No, Doc, you are NOT a hero for telling my daddy I’m a virgin

Virginity test doge

 

Hey! Guess what the subject of this blog post is! Virginity tests! Again!!! Joy!

But first, here is a bit of a preamble talking about my tone in this piece and my approach regarding critique of Islam in general. If you don’t want to hear it, you can scroll down to Part Two and read what I have to say about virginity tests. Suffice to know that yup, The Snark™: I am bringing it with this one, because I’m going to talk about my own virginity test, my own trauma, and I will do it on my own terms.

Part One: On Snark, the Tone Police, and Bad Allies

So in the stark majority of my posts I try to regulate my tone lest I am read to be condescending or arrogant while I’m making these arguments regarding the horrors women like me have been through–and I think that’s a good strategy in general, overall, and I will employ it repeatedly, and I advocate its general use. But you know, sometimes, you gotta bring the snark, knowing that there are people who will hate what you have to say anyway, because there are certain things you deserve to be assertive and harsh about–I feel that my virginity test is definitely one of those things.

And it’s kind of a larger issue. Don’t get me wrong, I get a whole lot of beautiful, invigorating support. The support and appreciation of my readers has kept me going when I’ve wanted to quit, and has helped me take care of myself when I’ve been too crippled by PTSD and depression to keep things going. Messages from people who feel supported, validated, who feel hope that I am saying what I say help me keep going too. And of course, I get tons of really civil and reasonable disagreements and requests for clarifications, and compelling challenges to my arguments that don’t unethically misrepresent my positions–that’s all good too. So what I’m talking about now is about a very powerful and systematic minority of responses. Keep that in mind:

There’s a consistent way that the contributions of women like me are treated by these people, from both ends. There’s this weird tone policing from purported allies, this same shit that implies that we have to dissent in exactly the ways that they say we must dissent, to paraphrase a friend of mine who is now suffering severe backlash for her role in The Honor Diaries. Unless we agree with and pander to the opinions of all popular liberal critique of Islam, we’re going to have a hard time. It doesn’t matter how good our reasoning or arguments are–if we are snarky or sarcastic we’re accused of being arrogant and condescending and our views discounted. If we take issue or disagree with or critique some famous guy’s positions or approaches, or even if we fucking ask for more representation instead of being overshadowed by people not as equipped as we to discuss our own experiences and traumas, especially if we use words like ‘white’, ‘liberal’ and ‘racist’ in regard to very specific circumstances and people– then that obviously means we’re saying that other people aren’t allowed to critique Islam, or that critiquing Islam is racist (lol), that we don’t support other people who want to critique Islam, and we are being Bad Critiquers™ of Islam, and we should Feel Bad. If we disagree with that one guy indiscriminately bashing Islam on Twitter or if we moooooostly like Sam Harris but don’t want him to be the driving voice regarding our issues over our own voices, then we are making enemies and we must have such feewwwwww friends, and if we have so few friends to begin with, how can we afford to value nuance and high standards of inquiry? Because a couple of famous guys are the be-all and end-all of critique of Islam, amirite, and our entire thriving, supportive ex-Muslim communities, our progressive Muslim allies, and the liberal skeptic, feminist, and atheist movements that support us don’t count because everyone knows that Brown Friends™ aren’t Real Friends™. I mean, way to prove the point about ex-Muslim and progressive Muslim erasure–the fact that we are so ignored and invisible is the reason I claim that maaaaaayyyyybeeeeeee we need to be given more representation regarding this issue.

And in the majority of my posts, I don’t often talk like this. I make great effort to seriously, carefully examine the issue at hand. The caveats come rolling aplenty. But inevitably a bunch of folks will come along and have a problem with it, in a particularly persistent and exhausting way. If you try to give an even-handed, nuanced account of atrocities that does anything other than give a blanket condemnation of Muslims everywhere, based on you know, your extensive knowledge and lived experience of that sort of thing, then you get these people who come around and in a really laughable condescending way explain how it’s important to critique the treatment of women in Muslim societies and to support evvvverrrrrryyyyyyyyy liberal who does it and enables it too. Like seriously, some people actually try to explain to me how Muslim women are oppressed, totally unaware of how oblivious they appear while doing that–like, while they’re talking to someone who was hunted down by an Islamist organization and whose abuse, assault, and torture was enabled and covered up by it, and who wore hijab against her will for 15 years. Like do you realize how fucked up you sound trying to explain to me that Muslim women suffer. And why? because you take issue with my regard for nuance and my condemnation of the destructive purposelessness of blanket insults to Islam? Get the fuck out of here, for serious.

And yeah, I’m sure that some of the people reading this right now are already really pissed and are totally thinking precisely-not-what-I-saidisms like ‘what, so now we can’t talk about the suffering of women unless we experienced it ourselves?’, ‘what, so now we can’t criticize Islam unless we know everything about it?’ and other straw-manny indignant positions that boil down to “I would like to express my opinion on this subject without anybody critiquing my approach, position, or relevance, without being corrected, challenged, or even considering that I may be silencing the people I claim to be defending while doing it, and be unequivocally received with applause and acclaim for being supportive.” Look, it’s nice that you care about critiquing Islam, and you can say whatever you want about it. I have never claimed that people of any gender, ethnicity, or national belonging can’t or shouldn’t talk about Islam–but I don’t have to think that your methods and knowledge are completely rigorous or adequate, and I don’t have to shower you in thanks for doing the fundamentally non-douchey thing of recognizing that we need to address and critique the causes of blatant human suffering.

And I’m sure others who are reading this are like “but I don’t do any of that! I’ve always expressed kindness and support”–Thank you! I’ll remind you that I’m not talking about you then–(just like I say to the hijabi who says ‘but I wear my hijab out of my own free and proud choice’ that that’s great and all, but I’m not talking about her- I’m talking about the people who are precisely not her). But it all bears repeating. A lot. I said it above, I’m repeating it here, and I’ll repeat it again before long–much love, kudos, and gratefulness to all of my supporters and friends. This is the lesson you learn when you write extensively– that even multiple disclaimers and caveats aren’t enough to clarify to some people that I’m talking about specific things in specific contexts instead of generalizing.

The flipside, of course, is the crowd of condescending Muslim commentators who exhibit a frightening lack of human compassion and integrity, who value defense of an ideology over acknowledging the suffering of real people, who brush over the thousands of words you’ve painstakingly crafted examining the circumstances that oppress women in detail, your condemnations of anti-Muslim bigotry, your attention to specificity and the sources you cite to support the religious nature of the oppression you critique, your attempts to be as fair as you can be, the caveats you keep giving, the way you repeatedly condemn blanket generalizations and all your disclaimers about your experiences not being  universally representative–none of that matters because they have an urgent, compelling need tell you that you’re wrong about everything you know or say, that you don’t understand anything about Islam and you don’t really know what the hijab you wore for 15 years in the Middle East is about. And then there are the  inevitable violent, aggressive, and sexual threats I receive in my various inboxes, pretty much proving all my points. I’d say more about that, but you know, I don’t expect anything other from them–they’re not my purported allies, and they’re going to keep on coming..

