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Apr 08 2013

Sadly, no, you can’t have everything

That Al-Jazeera report on the “Muslimah pride” reaction to Amina and Femen -

It has some odd stuff.

  • This event is open to ALL muslim women, Hijaabi’s Nikaabis and women who choose not to wear it. Muslimah pride is about connecting with your Muslim identity and reclaiming our collective voice. Most importantly it is about diversity and showing that muslim women are not just one homogenous group. We come in all shapes and sizes, all races and cultural backgrounds. Whether we choose to wear hijaabs or not is nobodies business but ours. So please get clicking, get creative, get loud and proud. #Muslimapride

That’s incoherent. It wants everything. It wants to combine all the incompatibles. It wants identity and diversity. Well guess what: there are tensions there!

Look, if you decide to make a big thing about “Muslimah pride” and “connecting with your Muslim identity” then you are relinquishing certain kinds of diversity. Real diversity is much more attainable with secularism than it is with a religious “identity,” especially when the religion is as demanding and all-pervading as Islam (or as Quiverfull-type Christianity, for another example).

It’s reminiscent of advertising campaigns that invoke hipster attitudes and postures as a way to sell things. It works, but it’s full of tensions. No doubt this “Muslimah pride” thing also works, in some sense, but it reeks of bullshit. It’s just dishonest to brandish “your Muslim identity” while at the same time promising diversity. (It would be less dishonest if “Muslim” really were just an identity, as opposed to membership in a strict and demanding religion. But it isn’t.)

6 comments

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  1. 1
    FresnoBob

    I suppose they’d make the argument that they have ‘a diversity of women’ within the muslim community.

    But by that standard, different colours of hijab would qualify as evidence of diversity as well.

  2. 2
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Assuming for the moment that Amina is a Muslim (I don’t know if she is or not; maybe she’s “No True Muslim”), isn’t she a part of this diversity as well? What about her choice? What about the Muslim women who would, if given the freedom and safety to so choose would not wear a hijab/niqab/burka but who live in communities in which going without a head covering is punished? Are they supposed to risk their well-being to participate in this event? How are they a part of this touted diversity? What does the existence of the very real danger in making the “incorrect” choice say about the values being “celebrated?” What about the choice of women who are not Muslim but live in communities where the same restrictions apply to all women regardless of their religion or lack thereof?

  3. 3
    Jadehawk

    It wants identity and diversity. Well guess what: there are tensions there!

    sure there are. Like in probably every group-identifier, like “atheist” or “feminist” or what have you.

    Real diversity is much more attainable with secularism than it is with a religious “identity,”

    sure. That’s because secularism can encompass all (privately practiced) religions as well as atheism, whereas a religious identity can only contain one religion. That’s by definition less :-p (I really dislike conflating “secular” and “atheist” as if they meant the same thing. E.g. secular organizations can have religious people in it(or even be run by them), as long as they keep it private; atheist organizations, not so much)

    (It would be less dishonest if “Muslim” really were just an identity, as opposed to membership in a strict and demanding religion. But it isn’t.)

    as with every religion, it’s as strict and demanding as the community practicing it makes it; quiverfull vs. the European flavor of “cultural christian”, for example.

  4. 4
    Jadehawk

    Point is (or, should be): the Free Amina protests should ultimately be about government support for religious anti-women oppression, to the point where a family can just kidnap a woman with no negative consequences whatsoever. They’re not about showing your boobs where it is safe (or even, mindnumbingly typical, like Germany for example. There’s people rollerblading and bicycling nude all over the place); it’s also not about anyone’s right to wear hijab being infringed upon. Amina is being completely erased from the narrative in this ridiculous “boobs vs hijabs” argument. THAT is a really bad outcome.

  5. 5
    jflcroft

    I don’t get it: what’s the problem with having pride in one’s religious identity, and at the same time asserting that there is diversity in how people practice and and experience that religion? This seems to me not particularly incoherent.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    In the abstract, and worded differently, perhaps it wouldn’t be. But given the particulars and the way it was worded, it is incoherent. Having pride in one’s religious identity as a Quiverfull mother is not about diversity.

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