Islam and Feminism Don’t Mix
Muslim Matters recently published an article by Daniel Haqiqatjou entitled, “The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage.”
It isn’t easy challenging feminist orthodoxy. I commend Haqiqatjou for daring to do so, and for standing his ground.
He kept his composure in comments.
I found his arguments well reasoned, just as they were in the article itself. And would characterize Haqiqatjou’s article mainly as an expression of common sense.
Predictably the author faced an onslaught of critical comments from angry feminists and their allies. The post also prompted a rebuttal on Muslim Girl entitled, “Muslim Feminists Respond: The Hypocrisy of the Male-Centric Narrative.”
The rebuttal is much longer than the original article. It was packed with vaguely related tangents.
It was also filled with easily recognizable feminist lexicon and talking points. Several women signed, saying they are…
…responding because we have seen a dangerous trend of Muslim men speaking on behalf of women and chastising women for violence that is mainly perpetrated by men…the author centers male opinions and experiences on a form of violence that disproportionately impacts women. He purports to speak as an expert on a form of violence he hasn’t himself faced on a daily basis, and which he benefits from as an extension of his male privilege. ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Not Really His Claims
Except that Haqiqatjou doesn’t “purport to speak as an expert” on street harassment.
Nor does he claim to speak on behalf of women. He explains that these issues do impact him on a daily basis as well:
Let me be frank. As a Muslim man, it is not easy walking through the streets these days. Women’s fashion continues to get increasingly sexy and provocative, and, in effect, public spaces are increasingly sexualized. From an Islamic perspective, the harm caused to individuals by this is clear and inarguable. Even from a non-religious perspective, constantly bombarding men with sexiness can be tortuous. Think of men or adolescent males who for whatever reason cannot find a sexual partner. Or think of married men being endlessly tempted by strangers as soon as they step out of the house. And, of course, the same or analogous harm can be inflicted on women by provocatively dressed men.
So, given the extent of this harm, why can’t concerned members of society raise their voices and say, enough is enough? ~ The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage
He clearly explained what is “tortuous” for him and other men. Yet his detractors dismissed his concerns, implying “male opinions” simply don’t count:
…..The author contends, why don’t we accept that sexual harassment goes both ways? Because the truth is, it doesn’t go both ways…
His entire argument is that it does go both ways. Catcalls are not the only form of harassment. Harassment: “
When addressing women’s issues, rather than having women participate in the dialogue and asking women for the solution, men constantly seize the public platform to discuss issues they cannot speak to and issues that do not punitively affect them. ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Do Men Need To Shut Up?
Why can’t men share the public platform? Shouldn’t it be up to men to decide how these issues impact them?
Instead of taking into account his views, his critics level serious accusations about his motives for writing the article:
…the most dangerous piece of the author’s article is tacit approval of male aggression and violence against women as “deserved,” given that he believes that women are asking for it by their choices of self-expression…
…We must move beyond the excuses used to condone sexism. ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Here is what Haqiqatjou actually wrote:
Does this mean that the woman in the viral video deserved the disrespectful treatment? Does this mean that a scantily dressed woman (or man) deserves to be sexually assaulted?
Absolutely not. Such harassment is never justifiable. ~ The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage
Blaming, Shaming Apologists
Now we arrive at the crux of the matter. Feminists attempt to shut down discussion. Anytime someone suggests the way women dress is relevant, they hurl accusations.
Daring to disagree is “victim blaming” or “slut shaming.” Any man who persists is a “rape apologist.”
…the author’s point also plays into the dangerous myth that Muslim women who abide by “modest” dress codes don’t really experience sexual violence at the same rate that “less modest” women do...
The literature hasn’t found that the leading reason for sexual harassment is women’s clothing. That is the personal opinion of the author …~ Muslim Feminists Respond
We don’t have to depend solely on the “opinion of the author”. He linked to a highly relevant video to substantiate his case:
10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman in Hijab
A single video isn’t proof. But the video shows a correlation between the way women dress and the way men react.
Walking down the street in a burqa doesn’t elicit the same reaction as walking down the street in a bikini. Do we need more than common sense to recognize this obvious reality?