None of this is to say that because a powerful minority approaches me in this manner that I should give up my dedication to an even-handed, non-sarcastic, careful mode of writing most of the time, because it is valuable. But there are times when it’s cathartic and empowering to mix the tone up a little bit, and, knowing that the tone policing is going to happen anyway, no matter how careful I am, I’ma say fuck it this time and just bring on the snark and the sarcasm (which incidentally, none of my pseudo-allies have a problem with if I use it against Muslim denialists and apologists). You want to hear it, read on! If you can’t stomach it, away with ye! I’m going to talk about things in as direct and abrasive a manner as I want to.

Shout-out here to the many beautiful, loving fans and allies who don’t do any of the above–you are everything that keeps this blog running, for serious.

TL: DR Today, I’m going to write about my virginity test again, because it’s my trauma, and I don’t have to apologetic and pandering about it, and people are going to comment about how insufferable I sound about the whole thing and GAWSH why can’t I just be GRATEFUL that people are trying to SUPPORT me, but you know *shrug*, who am I to critique the way people talk about the circumstances that oppressed me my whole life, heaven forbid I condescend to those who try to speak over me and explain my own trauma to me.

Part Two: No, Doc, you are NOT a hero for telling my daddy I’m a virgin

So someone linked to this Reddit comment thread in one of my Ex-Muslim groups. The comment being discussed is by an expat doctor in Saudi Arabia talking about how he sometimes has to perform virginity tests on girls getting ready to marry, and he risks his practice by issuing virginity certificates to the girls who don’t ‘pass’ the test, so to speak, in order to try to help and protect them from the shame and backlash of their families. And he has thousands of upvotes, and the whole thread is basically a fest of commentators patting him on the back, talking about what a hero and help he is to these young women, some of whom he described as sobbing in shame during the procedure.

And it really does kind of make me sick, as someone who has been trying to come to terms with the trauma of this forced procedure for the past few years. I’ve frankly just been trying to do my best to just not hate the gynecologist who did it to me. I’m incredibly disheartened that in most of this thread there is little discussion of the procedure itself and of consent, little mention of how a girl being brought by her parents to have this done to her, unless she’s completely on board and desirous of the process herself, is being touched non-consensually, against her will. It’s a humiliating and traumatizing thing to go through, and it is a form of assault. Why are these people not discussing the assault and non-consent aspect of this at all?

It seems to have totally gone over all of their heads that what is problematic about this whole thing is not just how ignorant and bigoted people will treat daughters who are not virgins, that it’s not just about reducing the purity and worth of a woman to a piece of tissue, that it’s not just the bad science and the weird fixation on controlling women’s bodies it entails–that the procedure itself is a non-consensual invasion of women’s bodies, that the procedure itself affects women like us, possibly for years to come. Independent of what happens as a result of it. They haven’t begun to consider what it is like for us, against our will, at the whim and power of our parents who effectively own our bodies, to lay prone and helpless before a stranger who will touch our genitals and examine them in order to judge our purity and worth in an entirely unnecessary and dehumanizing procedure. And did someone on that thread seriously compare the custom of forcing girls to undergo virginity tests with other cultural customs like eating Turkey on Thanksgiving? Fucking cultural relativists, I swear.

Before I express the greatest of my many very strong sentiments regarding this thread and what’s happening in it, let me acknowledge some of the ‘buts’ probably brewing in your brains:

Yes, I recognize that it is likely that this doctor and others in his position have very little choice in conducting these tests–that it is probably impossible for him to just pretend that he did it because family might be present in the room for the procedure (for instance–my mom was there with me during mine–she couldn’t see exactly what the doctor was doing, but even if a doctor is only pretending to touch and probe, being prone and exposed to a stranger against your will is likely traumatic in itself).

Yes, I recognize that if he refused to do it, someone else very likely would, and that someone else might not be willing to lie about a girl’s virginity status to help them. Yes, I recognize it’s a fucked up and difficult choice for anyone to have to make, a supremely unenviable position to be put into, and that he seems to be expressing plenty of regret and empathy and distress at the entire situation, that there are dynamics of control and constraint that are prevalent and inescapable in situations as these, and he’s not from the outside perpetrating the system, but rather pulled into it himself at least in part against his will.

And I’ve been trying to come to terms with my virginity test for years, trying to have compassion and understanding for the doctor who so nonchalantly held me down and touched me. I wrote a blog post trying to explore her reasoning, trying to think of all the difficult constraints she faced, all the limited options she had, trying to remember that she too was caught in the same system that I was, and it was probably difficult, damning for her. I’ve tried, over the years, to recognize that yes, there is much to be said about how hard it is to choose the unequivocally ethical option in such a circumstance, and this doctor in Saudi Arabia–I don’t envy him being in that position.

None of that is to say, though, that he deserves roaring acclaim, that he is a hero to women like me. There’s a far cry between recognizing that someone is in a very difficult position trying to do the best he can and making him seem like a hero and savior to the poor women that pass under his probing tools. But there’s a reason that it’s such a difficult and damning choice to have to make–because there’s no right choice, there’s no easy option–it perpetuates suffering all around–damned if you do, damned if you don’t–and that’s why it’s still a tragedy. That’s why it’s not a matter of heroics. It’s still damned if you don’t–except the praise seems to be coming in because they recognize the potential cost to him and his practice if he’s caught lying about these tests–ie, how he is damned for this–rather than recognizing how damning and fucked up it is for the women who have to undergo the procedure. How blindsided, really.

And not that he asked for all of these people to come along treating him like a savior, but he does seem to be handling the praise with a good amount of complacency, and has made comments about thinking he’s doing good, hasn’t addressed how problematic the procedure is itself, even somewhat unbelievably mentioning the tears of girls undergoing it as a product of shame for not being virgins without thinking of other reasons why someone being examined thus might be distressed–and I’m almost dumbfounded by the complete and utter obliviousness of all these people to what is going on here.

And I’m sitting here reading all these comments from people about the women who’ve had to suffer through this ordeal, calling this doctor a hero to women like us, saying that there’s no way to understand how much a doctor such as this has helped the lives of these young women-and all this while, I’m sitting here with flashbacks of my virginity test and thinking do they not realize that he’s the one doing this traumatic and dehumanizing thing to those women?

[Activate full-on snark]. Like, I fucking have been struggling for years trying not to HATE the gynecologist who somehow found herself capable of doing that shit to me for making such a fucked up choice. She’s not my hero because she told my daddy I’m a virgin. She held me down and touched me without my consent. Fuck this shit. Don’t you fucking act like this guy is some noble savior for agreeing to invade women’s bodies and then keeping his mouth shut about it if they’re not virgins. Don’t fucking act like we must be grateful for this. Don’t fucking act like we’ve been granted a shining boon and we must skip along merrily for it if someone who just finished probing our genitals doesn’t accurately report the state of our torn hymens.  Like, oh, you engaged in this dehumanizing and nonconsensual practice? Let’s fucking give you gold stars and call you a hero because you handed out certificates afterwards.

