More solidarity needed

Iram Ramzan gets abuse on Twitter for being a liberal Muslim.

I am the latest in a bunch of women, specifically Muslim women, who have come under attack from a group of misogynist men. Their aim is supposedly to combat Islamophobia yet ironically their appalling behaviour is unIslamic and actually fuels anti-Muslim sentiment.

It’s rather funny how our ‘Muslimness’ is questioned to destroy our credibility. Accuse a Muslim person of drinking alcohol or eating pork and you have instantly ruined their reputation. And if you’re a woman, well, that’s ten times worse. The combination of being an ex-Muslim (which I am not by the way) and a ‘whore’ is lethal.

When Lejla Kuric, a Manchester-based artist, wrote an article on her meeting with Tommy Robinson, she was accused of being ‘Islamophobic‘, despite the fact that she is a Muslim. My theory is because she does not ‘look Muslim’ i.e. she is white and does not wear a headscarf she is an easy target.

Sara Khan, of Inspire, is regularly called a ‘government stooge’ and all the usual stupidity,  including people spreading rumours that she drinks alcohol – she doesn’t, but why should it matter?

Because the kind of people it matters to are the ones the rumor is aimed at.

She says:

“I’ve been called an ex-Muslim, that I work with or get into bed with zionists and Islamophobes, that I’m creating Islamophobia for addressing gender injustice within Muslim communities etc. None of this surprises me in one sense because I’ve spent 20 years working within Muslim communities and I know the score. I know that if you speak out as a Muslim woman you need a thick skin and you need to be prepared for a big backlash.”

Of course, men, too, come under attack. Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation is constantly hounded, even by moderate Muslims. But when you are a woman, it is easier to be attacked. Men are not labelled as whores who sleep around. That delightful label is reserved for us females alone.

More worrying is if you look through their tweets, they are followed and re-tweeted by even moderate Muslims – they seem to unite against anyone who is ostensibly liberal, even if it means to side with a troll online.

Being a liberal Muslim is a thankless task. That’s very unfortunate.

And here’s a key point:

Try and get some support or solidarity from prominent Muslim commentators or writers – forget about it. The only solidarity we seem to receive is from those on the right who ‘hijack’ issues such as the university gender segregation, yet if there was solidarity from those on the left, the right wouldn’t need to ‘hijack’ the debate.

That’s a slight exaggeration, since there is a “we” to receive solidarity, so it can’t be true that the only solidarity is from the right. But it’s clear what she means, and it’s true. There’s not nearly enough solidarity from the left, and there’s way too much of the opposite of solidarity in the form of automatic shouts of “Islamophobia,” so the hijacking by the right is far more conspicuous than it should be, and  than it would be if only the left would pay the fuck attention.

Lejla certainly believes that there is a problem with misogyny directed against women online, and it is something that has been highlighted in the media more recently.

She said:

“Muslim women who speak for women rights and against gender inequality within their own community or express political or theological dissent are ‘slut-shamed’ by some Muslim man who do not approve of their opinions. Our sexual morality is questioned and we are deemed ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ as a way of silencing us.”

Like me, she is labelled a “Quilliam whore”, ugly, and other vile insults, especially after she writes an article. Does she receive any assistance or help from anyone or other Muslims? “Sometimes from Muslim women, never from Muslim men, not once,” she says.

Sound familiar?

So look them up on Twitter, give them solidarity and support. Iram Ramzan. Lejla Kurić. Sara Khan.


  1. RJW says

    “if only the left would pay the fuck attention.”

    Yes, indeed, the contemporary Left’s supine attitude to Islamic misogyny and the threat that the ideology poses to liberal democracy is extremely puzzling. Can’t some members of the left manage more than one idea at the time, or are they paralysed be the fear of accusations of “Islamophobia” and “racism”, or perhaps they’re just plain scared of the mullahs.

    Surely the Old Left would have regarded Islam as an “anti-progressive superstition”.

    “they are followed and re-tweeted by even moderate Muslims”—

    “moderate Muslim” is a term that really needs a clear definition, it seems extremely misleading from a liberal- democratic point of view.

  2. Sarah Lambert says

    I am profoundly grateful to those Muslim women who speak out against misogyny. They do something which I as a white lefty have no authority to do, and they do it in the face of truly scary reactions. They have my sincere admiration, and I too cannot understand who the liberal left are any more. When I was a teenager, the left around me certainly wouldn’t have sanctioned and supported a theocratic approach to life. It’s very perplexing (as is the approach of the animal rights movement to ritual slaughter in several religions).