Root Cause of Sexual Violence
What is the root cause of sexual violence? The feminist authors actually list three causes:
The author mischaracterizes sexual harassment as stemming from women’s dress, but, in fact, research on the causes of sexual harassment has found that there are three driving reasons for sexual harassment of women:
Individual male sexual gratification: called predatory harassers;
To assert male dominance and power over women: called dominance harassers;
To protect male spaces from women: called strategic/territorial harassers.
Male sexual gratification is related to a women’s sex appeal. How can it be otherwise?
Human behavior is complex, and there’s no doubt rape is about more than just sex. But feminists consistently downplay sex as a factor in sex-related crimes such as rape.
If the “root cause” of rape is power and dominance, this bolsters the point women’s dress has absolutely nothing to do with the matter of sexual assault. But is it true?
The feminist magazine Jezebel has inadvertently offered a glimpse of reality in an article entitled Can You Tell The Difference Between A Men’s Magazine And A Rapist?
The point of the article was not to question feminist orthodoxy, but to show how men’s magazines allegedly “[normalize] the treatment of women as sexual objects”:
Well, this is upsetting. According to a new study, people can’t tell the difference between quotes from British “lad mags” and interviews with convicted rapists. And given the choice, men are actually more likely to agree with the rapists. ~ Jezebel
The article then intersperses quotes from rapists with those from a men’s magazine. Here are some of the quotes from rapists:
1. There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex . . . The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.
2. Some girls walk around in short-shorts . . . showing their body off . . . It just starts a man thinking that if he gets something like that, what can he do with it?
5. What burns me up sometimes about girls is dick-teasers. They lead a man on and then shut him off right there.
11. Girls ask for it by wearing these mini-skirts and hotpants . . . they’re just displaying their body . . . Whether they realise it or not they’re saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a beautiful body, and it’s yours if you want it.’
14. I think if a law is passed, there should be a dress code . . . When girls dress in those short skirts and things like that, they’re just asking for it.
Rape Is About Sex
Feminists may say this only confirms their claims that men shift the blame to victims. But the fact remains this is how men react to women.
Obviously, the way women dress has an impact. The sexual crime of rape is about violence and it’s also about sex.
Feminists can insist men should not react this way but to argue they do not react this way is to deny reality.
Jezebel also published an article entitled Rapists Explain Themselves on Reddit, and We Should Listen:
Rapists and would-be rapists are opening up about “the other side of the story” — theirs — on a massive Reddit thread about the motivations behind sexual assault. The conversations range from exasperating to disturbing, and the whole of it may make you want to roll your eyes in disgust. But you shouldn’t dismiss the thread as mere rape apologia. There’s plenty of that, sure, but there’s also a lot more to it. ~ Jezebel
What Rapists Say
Here are some relevant quotes:
I was a freshman and hooking up with this girl who got naked in bed with me, then said no. I think she just wanted to do oral. I was extremely horny and already close to doing it, so I ignored her and did it. She realized what was happening and tried to clamp her legs shut, but it was too late and I was much stronger than her…
…It was then I looked at her face. She was petrified. I at that point pulled myself together, rolled off her and apologized. My hormones were RAGING. I asked her why she didn’t want to. I told her what I thought above. She started to cry…
…Most girls don’t really understand how horny guys are, how much stronger guys are, how guys will rationalize what they do. I see feminists and women on the Internet saying that no means no and women should be able to get as drunk as they want and not be sexually assaulted, and I couldn’t agree [more]. But the reality of the situation is that women have to be careful because guys are one way when they’re hanging out and another way when they’re horny or worse drunk and horny. That doesn’t make what happened okay, but it is what it is.
Feminists In Denial
It is what it is. Or is it? Can anyone read these quotes from actual rapists and say that sex is not a prime motivator for rape? Not the ONLY one, but certainly not irrelevant.
Women do have sexual power over men, and yes ladies, rape IS about sex. We know that because rapists say so, and I see no reason to take the word of a feminist over an actual rapist when the topic is what motivates rapists to rape.
Yet feminists continue to downplay sex as an aspect of sexual crimes and insist the way a woman dresses it “irrelevant”:
…We must understand that perpetrators of sexual violence seek to exact power and control over women, and that what a woman wears is irrelevant…To diminish all forms of sexual violence by making it all about the wardrobe is an insidious lie used to veil [dual usage of the word intended] the root causes…
…How simplistic is it of us to think that sexual violence, including street sexual harassment, can be prevented by pieces of clothing as if there is a magical guard? ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Wow…He Didn’t Write that Either!