I mean the *irony* you know? Because the reasoning, presumably, for lying about these women’s virginity is so that they won’t suffer violation at the hands of their families for it. But in order to do so you conduct a procedure that VIOLATES THEM? Like, is it so outside of your fucking radar to not see how you’ve just supremely defeated the purpose by essentially assaulting someone in order to help keep them from harm?

But you know, this isn’t about the women, it really isn’t–what it must be like for them, their lives, their will, their bodies–so little of it is considered or thought about with any measure of sympathy or imagination. The whole thread–it doesn’t focus on the women regarding the procedure in question. It focuses on an othering appraisal of ‘these societies’ and ‘these customs’, talking about us as if we’re specimens in a zoo, and the choice the doctor was faced with and how difficult it is and how magically magnanimous he is and what an experience to have! and he should write a book about it! and be on talkshows!, because our dehumanization is your selling point! and then the whole strain of apologetic defenses of the cultures that perpetrate this bullshit and BLERGH. Talk about the actual living people who go through this and consider the horror of it all to them instead of treating them like curious specimens who are just so supported and helped by this guy–nope, nope. The very implication that I should be grateful to someone who’s done this to me–it makes me want to gag.

To any doctor, no matter how constrained, who performs virginity tests, I say:

No, Doc, you are NOT a hero for telling my daddy I’m a virgin. I am not your oppressed curiosity. You do not get to pat yourself on the back for helping me. You cannot imagine the trauma and pain of any of this. This isn’t about you and the supreme difficulty of the choice you have to make to violate others or be complicit in their violation–forgive us if we don’t melt into ecstatic thanks for the magnanimity of your choosing the somewhat less-shitty option, and appreciate just how much it fucking costs you to have to violate our bodies.

And enough, enough, in general of all of these narratives regarding the treatment of brown women being about those who deal with us and their attempts to help or whatever–it is not about them. It is about us–all of us.

It’s been 7 years for me. It doesn’t just become fixed, voila,  an experience like that, you know, if you tell my dad that I’m a virgin and you explain to my parents that hymens aren’t a reliable marker of virginity to begin with.  It doesn’t erase it. It doesn’t fix it. You’re not a hero, I do not have to be grateful to you, and I don’t need strangers who can’t conceive of what any of this is like talking about its unimaginable how much you’ve helped me. I can try to sympathize with you, though, to understand the difficulty and constraint of your choice, I will try as hard as I can not to blame or condemn you for it-but that is as generous and magnanimous as I can possibly get. I will never forget how you touched me against my will.

-Marwa

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The racism of the white wolf who cried Islamophobia

 

There’s a bee in my bonnet. Let’s talk about the racism of the white wolf who cried Islamophobia.

I’m tired of a certain faction of Western liberals, especially white guys, Westsplaining about how anti-Muslim bigotry and Western colonialism and imperialism and international geopolitics provide *essential context* for understanding the sources of Muslim problems, which don’t come from a vacuum, how there are striking *parallels* between liberal critique of Islam and right-wing anti-Muslim bigotry.

Hey guy, I had no idea that you had such an adept understanding of what it’s like to live in a Muslim culture under the influence of the effects Western colonialism and international geopolitics. Please, tell me more, Westsplain to me, oh white man, how imperialism is responsible for me being forced to wear hijab for 15 years, suffering honor violence, and living a dangerous double life until my escape. Please condescendingly explain to me in the terms of your own culture where my oppression *really* comes from.

Look, I’m not denying that imperialism and geopolitics certainly help this ish along, often significantly. I’m not denying that anti-Muslim bigotry is a pervasive and significant problem. But those things are not an *explanation*. They are contributing factors at best that neither sufficiently explain nor excuse the blatant transgressions of Muslims and the horrible conditions in Muslim-majority countries. There is also an ironic lack of focus on Arab imperialism and the manner in which Islam has been reified, propagated, and been used to justify horrors in the Middle East and South Asia *far preceding* the West dipping its fingers into that mess. Sorry to strip you of credit for this, really, but it’s not the West that created the dehumanizing elements of Muslim cultures. There is also ironic lack of focus on the booming (essentially) slave trade disguised as a migrant worker system exploiting Africans and South and Southeast Asians that is utterly normalized in the Gulf and Levant. This isn’t some big bad monster wrought by the damning hand of Western imperialism and anti-Muslim bigotry. It has well transcended reasonable standards of the acceptable under those constraints, and the prevalence of normalized oppressive sentiment is not some fringe side effect of the injustices of white men. Growing up in Hezbollah culture, it was plain to see how Western-driven war and occupation helped fuel the return to fundamentalist Shia Islam, but it hardly exonerates us South Lebanese and Lebanese-Palestinian mashups from responsibility for the decisions we’ve made since then, for our violence and bigotry, for the culture of control and oppression and we’ve rooted ourselves into in response to these problems. Surely it doesn’t come from a vacuum, but you might have to live and be socialized in a Muslim country under the effects of such imperialism to recognize how fully much of it comes from ourselves, how essentialized scripture and deeply-rooted honor-shame codes fuel Islamism and the grave and rote dehumanization built into our cultures.

Sorry, but the West can’t take credit for this too.

And the supreme irony here? The blatant condescension of this PoV. It really is such a white-centric thing to try to explain the Muslim issue in those terms, to essentialize our problems in terms of your culture’s imperialism. It is also–and I’m not holding my breath for anyone to realize this anytime soon–buying into the same anti-brown racism to continually draw analogies between liberal critiques of Islam and right-wing anti-Muslim bigotries, to present eg the often-racist ignorant spewings of Dawkins and his ilk as the FACE of liberal and atheist discourse regarding the matter so you can self-righteously jump to condemn the obviously condemnable just as you raise it to the level of being representative of the entire liberal and atheist community, ironically completely drowning out and excluding the voices of Ex-Muslims and progressive Muslims, especially women, from the categories of ‘Western’ and ‘liberal’ and ‘atheist discourse’, othering us and contributing to our silence and marginalization. We don’t want Dawkins and Harris to be the driving voices of liberal discourse regarding Islam either. Stop excluding us. Stop alienating us. Stop reducing us to the norms of our home cultures, as if we’re incapable of engaging with them or transcending them, and stop creating a binary between us and our values and liberalism and its values.

Stop making our issues about you and your imperialism. By focusing so long and hard on your condemnation of anti-Muslim bigotry and white savior complexes, you are silencing us. You are othering us. You are explaining things about the very people whose marginalization you decry over and above their own voices and lived experiences. Cut that shit out.

And this is what I hear from you when you continually raise the flag of anti-imperialism above all other concerns regarding the Muslim issues. I hear that you do not think well enough of us as Muslims and Arabs and Persians and Kurds and Turks and South Asians and Africans to grapple with these imperialistic and geopolitical forces without being expected to refrain from falling into dehumanization and violence because of them.

That, because of imperialism, it is okay to hold us to standards that deplete to even the sub-human.

That we cannot or should not be responsible, strong, or aware enough to resist becoming aggressors ourselves because we have been aggressed against.

