“Muslimah Pride”

Sofia Ahmed of “Muslimah Pride” does not like Femen. She has reasons.

What Femen are doing is highly counterproductive and detrimental to Muslim women across the world.  For me and hundreds of other women who have got in touch with me over the past few days, their tactics are a part of the ideological war that is going on between neo-colonial elements in the West and Islamic societies. Their aim is not to emancipate us from our presumed slavery, but instead reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.

That “for me and hundreds of other women” is interesting, since it’s followed by a factual claim as opposed to an interpretation. “For me,” she says, the aim of Femen is to reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.”

You know what? I don’t believe a word of that. I don’t believe that is Femen’s aim.

It seemed that many other Muslim women across the world agreed with my stance and what followed was a defiant and vocal rejection of Femen’s invitation. Instead of ‘getting naked’ Muslim women from across the world tweeted and uploaded pictures of themselves to Facebook in their hijabs, niqabs, and western attire. They held up signs telling the world why they were proud of their identities and did not need racist Islamophobic women to dictate to them on how they should dress.

Instead they needed a made-up god and a long-dead “prophet” and a bunch of male clerics to dictate to them on how they should dress. Is that it?

Oh, is that racist Islamophobic of me? No, it fucking isn’t. I don’t despise all these bullying rules about women and veils and bags and tents, haram and halal and go back inside, because they’re racial, I despise them because they’re bad in themselves.

In our open letter to Femen we referred to them as ‘colonial feminists’ to describe Femen’s activities.  I believe it is the most apt term to describe their particular brand of feminism. From Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, to the pretext of female liberation surrounding the invasion of Afghanistan, women have always been used as pawns by men as an excuse to wage war. Femen are just the latest chapter in the long history of gender imperialists that manufacture consent and provide ideological foregrounding to justify going to war. By dismissing the role of western countries in the oppression of Muslim women and focusing solely on Muslim men they are only working to demonise Islam, not liberate Muslim women.

That’s pathetic. She would have at least a semblance of a case if she said Femen are playing into the hands of people who want to justify going to war (but who the hell is keen to go to war right now?), but to say they’re doing that themselves? Please.

She’s swallowed a keg of jargon and that’s all she’s got – the familiar phrases come out one after the other.

Femen’s reliance on the overused media tropes of the modern western values versus traditional Muslim values is creating a dichotomous representation of the ‘self’ (West) and ‘other’ (Muslims)…Frantz Fanon…The hyper-sexualisation of Femen’s campaign and the insistence on Muslim women to strip naked as a gesture of emancipation is  a tell-tale symptom of Orientalist fantasies…Femen’s universal imposition of the neocolonial agenda… Femen have continued to display a flagrant disregard for our agency and have consistently tried to downplay the legitimacy of our collective voices. Femen have tried to dismiss our campaign using conspiracy and conjecture…

Conspiracy and conjecture! Look again at your first paragraph before you accuse other people of that.

The Ex-Muslims forum on Twitter are arguing with Muslimah Pride a good deal.


  1. says

    Ahmed gives me this image of US slaves in the 1840s telling British abolitionists shut up and go away because America doesn’t need a king. It is seriously creepy.

  2. Hamilton Jacobi says

    It is interesting how once people swallow a load of bullshit and get settled into their place in the pecking order — no matter how low — they often become extremely concerned that other people swallow the same load of bullshit and settle into their place in the pecking order too.

  3. says

    The biggest problem I have with this “Muslimah Pride” thing is that the word “Muslimah” just stops me cold before I even get started on analyzing any of the rest of it. There’s something about that word that really makes my skin crawl. I’m not sure if it’s because I keep “hearing” it in Dawkins’ dismissive, condescending, “Dear Muslima” tone, or something else (like, for example, the question of why the hell there isn’t a corresponding cutesy term for a Muslim man), but I just can’t imagine using it to describe a person whose agency I was treating with genuine respect.

    So, right from the beginning I already find myself skeptical of the “Muslimah Pride” claim to be stalwartly defending agency for Muslim women, and that’s before we even get down to discussing the oppressive, agency-denying theology this “Pride” is supposed to be all about. I’m completely willing to believe that a certain percentage of the voices against Islam in the current discussion are more about racism and colonialism and religious tribalism than about women’s rights (and general human rights), because I’ve met and argued with some of those kinds of people myself in the past. That stuff is pretty serious bad news, and I’m not going to turn a blind eye to it just because some of those people also superficially appear to loosely agree with me about the badness of certain aspects of Islam. But that still doesn’t make the idea of “Muslimah Pride” any less creepy.

  4. says

    I’m not sure what to make of Femen and their activism. But I don’t like what I read on Muslimah Pride’s facebook page. They seem to me to be very anti-feminist and encourage its members to post images of themselves with anti-feminist posters.

    Feminism and equality isn’t western imperialism, it’s universal. Sure, you can dress it up in a cultural context, but women everywhere need feminism. Especially in Muslim countries. Fighting against feminism is counter productive.

  5. prochoice says

    There´s nothing new under the sun.
    We had those fembots (“feminine robots”) in my wave of feminism in the 1970ies and `80ies, the 1920er feminists had to fight them them, etc.
    Of course there are minor adaptations, like writing “Muslimah” according to US-pronounciation instead of Richard Dawkins´ British English “Muslima”.
    But that´s it. And it shows that their religion comes first.
    They are and have been always proud to be the slaves/cattle/property of their respective oppressors; and “they” is always 1 individual or very small groups.
    But they are printed/published, as if they were many (remember “Moral Majority” of US history?)