Haqiqatjou never claimed pieces of clothing are a “magical guard.” What he wrote is this:
No one claims that dressing modestly will completely foreclose on the possibility of receiving negative attention. The claim is simply that, all else being equal, modest dress, e.g., hijab, significantly reduces the likelihood of such harassment. In fact, a recent youtube video demonstrated precisely this claim in spectacular fashion. So, yes, while women in hijab are, unfortunately, frequent victims of catcalling in Cairo’s busy streets, for example, the undeniable fact remains that the harassment would be much, much worse if these same women were dressed in yoga pants, tank tops, and other common Western styles. ~ The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage
The Myth of Dangerous Myths
Critics accused Haqiqatjou playing into a “dangerous myth” that “Muslim women who abide by ‘modest’ dress codes don’t really experience sexual violence at the same rate that ‘less modest’ women do.”
Is that really a myth?
If it is not a myth but a fact, then could it be that feminists are promoting a “dangerous myth” that suggests to potential victims the way they dress is “irrelevant”?
Whose conclusion best fits with the facts?
If the question is what motivates rapists, who better to ask than rapists?
If the question is about how men react to women, who better to ask than men? Yet feminists insist men should listen to them.
Feminist argue men should not treat women differently based on appearance. That doesn’t mean men do not treat them differently. Feminists don’t control reality.
The author of “The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage” asks, “Is it completely outlandish to suggest that the way a woman (or man) dresses has an impact on how others treat her (or him)?” And to him, we answer: That is absolutely an outlandish suggestion. The question we instead need to ask as a society is “Why does a woman’s appearance, or anyone’s appearance, impact the way they are treated by others?” ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Feminism demands the right for all people to be respected as human beings, and not to be judged or punished for individual choices of self-expression. ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
They are preaching as if they have the moral high ground. Yet they ignore Haqiqatjou’s sensitivities completely.
Are Men People?
How can men be excluded from “all people” who deserve to be “respected as human beings”? If he says it’s “tortuous” to be bombarded by women in sexy clothing, why is that so easy to dismiss?
Why don’t men also have a right to a neutral space?
Asking women to dress decently and understand the sexual power they have over men is not “misogyny.” It’s reciprocity.
The author makes the assumption that it is women’s dress choices that have resulted in the sexualization of public spaces. He ignores the fact that systems of power (e.g. media, government, the economy) are controlled by men who exploit women’s bodies and profit off dehumanized and hyper-sexualized images of women…
Not What He Wrote…Again
The author didn’t point to women’s dress choices, but rather the Sexual Revolution, as resulting in the sexualization of public spaces. Also, he did criticize the “hyper-sexualized images of women”:
If anyone can be blamed for the erosion of basic norms of sexual propriety as seen in the catcalling video and elsewhere, some of the blame must fall on the “Sexual Revolution” itself. What is obvious is that the hypersexualization of the public space in modern times, driven by the “sexual revolutionaries” of the past 50 years, is directly contributing to the catcalling and harassment happening on the streets of our cities, among other things.
The 20th century Sexual Revolution in the West was meant to subvert sexual norms and standards of behavior between the sexes — norms and standards deemed coquettish at best, oppressive at worst. What feminists, modernists, and sexual revolutionaries failed to realize in their haste to overturn the old rules is that some of those mores might have actually served a crucial purpose.
…..The lasting effects of the Sexual Revolution are reverberating in the street, in our homes, and in our psyches. Young people are the unfortunate victims. Things are so confused that girls are having trouble understanding if they have been victims of rape or not. Boys are insecure if they have not lost their virginity by the end of middle school.
Just look at the contradictions in the field of fashion itself. Girls as young as 10 are encouraged to dress sexy, but what does this amount to other than attracting sexual attention from others? Obviously certain kinds of attention are socially acceptable and others are not, but what are these standards grounded in?…
Islam as Guidance
Now we arrive at a key question. What is the basis for present-day standards about what is socially acceptable? In a purely secular context, competing narratives that may shift with the winds.
But in this case, Haqiqatjou’s critics are not secular feminists. They claim to be Muslim feminists who presumably look to Islam for guidance.