That Western imperialism is a greater driving force than anything we make, say, or do.

That you do not believe that Muslims and Ex-Muslims and people from Muslim-majority countries speaking on the matter–whether in affirming or critiquing ways–are powerful enough voices to speak to their own experiences, or to be taken as key or representative.

That it is okay for you to refuse to acknowledge our oppression as specifically non-white in source in order to avoid enabling the ‘save the brown women narrative’, because you somehow can’t see anything other than such a white-centric result being possible, as if we do not fucking exist as powerful critiquers of our own cultures, as if acknowledging the oppressive matters of fact of our existence suddenly renders us weak or incapable of engaging with it, as if your refusal to acknowledge our victimhood is anything more noble than a silencing mechanism, because you yourself somehow subscribe to some strange essentializing view that a victimized brown woman is a silent and passive one.

I hear you implying, too, that you have any real experiential knowledge from which to assess the horrors of Western imperialism vs the horrors of Islamist control and misogyny and decide which to decry. That in your transcending fear of enabling the right-wing bigotry that leads to further imperialist force, you can and will make judgments as to what is best for us regarding which of the damning powers contributing to our shitty lives should be enabled or discouraged, that you can and will make judgments as to which of the damning powers holding us down and controlling us is more or less serious or grave.

That, friend, is what is fucking racist.

-Marwa

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UPDATE ABOUT YOUR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS:

I have had responses to this piece coming from various platforms (email, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit) and two lines of questioning continue to reappear, so I’ll address them here. This will be the final place I will address them *on this post*. This is what I have to say about the subject and I will not approve further comments that ask questions that have already been answered below (including in the pieces I will link to) or that repeat points made by others. I will not approve further comments that misrepresent or misunderstand my position. I will approve comments that ask or point out something new, but I won’t engage with them — please understand that I’ve been responding to questions and explaining my position for a long time and I need a small break. I *will* try to write future posts regarding these things in more detail:

1) Questions about my addressing liberal Westerners and white men and talking about racism regarding Muslims. Some people continue to point out that 1) being white and being Western ought not to determine whether/how Islam can be reasonably talked about, and 2) especially as Muslims can be and are white and Western too. As for the first point, I don’t disagree as a matter of necessity, but I will stress that your background is relevant to the amount of knowledge and experience that informs and strengthens your arguments. As for the second point – YES- that only reinforces my stance. Perhaps some subtleties of my argument above need explaining:

The proponents of the argument that I’m critiquing endorse it *precisely because* they feel, *particularly as* white Westerners who want to acknowledge and grapple with their privilege, it would be racist to critique Islam due to the inluence of the West in Muslim -majority countries worldwide. I’m showing that *in their very attempts* to not be racist towards brown people, who *they* are concerned with as constituting the majority of Muslims worldwide, they are excluding us from the categories of “Western” and “liberal” and silencing us and speaking for us — which is *ironically* racist because their argument to start with is born of an awareness of their whiteness and Westernness and a desire to not be appropriative of others. My piece is in critique of the fundamentally flawed premise that their argument is anti-racist. Thus I’m grappling with the terms the original argument sets out in order to meet it head on. THAT is why racism and being Western and white is relevant. Thus eg the “oh white man” in the second paragraph is used satirically– when white guys consistently say “as a white guy I think we need to not talk about Islam because of how our colonialism and imperialism and islamiphobia leads to these problems for the Muslim world”, it is appropriate to respond by saying “hey white guy, you’re silencing us in your very attempt to not appropriate us”. When being white and Western is the reason *given* for this stance, It’s appropriate to respond according to those terms.

If that’s still unclear maybe I’m just bad at explaining. But if you still dont get what I’m doing in this piece, I’m sorry, I dont really know how to further elaborate.

2) Questions about why/how I am calling Dawkins racist and what problem I have with Harris.

Re: Dawkins. I said Dawkin’s stances are often racist– this has nothing to do with him being white or him critiquing Islam. Let me emphasize: *I want everyone of all backgrounds with adequate knowledge to continue to be free to critique Islam without blame for doing it as such*. It has to do with the racializing and othering *manner* in which I have great reason to believe *Dawkins in particular* does it. Yes, Islam is not a race — but neither are *most things* that are or can be discussed in racist ways, eg rap music, poor working single moms, sports mascots, Halloween costumes, etc. While critique of Islam doesn’t have to be racist, and so much of it is NOT, it certainly can be. So here it is: I find the *manner in which* Dawkins discusses Islam (and to be honest, feminism and sexual harassment too) to be often fundamentally problematic. And to be clear, I’m a fan of a good portion of Dawkins’ work on biology and atheism. I wrote a paper for Dennett’s graduate seminar in defense of the selfish gene theory. So my stance is also not so much regarding either Dawkins himself or the bulk of his work, but regarding particular of his stances on particular subjects he is less adept in.

For a little more detail to why I think Dawkin’s approach is often incredibly problematic, there’s this post (and the post to which it’s replying) that detail a lot of my views regarding critique of Islam. I don’t go into too many specifics of many of his particular stances, choosing instead to comment on his general approach. I suppose I could go into detail in the future, but I’m not super invested because I think there are far important things to devote my limited resources to discussing than critiquing Dawkins, and several people have already written on the matter in compelling ways. But in any case, this post clarifies a lot regarding my standards for reasoned critique of Islam:

https://aveilandadarkplace.com/2013/08/14/how-can-we-discuss-islam-in-better-ways-a-response-to-alex-gabriel-on-dawkins-and-islam/

As for Harris, I *did not* say his stances are often racist as I did about Dawkins, so please don’t conflate the two statements. I love a lot of what he does, especially because he is careful and detailed and freely fearlessly outspoken, and I take far issue with a very few of his stances (except as regarding his encouragement of what is basically racial profiling in airports but I’d have to tackle his detailed argument in detail myself to clarify my stance regarding that)– my statement was rather that I don’t want his voice to be the driving one in liberal discourse regarding Islam I hope to see ex-Muslims and progressive Muslims, who are more knowledgeable and uniquely experienced and can speak first-hand to certain horrors in Muslim-majority countries in articulate, compelling ways– ESPECIALLY women, the largest sufferers under Islamism, have their voices enabled as the leaders of this discourse instead of being consistently overshadowed by famous Western men speaking for them–I hope Harris et al to be strong secondary voices in support of us, in addition to ours, but for us to no longer be silenced in the name of anti-racist liberalism.

I make a strong argument for the adequate representation of ex-Muslim women here:

https://aveilandadarkplace.com/2014/03/19/ex-hijabi-interviews-and-the-underrepesentation-of-ex-muslim-women/

An excerpt:

”To be clear, it is a wonderful thing that we have allies, friends, and supporters championing our causes to highlight and critique the circumstances that have structured our experiences. However, the status quo at the moment in mainstream media has those voices largely overpowering ours when it comes to speaking about our experiences. Despite the fact that this is less than ideal for powerful, effective critique. Why give space to secondary sources when people with more insight and knowledge are easily accessible and readily available to speak for themselves? People who have lived knowledge of the intricacies of the power-privilege and honor-shame dynamics of the societies in question, who were intimately involved in the very religious systems that are being scrutinized? Women are often the greatest sufferers under Islam, and our experiences can be very difficult to adequately imagine and capture indeed. Why forgo the opportunity to let us tell the powerful, compelling, sometimes unbelievable stories of our lives and our critiques of them? Especially when so many of us are so incredibly intelligent and articulate when it comes to these matters. To be clear, secondary sources are a strong asset to support and champion our own–but when they are magnified to our exclusion, there is something quite amiss going on.