  3. says

    RJW – I don’t find “moderate” useful in this context either; that’s why I called Ramzan a liberal Muslim as opposed to a moderate one. (Part of the problem with “moderate Muslim” is that it implies being less of a Muslim, which hands being a Muslim over to non-moderates, which is a supremely bad idea.) I like the specificity of Tehmina Kazi’s British Muslims for Secular Democracy. You know where you are with that.

    Sarah, I don’t think we white lefties require any “authority” to speak out against misogyny, including Islamist misogyny. Non-Muslim lefties mostly aren’t experts on the subject, so it makes plenty of sense to defer to people who are when it’s a matter of expertise; but it often isn’t that.

  4. Jacob Schmidt says

    Sarah, I don’t think we white lefties require any “authority” to speak out against misogyny, including Islamist misogyny.

    No, we don’t, but there’s a recurring trend where white people’s opinions on Islam get dismissed as racist. It’s frustrating because, half the time, such dismissal is valid; a lot of people do object to islam because of racism (or, if you prefer, pseudo racism, since islam is not a race). But the same message from someone living in an ostensibly liberal muslim culture cannot be dismissed that way.

    On top of the fact that white people tend to lack perspective in the matter, it’s practical to defer to practising muslim women in such matters to remove any excuse used to ignore the message.

  5. says

    The reason why the left does not speak out against misogyny within Islam is because they are sensitive to accusations of racism. Which is rather confusing to say the least because Islam is neither a sovereign state or an ethnic group. But this does not just stop with misogyny however. It extends to all criticism of Islam. Anyone who speaks out who is not a Muslim can be accused of racism even though this is as I have demonstrated a fallacy. Sometimes however one has to speak out because what is being perpetrated is so wrong that cultural sensitivities have to be disregarded. For example when boys are publicly executed in Iran for engaging in homosexual activity. Or men in Saudi for the same offence. In those situations it is a worse thing to be silent and say nothing than speak up and say something

    In his astonishingly powerful You Cannot Read This Book the journalist and author Nick Cohen goes into great
    detail about how the left turned on those it was supposed to be protecting after publication of the Satanic Verses. They turned because they were scared to hell that they might be next if they did not condemn Salman Rushdie. The parents of the school that the daughter of the publisher of Penguin Books went to wanted their children removed from it in case they got the wrong girl. Implying that she was the right girl. And the left did not want to make enemies of Islam. But although that is still true today it is a fear of a different kind. And that has been brought about because of political correctness which prevents necessary criticism from being referenced because of charges of racism. But human rights abuses trump political correctness every single time and that is why it is not wrong to speak out when they are being perpetrated. For it matters not one jot who is committing them

    I do not use twitter because it is not conducive to serious debate with that ridiculous one hundred and forty character limit. No wonder there is so much abuse on it. But I shall do it here instead. And I have said this so often it seems but it still needs to be said. I do not naturally belong to either of the so called sides in this never ending nonsense but on one thing I nail my colours firmly to this side and that is the abuse that women receive online. I actually think this extends beyond feminists and applies to any woman regardless of other factors. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record here goes : it is completely and absolutely wrong to post rape and death threats online to any woman no matter who she is. It is wrong even if you are being ironic because that woman will not be thinking of irony when she reads it. I know you are never going to stop it and I know my words ultimately mean nothing but they are all I have so will use them to the best of my ability. I cannot condemn enough the brutal sexism of online misogynists. But I do nonetheless

    Now no doubt I will be repeating these sentiments many more times in the foreseeable future but such is life. I should thank Ophelia for allowing me to say this on what after all is a private space that I really should not be on. I feel that I am trespassing here and that my time is limited. But I have said my piece and that is all that matters. Words are all I have so I try to use them wisely. I know it will change nothing but at least I spoke out against misogyny when I could just as easily have said nothing. But that would have been wrong. I shall shut up now as I have taken up too much space already. I do not belong to this side. I do not belong to the other side either. I belong just to myself. I sincerely hope all the misogyny however does stop at some point because it is such a waste of time and energy in trying to contain it. That is all. My time here is finished. Thank you for giving me this platform but it is not about me but all those women who are routinely abused just for being in possession of both a vagina and an opinion. What a sad indictment on our society that is

  6. Jacob Schmidt says

    Up to a point, but there’s also the issue of outsiders not speaking up and insiders thus feeling isolated and abandoned.

    Certainly. I don’t advocate white people or non-muslims shutting up. I think it’s practical to defer to practising muslim women on these matters, but deferring entirely just places all responsibility on them. Nor do I think that we should only defer; we should add our voices and support when we do.

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