    As for Femen:
    I am astonished that nakedness can make scandals still anywhere in the world, but it works.
    So why should they not use it?
    THIS is Western: our experience that near-nakedness is sold as “clothes”, and very difficult to find something which protects against cold weather and has useful pockets while not making us artificially disabled. And I did love Femen ´s ways against the German Maggie Thatcher.

  6. AsqJames says

    The hyper-sexualisation of Femen’s campaign…

    I actually don’t find the naked flesh on display in images of topless FEMEN activists to be at all sexy. Many of them are attractive women, and were they disrobing in private with me and with the intention of turning me on, I certainly would be.

    But it’s not about me or any other man.

    We’re not at the centre of it and we’re not the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. And I think that’s a large part of what irks some men about FEMEN, because certain lady-parts obviously only exist for the amusement and pleasure of men. The same thing feeds into distaste for women breast-feeding in public: “How dare you throw it in my face that your boobies don’t exist solely for my sexual gratification!”

  7. Dave Ricks says

    Anne, maybe to articulate some of what you find creepy, Afghanistan is a country of Muslims invaded by the Taliban.

    Now “Muslimah Pride” implies:
    1) The Taliban represents Islam.
    2) The Taliban invasion is the status quo.
    3) If people buy 1 and 2, then the word “invasion” does not apply to the Taliban invasion.

    Maybe this Newspeak will work outside Afghanistan, but I like to think Afghan Muslims will always hate the Taliban.

  8. brianpansky says

    Ya, I have yet to see any pictures where FEMEN seems sexual. That is one thing I have seen too much of from the anti-femen: some of them being incapable of handling nudity.

    I do have to say, some of femen’s actions do seem questionable, for instance there has been cultural apropriation in the form of at least one turban costume.

    Another thing I have seen to much of from anti-femen people is that it sometimes seems like you can’t do anything right. Some will deride perfectly good things femen do as just not focusing on the more important thing by some standard.I don’t like seeing that “sour grapes”/”good things are actually still bad” idea I have seen a few times. The “good archery, good target, but not good ENOUGH of target” thing.

  9. says

    Dave Ricks,

    I agree that those are bad things. But the word “Muslimah” strikes me as problematic in a way that goes beyond the simple fact that Islam, particularly in its more extreme, violent, and political incarnations (and, like any religion, but also in its own special way), sucks. Like I was trying to suggest above, it reads (to me) as condescending and minimizing towards women in particular. It reminds me of the practice of adding “-ette”, “-ess” and other such diminutive suffixes to words describing a particular role in order to indicate that the person holding that role is female, whereas the “default”, suffix-free version of the word is used for men holding that role. I would never describe a Muslim woman of my acquaintance as “a Muslimah”. I’d simply say “a Muslim woman” — she’s not a diminutive version of a Muslim. She *is* a Muslim.

  10. maudell says

    While I’m not a fan of FEMEN’s technique, I don’t get the Muslimah thing. Why do they keep saying they are dictating them what to wear? I thought this whole thing was to allow women in Amina’s situation, who wish to be free what Islam dictates them to wear. Is this another “your gay marriage is devaluing het marriage” type argument?
    While I oppose the imposed coverage of women (including by shame alone), and I am sad when I see a woman wearing a niqab, looking down walking behind her husband, I have yet to see anyone having any kind of “we must dictate what they wear” argument.
    Finally, if women were to follow Fanon’s method, I doubt it would be to keep good order and cover yourself. They might as well cite the weather underground as their model.

  11. zibble says

    Leaving your tits out like it ain’t no thang isn’t sexualizing. Hiding in a full-body robe because the sight of your hair justifies a man raping you is sexualizing.

    I thought this whole thing was to allow women in Amina’s situation, who wish to be free what Islam dictates them to wear. Is this another “your gay marriage is devaluing het marriage” type argument?

    I hear American women hate on feminists by saying “Well, what if I WANT to wear makeup?” It’s the same shit.

    In this case the “Muslimahs” are just othering the feminists. It’s obvious just in the fact that they don’t recognize the distinction between liberal protesters and neocon invaders – they’re completely opposing forces, mixed together in this absurd “western imperialist” catchall. She appropriates high-sounding liberal terminology, but what she’s saying is pure xenophobia.

  12. brive1987 says

    I suspect Stockholm syndrome – which can be seen as “a form of traumatic bonding”

    OT observation, I got hit with a strong case of deja vu reading part of this post per below. Odd how similar the opening premises are before the debate … diverges.


    “Oh, is that racist Islamophobic of me? No, it fucking isn’t. I don’t despise all these bullying rules about women and veils and bags and tents, haram and halal and go back inside, because they’re racial, I despise them because they’re bad in themselves.”



    But the only way that Muslims can reasonably be said to exist as a group is in terms of their adherence to the doctrine of Islam. There is no race of Muslims. They are not united by any physical traits or a diaspora …. my condemnation of Islam does not apply to “all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group.” My condemnation applies to the doctrines of Islam and to the ways in which they reliably produce these “bad acts.”


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