… Now imagine if the largest liberal platform regarding this issue was given to Ex-Muslims, who are largely people of color who were socialized and lived enmeshed lives in Muslim-majority countries and societies, who have the requisite knowledge and experience to discuss these matters in informed ways, who are far less likely to fall into mistaken generalizations. Who also cannot be easily discounted as ignorant appropriators–who have incisive, eloquent critiques to give about being marginalized, who refuse to be swept aside using the No True Muslim fallacy. Who will not stand to have their legitimacy to speak about their own lives challenged without powerful retort.”

Thanks for reading. Well wishes.

A Tirade of Snark to My Clueless Muslim Critics

muslimah dogeHerein I unleash the snark. I can’t always wax gently lyrical.

Context: My last blog post was about having conversations regarding sex and virginity with family, a musing exploration of the disconnect in exchanging ideas while trying to understand each other.

This morning I approved a new comment on the blog from a lady who had several objections to it. She seems very earnest, especially as she followed my blog after submitting her comment, so I thought I’d actually reply even though I mostly refrain from addressing comments that are all over the place and so particularly straw-manny (I just don’t have the time, really). But in typing up a reply, I realized that I was rambling pretty fierce, too long for just a comment, but also that I was addressing a lot of stock responses I hear to this sort of thing, and it wasn’t really about one person’s comment, but about a collective mindset–one that, in a supreme and kind of satisfying culmination of irony, corroborates the very offending ideas in my original post about how sex and virginity is dealt with–

–it’s kind of sadly elegant, really.

But the mindset is there, it’s prevalent and rote and you know, sometimes I feel like I wonder if I’m being uncharitable in my positions but there’s such a brewing of disgust within me at the insidious self-righteousness of these sorts of responses that this does not seem at all like a low enough jab but I’ll say it:

You can string out the same tired sentences and stances a thousand and one times and they’ll still be as flawed and dishonest and inhumane as ever, these phrases, ‘oh, Islam grants women her rights, don’t you know, preserves honor, dignity, and doesn’t condone mistreatment’ and seriously, I ask you, do we live in the same world?

I’m cracking my fingers here, getting ready–and I’ll stop to say that this isn’t truly about singling out one comment or one person–I don’t expect the person to even have the stamina to read the whole thing, and I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t feel myself to be reading another iteration of the same exact formula again and again, and I think it’s worth addressing at least in a semi-permanent place at least once, so the next time I receive these responses, I can just *plop* link ‘em all to my response to this, which so eloquently captures much of their spirit. I quote for layered responses–if you don’t have time or energy to read the whole thing, you can just read the responses to the quotes you’re interested in. You can see the full comment as it appears at the original post but I’m shuffling things around to respond to them.

I’ma start with the juicy stuff, the fiery indignation that I even suggest marital rape is condoned by Islam. Oh noes:

“Islam does not permit marital rape, how can you even state that..’One of the Prophet’s companions once asked him, “Messenger of Allah, what is the right the wife of one of us has on him?” he said, “To feed her whenever you feed yourself and to clothe her whenever you clothe yourself; do not slap her across the face, revile her or separate yourself from her except in the house.”(Sunan Abu Daawood: 2142)’ How can that much humbleness approve marital rape..”

Uhm okay, you quote a hadith that has…nothing…to do with marital sex as relevant proof? But before telling you how I can possibly state that Islam permits marital rape… let’s talk about this hadith of “much humbleness”. I find it really striking and somewhat alarming that you think that the bare minimum of food,  clothing, and not slapping a woman on the face (but elsewhere is fine, yes?) are indicators of humbleness. Oh, and don’t revile her or separate yourself from her–unless you’re at home, then it’s okay! Revile her all you want. I mean, honestly? You seem to have very low standards for how your life partner ought to treat you.  Oh what generosity, to consider her worthy of the same food! Nor does her slap her–astounding! I’m frankly utterly disgusted at such arrogance. Fuck you, guy, oh how fucking humble and generous of you to not fucking slap me.

But I don’t know, maybe you think that’s all you deserve. Whatever, it’s your life, and maybe that does something for you. But it’s kind of a far leap to claim that if someone feeds and clothes and doesn’t beat their wife they can’t POSSIBLY coerce her into unwanted sex. I’d be actually very unsurprised if someone who thought themselves magnanimous in showing the most basic dregs of human empathy to their supposed life partner also thought he has some sort of right to her body.

And look, in all seriousness here, because I’m replying to this ish in a meta sort of way, here’s my claim to why I think this non-argument is just so representative: so often we point to these injustices prevalent in Muslim-majority societies, we claim they’re influenced, enforced, legislated, protected by scripture and then the responses end up being a lot of sideways “but look at this other irrelevent piece of scripture over here that presents Muslims as kind or decent or humble or whatever’ nonsense, as if that is some sort of proof that invalidates the real influence of other far more powerful and far more internalized values within the culture-society code. I mean, axe-murderers can pet puppies, you know? pointing incessantly to the puppy is diversionary as hell and an insidious tactic used to drown out a million screams. I don’t really seem much value in a husband who lets his wife fucking eat if he thinks he has some fundamental right to her body, yeesh.

But you know, if you want some scripture on the subject directly instead of this diversionary shit, here are two corroborated hadith that directly address marital sex. I can pull up fatwas from various respected scholars in various denominations, but man I don’t have the stomach to listen to that buffoonery right now:

“Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, ” If a husband calls his wife to his bed (i.e. to have sexual relations) and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Vol. 4 Hadith No. 460 & Sahih Muslim Vol. 2 Hadith No. 3368) ————————————————– Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, ” When a man calls his wife to satisfy his desire she must go to him even if she is occupied at the oven.” (Al Tirmidhi Hadith No. 1160 & Ibn Ma’jah Hadith No. 4165)

(Even if she’s doing something as important as COOKING, good lord! They’ve thought of everything!)

But yeah, to answer the rhetorical-ish question regarding how I can possibly state that Islam condones marital rape. Let’s move from the ahadith to here:

File:Marital rape criminalized map.svg

  Marital rape is criminalized
  Marital rape is criminalized only if the couple is legally separated
  Marital rape is a form of non-criminal domestic violence
  Marital rape is known not to be criminalized
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape

To begin: these are the Muslim-majority countries in which marital rape is legal: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait,  Morocco, Oman,  Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Sudan,  Sudan, Syria, Yemen. Not only are most Muslim countries on this list, most of the countries on the full list are Muslim countries. There are reasons for this statistical correlation: dozens of religious authorities with established scholarship in their sects have substantiated the Islamic right of a husband to his wife’s body whenever he pleases. In my native Lebanon,  draft laws attempting to criminalize marital rape and domestic violence were shot down by the largest Shia and Sunni authorities in the country based in scriptural grounds. Something similar is going on in Pakistan right now. The justification is given on explicitly religious grounds wherever it is given. It can hardly be clearer. Inb4, whether you personally believe these rulings capture the spirit of the Islam you think you know,  they remain the law of the land in most places in which Islam is institutionally practiced.

