News Flash: 15 April 2013: There are reports that Amina has escaped from her detention but is still not fully safe or free. We await the day she is free and safe – hopefully soon. More information here.
13 April 2013: Today, FEMEN activists stormed a conference at which Tunisian president Marzouki was speaking at in Paris shouting “Free Amina”. They also chanted: “Who killed Chokri Belaid?” We continue to demand the freedom and safety of 19 year old Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina who is being detained by her family after receiving death threats for posting a topless photo of herself. Below is my response to criticism of topless activism in support of Amina:
The International day to defend 19 year old Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina was not “racism”, “colonialism”, or “cultural imperialism” as some have said.
It was just good old fashioned human solidarity – across borders and boundaries (many of them constructed).
Those who say otherwise have bought into the culturally-relativist notion that societies in the Middle East and North Africa (and even the “Muslim community” in the west) are “Islamic” and “conservative”.
Whilst those in power determine the dominant culture, there is no one homogeneous culture anywhere.
Those who consider nude protest as “foreign” and “culturally inappropriate” are only considering Islamism’s sensibilities and values, not that of the many who resist.
Clearly, in the same way that there are opponents of nude protest and supporters of the veil in the “west”, there are also supporters of nude protest and opponents of the veil in the “east”.
This shouldn’t be surprising. A large young population in many countries of the Middle East and North Africa brings with it challenges to the status quo as does the recent women-led revolutions and the backlash against Islamism. When one is faced with an Islamic movement that considers you to be worth half of a man and demands that you be bound, gagged, veiled, and segregated, then nudity becomes an important form of resistance and dissent as well as solidarity. Islamists want us covered up, hidden, and not seen and not heard; we refuse to comply.
Those who claim outrage at our nudity on behalf of all “Muslim women” are merely attempting to conflate Islamist with “Muslim” (who comprise of innumerable people with countless characteristics). They do it so that Islamism can feign representation, restrict dissent, and prescribe the limits of “acceptable” expression.
But no one speaks for everyone.
Amina speaks for me and us, and for a new women’s liberation movement that is confronting misogyny head on. It’s a movement where nudity is seen to be an important challenge to the veil and Islamism. And “Islamic feminists” speak for their movement; for the abomination that is Sharia law, gender apartheid, and the veil. They are deafeningly silent on the death fatwa against Amina and countless others. And they are more concerned with defending Islamism and Islam, than defending women’s rights and equality. One such critic of the nude protests, Shohana Khan, who is described as a “London based freelance writer” in the Huffington Post, is in fact the deputy media representative of Hizb ut Tahrir, a far-Right Islamist organisation. Another “journalist”, Yvonne Ridley, has worked for Press TV, the propaganda arm of the Islamic regime of Iran and is a patron of an Islamist-front organisation called Cage Prisoners.
The nude protest in support of Amina has nothing to do with “cultural imperialists” patronisingly “rescuing Muslim women” anymore than the fight for women’s suffrage was a rescue attempt and a form of cultural imperialism (after all the idea was “foreign” to begin with).
Only those who see their rights and lives as separate and different from those deemed “other” and who have bought into (or are selling) Islamism’s narrative can see solidarity and the demand for equality in this warped way. [Read more…]