional ties to those God forsake. It’s the same attitude that the prophets felt in leaving their families alienated by God’s moral judgement and indictment. At least they were confronted by God, for us we are given time to confound ourselves that perhaps there is no day of judgement. Speaking to the believers about their families God says: “O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” (66:6). The dissonance is real but let’s not forge unintelligible interpretation of Islam to relieve our anxieties. What do you think in comparison to what you said about your family in particular your children to what God instructs? Are they synonymous? Obfuscation is what I am seeing here in your response and the overall comment we are responding to.

      Like

  9. Ansarul Haque · August 22, 2016

    Wonderful article! I just chanced upon your blog. I will keep following your blog and thanks for writing.

    Like

  10. Henna · August 23, 2016

    would like to add to it…..

    Christian used to dress modestly as well, replace hijab with hats. These women’s used to be considered respectful and anyone who didn’t dress in this manner weren’t viewed in same respect as religion wise goes. Same thing I see happening to Islam with very liberal views abt Muslims women’s dressing. Islam has its conservative dressing for men and women not only women, many people don’t understand this. Today we have liberals talk abt Muslim women who dressed according to Islamic dress code being celebrated more then one who isn’t. Well the one dressed in Islamic dress code went through lot more in life to get where she is with hijab is for sure more commandable then the other Muslim women who’s dress code isn’t Islamic. She didn’t strive as hard as Ibtihaj, but they r both celebrated for their acchivement, while the other with hijab acchived lot more then just a bronze, she acchived it in her hijab announcing it to the world watch out here comes non oppressed Muslim women, who represented our religion in positive and gave a massage to ignorant people out there that Muslim women r as free as she is rn, while the other just won her gold being her self only. I love them both but of course without saying Ibtihaj represent my religion and all Muslims women in the best of positive way possible. So excuse us for being extra appreciated for being a hijabi

    Islam religion doesn’t force anyone to do anything, it isn’t forced on anyone but to be a Muslim u have ur guideline and its up to u what u want to follow and what type of Muslim u wish to be. Some choose all & some don’t.

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  12. Claire Rosser · August 24, 2016

    I’m so happy to have found this blog and want to follow you, please. I’m not Muslim but have friends who are and I’ve been struggling to understand where religious freedom and where oppression of women intersect and contradict. I was brought up a fundamentalist Christian, with many of the same rules; I’m a progressive Christian now and am so glad Christianity has so many ways to change and examine itself. (Though of course there are still fundamentalist Christians who don’t do this). I’m loving this discussion. I’m almost 75 so know very well personally how the feminism has changed our lives for the better.

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  16. Moiz · August 28, 2016

    Don’t want to get long-winded.
    I’ll just say power to you and a very well argued essay. Few of us really make an effort to confront the hypocrisy in the Muslim community head-on in regards to Muslim women making life-choices as individuals. Keep fighting the good fight

    Like

    • Sobia A-F · August 28, 2016

      Thank you!

      Like

  17. guestpeaker · September 2, 2016

    Reblogged this on From guestwriters.

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  19. Mark · September 30

    This is all true, but there is another angle.
    British media such as the BBC and Channel 4 have been celebrating/defending some sorts of covering for a few months now. This includes the hijab, burkini and sometimes even the niqab and burka. This meant that the fencer was all over their sports news in the Olympics, simply because she covered. Nobody mentioned the hurdler, even though she won a gold.
    There also seemed, while celebrating “something” about the covering, no nod towards the fact she’d effectively banned herself from so many sports, which by her own admission she had tried, but couldn’t work because of the covering. Meanwhile the BBC might have carried one story on Iranian women rebelling against forced-wearing, but it was hidden amongst all the celebration – the latest being a Playboy shoot.
    It really is as if British media don’t know what to do. Look to the angle of forced-wearing, patriarchal control etc and you’ll be Islamophobic, and that might include reporting on the Iranian women. So it’s best to go for full-on support, even though they might not be quite sure what they are supporting. Besides, just about most of the women the BBC choose for their opinions, will all say they wear (whatever covering it is) by choice (as well as for religion, modesty, etc). It is very rare for the media to have the view from someone that these things are not obligatory, therefore the media build a “norm” of covering.
    Meanwhile, in North London, a Rabbi, described as “Ultra Orthodox” has written to 5,000 homes in the area, telling women that their skirts must be at least 10cm below the knee. Would the media celebrate/defend this? No, they would report it in a critical or “odd” manner. This is easy, because Jews are very much mainly secular, and the orthodox has been seen as quite separate and distinct for years. So there is no confusion as to how to approach that, and no reason to enforce a “norm”.

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