Marriage to children, too–by definition rape,  as they are incapable of consent–is also justified and approved of in many Muslim-majority societies based on prophetic precedent and a number of corroborated ahadith, and attempts to change legislature in order to protect these children has time and again been met with opposition from religious authorities in multiple countries. So in short, to answer your question, it is the practices and beliefs of Muslims worldwide that lead me to claim marital rape is not considered a crime in Islam.  Perhaps I should have qualified my statement with “most” or “largely” as it’s not a universal belief; for that I apologize. My language would have done well to be more careful (as would yours have).

Moving forward, you have this gem, because it’s a howler:

“In any religion a husband would expect sex from his wife, and when she refuses a fight occurs, and ends in violence and abuse..The husband walks out leaving the wife bruised and crying on the kitchen floor while in search of a quickie… Islam protects us against the anger and hurt that would follow which would end in husband committing adultery and the end result would be divorce…”

Such rights! So protection! Much humanity! Not.

So…you think that a woman should have sex when she doesn’t want to so her husband doesn’t fight with her,  abuse her,  and cheat on her?  And you call this PROTECTION?  I hate to break it to you,  but what you described is the goddamn definition of marital rape.

And give me a moment for every goddamn LOL on the planet to your self righteous indignation at  the suggestion that Islam condones marital rape when you then turn around and explain why a woman should have sex if she doesn’t want to SO SHE CAN STAY SAFE.  As if safety is not a fundamental human right regardless of any goddamn circumstance without all these dehumanizing conditions.

You know what’s really gut-wrenchingly hilarious (in the sense that it makes me goddamn sick to my stomach) about the stark majority of these ‘women’s rights’ claims touted by Muslim apologists like you? They are all fucking conditional, these so-called rights. Hijab up so that you don’t get harassed, raped, so you can be treated like a human being instead of a piece of meat. Get permission to marry, divorce the husband of your ‘choice’, work the job of your ‘choice’. Have fucking sex with your husband when you don’t fucking want to so you don’t get fucking beaten and cheated on and divorced. Here’s a hint: if it’s conditional it’s not a right. It’s not magnanimity or justice to conditionally grant things that are supposed to be inalienable human rights to begin with.

Let’s make something clear.  One should not have to cover her body in order to NOT be assaulted or harassed. One should not have to have sex if she doesn’t feel like it in order to NOT be yelled at, beaten,  or cheated on.

Sex agreed to in order to avoid anger and violence and holding a marriage hostage to it is not consensual sex.  It’s pretty fucked up and totally unacceptable and there’s something seriously wrong with any religious code that condones something like this, yet you someone think it’s expected, you present it is something standard in ‘any religion’.

Expecting sex is a false premise here. If a religious code holds expecting sex as a right then it does not value consent. You do not value or understand consent if you believe this.

Someone who thinks they have even the slightest right to get angry or fight because their wife didn’t want to have sex does not value consent and is frankly a piece of shit.

Someone who finds that to be an acceptable justification for cheating in an agreed-upon monogamous relationship is also a piece of shit.

None of this is okay or a reasonable progression from someone denying sex. You know what not-rape sex is? It’s all informed adult individuals involved having sex because they want to fucking have sex.

Way to corroborate the very claims you found so offensive.

But let me jump back to the beginning:

“I do however disagree with your discreditation of Islam and what it permits and forbids. I’m a muslim female living in a westonized country, my dressing is westonized for which i will be answerable for, however my friends and people I’m acquainted with are dressed in hijaab and niqaab..”

Assuming you mean “Westernized”–

“You stated that conversations with female family members regarding sex and exploration of it would be silenced into a subject change.”

I actually didn’t, but go on….

“That has nothing to with Islam and what it commands, but should be questioned on the bond your family has with you. My family is staunch and very pious but our conversations has no limits..”

So, I’ve written before about the “That’s not the true Islam” argument and other iterations of stances that boil down to “Let’s shed Islam of all responsibility for the practices, beliefs, and interpretations of Muslims.” And this is really what this objection is; a cop-out. Congratulations:  if what you say is true, your family is in the minority among Muslim-majority families and societies, where sex is still incredibly stigmatized. Even Lebanon, which is likely the most liberal Muslim-majority country with a significant Christian population and thriving underground LGBTQ scene, has a huge sex stigma (eg,  http://dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Lifestyle/2014/Apr-02/251979-yallacondoms-keeping-lebanese-safe.ashx). The sex taboo has very much to do with Islam and its commands, seeing how it is religious attitudes and legislature that contribute to the stigmatization and criminalization of sex. And really, this is not so much about you presenting a different experience; it’s not as innocent as that, because if you’d said ‘oh hey those aren’t the beliefs of my Muslim family and my experiences’ that would have been a benign if utterly unremarkable statement (oh wait you mean that different people in different places believe and practice different versions of a religion? No way!!!). But it’s the most self-serving kind of dishonesty that will allow someone to deny ANY influence of the religious codes on sex stigma. I mean honestly? Religious codes that sanctify virginity and that prescribe violent punishment for extramarital sex–you think they has nothing to do with sex stigma?  When in the majority of scholarship-based interpretations of Islam, extramarital sex is viewed as a crime worthy of extreme violence or execution–that is, sex outside of marriage is met with whipping or stoning to death, depending on circumstances in the stark majority of scholarly interpretations of Islam? Yeah, it is kind of sickening for someone to turn around and try to claim that there is no Islamic influence on sex stigma where and when it exists. It’s not only denying a prevalent phenomenon that disadvantages millions of people, it’s considering the defense of an abstract set of ideas to have priority over human lives.

As for your accusations that I’m trying to use my family conversations as statements about Islam and what it commands…. ironically, while you made many blanket generalizations about Islam and what it is and isn’t,  I did not make any essentialist claims about Islam as such in this whole piece, excepting regarding marital rape, instead discussing the prevalent attitudes in the Muslim societies that I was raised in, the beliefs in my family. Surely you can see the difference? This is a distinction I’ve stressed in many blog posts , because there is little use in discussing an abstract, Platonic form of Islam independent of the incredible range and diversity of Muslim lived beliefs, practices, and interpretation.  Thus I’ll ask what you claim to mean when you reference Islam in such a way– are you claiming to present the overall view of all Muslims, as if there is such a unified thing? Or do you mean something else by Islam, something independent of the way in which Muslims practice and legislate? So what do you reference when you say Islam?   Which denomination?  Which interpretation,  practiced in which way by which society? Because your version of Islam is strictly incompatible with a plethora of ways in which Muslims worldwide believe and practice, whose legitimacy you discount as soon as you begin to talk about it in an essentialist way.