In fact, to bolster their case, the Muslim feminist authors included snippets from Islamic doctrine, including a verse from the Qur’an:
Islam doesn’t condone violence against women. On the contrary, the issue is in the incorrect interpretations of the Qur’an. Islam is clear on asking men to lower their gaze and protect their modesty:
“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that is more purifying for them. Surely Allah is aware of what they do. “ Surat an-Nur 24:30-31
If Islam asks men to lower their gaze in order to respect their own modesty, we can logically infer that sexual harassment isn’t permissible under Islam. If even the male gaze that sexualizes women is seen as problematic within our religion, we highly doubt there is any permissibility for intimidating, objectifying, and harassing women.
At the time of this writing, they cite Qur’an 24:30-31. Yet they left out the second verse, though it’s relevant to this discussion:
24:31 And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and to be mindful of their chastity, and not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may [decently] be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms. And let them not display [more of] their charms to any but their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands’ fathers, or their sons, or their husbands’ Sons, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their womenfolk, or those whom they rightfully possess, or such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs [in walking] so as to draw attention to their hidden charms And [always], O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state!
With this in mind, why not turn their statement around? They wrote:
If Islam asks men to lower their gaze in order to respect their own modesty, we can logically infer that sexual harassment isn’t permissible under Islam.
Here is the parallel:
If Islam asks women to lower their gaze in order to respect their own modesty, we can logically infer that immodest dress isn’t permissible under Islam.
Refusal to accept this parallel would reveal a double standard. Did they leave out the second verse by mistake? Or deliberately exclude it because it clearly contradicts the secular feminist agenda?
He Didn’t Write That Either!
…“The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage” ignores these issues because it purports that women would be seen as worthy of respect as long as they fit men’s criteria of respectability — a key element of patriarchy. According to the author, all other women aren’t deserving of respect. ~ Muslim Feminists Respond
Haqiqatjou’s didn’t say “all other women aren’t deserving of respect.”
He said disrespectful treatment of women is never justified. He also never said women need to follow men’s criteria of respectability.
Instead, he lamented the erosion of traditional moral authority after Sexual Revolution. Muslims don’t follow criteria set by men, nor the criteria set by feminists. They follow the criteria set by Allah, which brings us to a fundamental problem.
Oxymoron: Islamic Feminism
I am going to make the bold assertion that the modern political ideology known as feminism is fundamentally incompatible with Islam.
This is not to say that Islam is fundamentally against women’s rights. Islam granted rights to women centuries before the word “feminist” existed.
But like feminism, Islam is a framework for social order, which clearly assigns complimentary roles to men and women:
Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.
Islam Prescribes Patriarchy
Muslim feminists gloss over this verse. They probably can’t reconcile it with their incessant rants about “patriarchy.”
Muslims follow Shariah. If you knowingly deny Shariah and act in deliberate defiance, that is clear kufr. Many Muslims argue that means you are no longer a Muslim. Nevertheless, in their rebuttal, the authors attempt to integrate Islamic doctrine and secular feminist framework.
The struggle for the equality of women is neither holistic nor effective if it does not take into account that all systems of oppression are interconnected. Institutions like racism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and classism all play into sexism. As far as we are concerned, you cannot truly be a feminist if you do not recognize the far-reaching consequences of each of these systems of oppression and how they’re interconnected.
…Either you’re against structures of inequality, see the logic that all forms of oppression are interconnected, and embrace equality for women as tied to your own liberation, or you aren’t about justice but rather individual liberation.
Islam forbids homosexual activity, and all sexual activity outside of marriage–an institution confined to joining people of the opposite sex. Islam also prescribes a dress code which sets boundaries for both men and women.
Islamic society maintains a social order which emphasizes community interests over the unbridled rights of the individual. I would argue those points are non-negotiable.
Islam absolutely does legislate morality.
There is no “Islamic feminism” just as there is no “Islamic homosexuality”. For the same reason, there is no “halal pork.” These concepts are oxymoronic.
The arguments in the rebuttal are far more rooted in secular feminist dogma than in Islamic doctrine.
But if you insist on doing so under the banner of Islam, expect other Muslims to challenge you relentlessly, despite your tantrums. Daniel Haqiqatjou was brave to publish his article exposing feminist hypocrisy.
I hope he continues despite opposition from feminists. We are not going to let Muslim feminists hog the public microphone when the integrity of Islam is at stake.