And let’s be real here. I write a blog post discussing conversations I have with my family members, where I describe a way of viewing sex and virginity, calling it consistent with the views of the Muslim societies that I grew up in–and even this recognition of the provincial, the localized context of my discussion is not enough to validate the conversation, the weighty ideas it tussles with, the human lives it affects, the women who are victimized, who suffer–because the mere association with a Muslim context renders whatever real human concern it is presenting as immaterial in light of the possibility that Islam is being insulted–the horror. Instead, I am accused of attempting to both characterize and discredit the entirety of Islam, because there are consistent near-militant  reactions (sometimes not-so-near, given the incredible violence of some reactions to critical portrayal of Muslims) to even discussing the problems in Muslim-majority societies in a critical way. And I find that to be incredibly alarming and uncompassionate.

Case in point. You say:

“Had you chosen to be a porn star would be your choice, but making Islam out to be ruthless and uncouth is something I’m disgusted at…”

(first: lol) then: *shrug* times a kajillion. Your disgust is kind of ironic here and it also does not trump the need to discuss real-world problems that don’t disappear just because you think  your personal understanding of Islam doesn’t condone them. When religious codes continue to influence,  structure,  and produce such societies, the need to actively talk about what’s going on trumps any defensive feelings.  In the blog post you so ardently needed to respond to I described the status quo in my own country, but to you even a mere description is offensive because it doesn’t line up with your view of Islam. Tough deal. Maybe you should be disgusted at the the state of things in Muslim-majority societies rather than the fact that someone dares to describe them.

Funny about the porn star comment though–you imply I can choose something like that without there being problems but you object to me even describing Muslim societies where a woman making a choice to even engage in a sexual relationship is forbidden. See, there’s a fundamental disconnect here and it’s clear that you don’t see it. If these religious codes weren’t socially and legally sanctioned, did not actually control the choices of women, then I wouldn’t be here talking about this ish. I don’t care about ‘discrediting’ Islam–I care about keeping it where it belongs, in the private sphere. But you know, you present this binary, my freedom of choice on one hand and then leaving Islam alone on the other, as if it’s some sort of equivalence, as if one of these rights has actually been granted to women like me in Muslim-majority societies order for the other regarding speaking about Islam to be respected. As if it’s even close to being an equivalent trade off, giving women their basic rights versus not having someone criticize your chosen ideology.

But yeah, moving forward:

“As a muslim saying that hijab often entails a desire not to tempt and sway men into transgression, into sin; shows the little you know about the beauty behind the female dress and the rights and protection that has Allah ordained for us..”

I mean, I guess that’s nice for you that you see beauty in these ordained dress codes? That doesn’t really change the fact that in many Muslim-majority societies where covering is a fixed social norm, not tempting men into sin is the core justification for it–I’m not sure if you were disputing that or if you were claiming that this justification is in fact beautiful thing. If it’s the former, then you disputing it doesn’t make it go away. If your view is rather that you think covering up in order to not sway men is a beautiful thing–well, I can’t deny that it surely is presented as such, especially with dehumanizing pearl-in-oyster analogies or whatever where women are compared to pretty objects with no agency. You have strange conceptions of beauty, I suppose, and that’s your right, regarding your own body–but the fact that we disagree about this is only an issue because women like me are forced into complying to these dress codes. It wouldn’t matter what I or anyone else thought about the hijab if it was only and ever a free choice women made for themselves. See, it doesn’t matter if it’s a beautiful thing or not–even beautiful things can be oppressive if coerced. The beauty you see in it is utterly irrelevant.

And this is all really what much of these Muslim apologist criticisms end up boiling down to: an inability to accept any critique as legitimate or allowed (or even fucking informed–every goddamn LOL ever at a woman who doesn’t wear hijab attempting to school me on a thing I lived for 15 years), while at the same time failing to realize that the point of this entire operation is not that we give some essential deep-felt flying fuck about disproving your precious religion; it’s about wanting to reform the conditions in Muslim-majority societies. And I have plenty of Muslim friends and acquaintances who, fuck, I find their beliefs to be utterly ridiculous, as ridiculous as a  belief in pixie dust that gives birth to bluebells every moonset, but they also believe in reform and establishing the freedom of choice for women worldwide that comes with a fundamental recognition of human rights, so their personal beliefs are radically immaterial to me. It is when you begin to paint your religion in any of its forms as absolutely innocent of the blood of millions worldwide, to shed yourself of association to this that I turn back around with the snarling fury the topic deserves.

“A women virginity does belong to her yes, but it is her izat that needs protecting..Izat’s a beautiful arabic word that defines a women’s pride and dignity, not just virginity..Izat is what اAllah commands her mahram( husband) to keep safe and protected from the world, the gossip that should follow , and the label people would create out of envy..”

Sister, do you even Arabic? I mean, give me a second to laugh my ass off at you trying to explain these tired concepts to me in my own native language, which you evidently don’t know. The izat you’re talking about is not Arabic but AFAIK both Hindi and Urdu and also not specific to Islam, and used in other religions practiced in South Asia. We have equivalent notions, of course, but different words. And that’s not what mahram means either, but whatever. I mean, if you’re going to try to be pedantic and repeatedly claim I don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t understand or know Islam well enough, then at least don’t make fuckups with your basic terminology. Meta-analysis, seriously guys: this is just such a prevalent thing, where people bring in their own cultural contextual bits of knowledge, often folk knowledge, of what their version of Islam IS and try to present it as representative (it’s perfectly fine and legitimate to speak to its own context of course) precisely in order to claim that others who are addressing a different and/or broader context are ignorant or misinformed. And often, when without considering that yes, we know all of that tired stuff, we were raised Muslim

But let’s get to the core of your claim: so these norms or laws etc preventing extramarital sex to are meant to protect some dignity-pride-honor thingamajig  so that women don’t have to suffer from the judgment of the world. Yeah…that gossip and labeling and shit doesn’t arise from a vacuum. It’s not the default natural state to look at a woman who has had sex as having lost some precious dignity ish–it’s when you attach this concept to her sexuality that it becomes possible to dehumanize her for having sex. Look, you’re describing is people being assholes about women who have sex and then you’re stipulating that instead of it being the responsibility of others to not be transgressing dicks, a woman should instead limit herself and hide behind her husband. This is utterly backwards. A society that operates on these premises is like one that believes in keeping innocents locked up to protect them instead of expecting criminals to not commit crimes.  And really this is an incredibly common way of thinking in Muslim-majority societies–it’s exactly the same reasoning that thinks a woman should cover her body up in order not to be attacked or disrespected rather than refusing to condone any kind of attack or disrespect regardless of her dress. It is why much of what I’ve described are enmeshed social norms instead of ideas misguided individuals have them. Here’s an alternative idea: people need to be responsible for their own actions towards other people and held accountable for them instead of claiming that people need to be limited and hidden so that others don’t hurt them.  THAT is the basis of an egalitarian society,  not this protection BS.

“I’ve had first hand experiences of school friends engaging in pre marital sex,convinced that their partner would marry them..99 per cent of the time he marries a women who has never been touched..If it does happen that the couple marries, the “bitch” label he tags her with never ceases to get old or wear off..With that label she gets the bonus of frequent doubts of which and how men she been with before him, even though he was the only one..”

*headdesk* Uhhh… you realize that the only reason these assholes think this way and treat their girlfriends like this is due to the same exact misogynistic double-standard patriarchal norms espoused by Abrahamic religions among other value systems? You realize this whole “oh she had sex with me therefore she has lost her pride and dignity and shame and thus am justified in mistreating her” is an attitude wholly supported by your religion,  and the solution again is NOT “therefore women shouldn’t have sex” but rather “therefore we should stop demonizing women who have sex and treating it like some shame and disgrace”? As long as your views maintain that a woman’s sexuality is a matter of pride or dignity or whatever other imaginary concepts that justify shaming and attacking women,  then don’t be surprised when people behave consistently with that. As long as your views present virginity as a virtue and sexuality as a shame, don’t be surprised when people have lousy double standards like the ones you described.  Make no mistake,  the men who will sleep around but only marry virgins or who will doubt their wives for having premarital sex are not behaving so because it’s right or natural;  they’re following a misogynistic social norm and double standard that has been constructed by the very value system you think protects against it.

This may be a novel idea to you,  but it’s possible for women to have fulfilling sex lives,  wear what they want,  and still avoid being shamed,  abandoned,  harassed, or disrespected for those reasons. Instead of trying to put barriers and veils and limitations in order to protect them, you make sure men are taught to treat them as equals and find no shame in their choices.

“Now my question to you is, in the world we live in today, where rape, kidnapping, human trafficking and prostitution holds a large market, what security do you have as female traveling alone, or wanting to roam the streets alone.. How easy is it for you to be carried away and disappear in mid air and not be found, whereas when walking with a male beside you would be much more hazardous and safer?”

This is all backwards again.  The existence of these problems doesn’t mean that having the protection of a man must be the solution.  That’s putting a band-aid over a gaping wound instead of trying to heal it. And frankly, I’m not succumbing to that defeatist ish, like oh fucking well. may as well hide myself away and cling to a man’s shadow so some asshole doesn’t touch me. No, fuck those norms.

I have the RIGHT to travel without being attacked.  I have the RIGHT to walk on the streets alone. It is the responsibility of a society to create the norms that make all of these transgressions unthinkable, not shame and limit its women for acting as if they have the right to safety and freedom.  And truly,  the societies without these norms limiting and hiding and shaming women have the lowest crime rates and harassment rates,  because people are taught and truly believe that they do not have the right to touch each other without permission regardless of what people are wearing and who they are with and what they choose to do with their bodies. I refuse to be told I must hide so I am not attacked or shamed.  And if people think that it is clothing or a man’s presence that gives a woman the right to safety and freedom,  then they don’t really believe she has a default right to either of those things. They don’t believe in a woman’s right or equality. They don’t believe she has fundamental self-worth. They do not have respect for her; they’re only held back from behaving like rabid wild things because something is stopping them.

“No male that would pass you would turn around with the look of lust, and the thought of undressing you when you fully clothed…”

You really believe this, don’t you? That no male would…except that this is actually statistically false.  Harassment rates are through the roof in places where women are veiled.  Here are the stats. All those yellow and red countries with the high rape scales? Muslim-majority countries:

http://womanstats.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/1st-map.png

Source: http://womanstats.org/newmapspage.html

Multiple studies have also demonstrated that there is no direct causal correlation between dress and rape.  You believe a myth.  And it’s really unsurprising that attitudes towards women that place conditions upon whether and how a woman deserves basic safety or freedom actually contribute more to violence towards women than clothing does. There’s a fundamental problem with societies that teach that a woman must be safe if and only if she submits to a husband and dresses in a certain way. So really, the most basic justification given in defense of veiling is based on a statistical falsehood. If covering up is meant to serve to purpose of protecting women, it is failing utterly, miserably, and limiting and controlling women at the same time.

“Islam does not oppress women but protects us, it gives us the choice of whom we want to marry, and never deprives us of what we want and need..”

Yeah, this is a sort of half-hearted iteration of the ‘Islam grants women all her rights’ argument touted again and again, although the conditions in Muslim-majority countries contradict the claim. And I mean, I’m sure the people who say it believe it–you clearly think the limitations ordained upon you are a matter of protection and dignity and other crapola–you clearly think that there is something grand and wonderful in the things Islam allows you to do. And you know, it’s fine that you accept those standards for yourself, I guess, but they’re not human rights. They’re not the inalienable rights that human beings have to life, liberty, access to livelihood, safety, freedom from bodily harm, their own marital and sexual choices without condition. All these things painted as rights in so many mainstream interpretations of Islam are just shadows, pseudo-rights, like the whole husband not slapping his wife thing. Such magnanimity. Wow. And let’s be honest, women have the right to marry who they choose? Really? Even setting child marriage aside, in most sects of Islam the scholarly consensus is that women cannot marry without paternal permission. I hate to break it to you but if you need permission it’s not exactly a free choice.  They also can’t marry non-Muslims or women. I don’t think a paternally pre-approved Muslim groom is much of a choice. If you need permission to work, leave your husband’s home, have people enter your house, get a divorce–again, they’re not rights. Not if all these basic actions need to be approved by your owner, I mean your husband. And I think it’s telling that you present this idea that you can marry who you choose as if it’s some special or novel thing, like not being deprived of your needs is also special or novel… when really it’s the most basic of basic things–what kind of cruelty would it be otherwise? I would hope that a woman was not deprived of her needs and was given the choice to marry who she pleased–anything short of that would be utterly monstrous–oh wait.

You say to me “don’t make Islam something that its not,” which is again, the epitome of irony–because I am not the one who ordained that a woman’s testimony is half of a man’s, her inheritance is half of her brother’s, I did not write that deemed-infallible holy book that prescribes that there is ANY situation in which she can be struck in ANY way with ANY amount of force by her husband, I am not the one who claims that a woman’s sexual conduct justifies her torture or murder, or that a woman must submit to her husband’s sexual desires in exchange for safety from harm and discord. I didn’t make these injustices, set them as law and inviolable social code, watch them consume my life and those of my loved ones. I didn’t attach these concepts of honor and dignity to my body that justify violence against it while simultaneously being the only thing protecting it. And I don’t really know or care how you delude yourself into interpreting all of of these things are goods, and yes, I’ve heard all of the apologetic interpretations and explanations meant to make ‘sense’ out of these things, but whatever sense they make to you, they are not equality, They are not right. They are not just. And they should not be forced upon women who happen to be born or live in the countries where unfortunately they are a matter of legislature or social norm. I’m not going to stop talking about these things until there is no place left on this earth where a woman cannot freely and safely escape this Islam of yours if she so wills. I’m not going to stop talking about these things until I die.

-Marwa

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