We all have heard the stories of Muslim women who are beaten, raped, and treated like property. We all know that women in Muslim controlled nations must cover-up or face some very real threats but now there are some Muslim women who are claiming that they are not oppressed at all.
Laila Alawa is an American Muslim woman who recently authored a Huffington Post article claiming that she is not being oppressed and that the FEMEN protests around the world are actually oppressing her. To support her claim, she quotes a statement from FEMEN’s leader, Inna Shevchenko. The statement is supposed to show just how crazy and oppressive FEMEN is and yet it seems to be only the most reasonable statement in the world. Don’t take my word on that; read it for yourself:
“So, sisters, (I prefer to talk to women anyway, even knowing that behind them are bearded men with knives). You say to us that you are against Femen, but we are here for you and for all of us, as women are the modern slaves and it’s never a question of colour of skin. … And you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day but don’t deny millions of your sisters who have fear behind their scarves, don’t deny that there are millions of your sisters who have been raped and killed because they are not following the wish of Allah!”
In the context of the Muslim dominated world, women are very much modern slaves. But I think the key part of this statement is when Shevchenko talks about how in a free society, women can put on and take off as many scarves as they like. Alawa misses this point when she talks about how she is being oppressed to live up to a western idea of freedom in which she is being coerced not to cover-up.
Alawa claims that it is her choice to cover-up and that she doesn’t need to be “liberated.” Here is the thing with oppression, no one is every oppressed as long as they do what they are fucking told. It is only when people choose to go against the grain that they can truly know if they were being oppressed. Alawa presumably walks around fully covered in American society. There are certainly Christians who might discriminate against her because she is a Muslim just as these same people would discriminate against an open atheist. She might get some odd glances that might make her uncomfortable as well. But it is extremely unlikely that she would be arrested for wearing too much clothing. Mobs of people probably aren’t going to be demanding with seriousness that she be put to death either.
Why does Alawa wish to cover-up? There are some pretty decent reasons for this. Maybe she doesn’t want to be judged or have people checking her out. But this would be a problem with the people checking her out. As it is though, because she does wear a ridiculous outfit that covers her entire body including much of her face, everyone is checking her out anyway. So that’s a fail.
Maybe she just likes that style. That’s possible but extremely unlikely. I can’t imagine a burqua is all that comfortable during the summer months. Plus, in the Middle East where the temperature is usually pretty hot, I doubt very much most Muslim women are excited to wear essentially a dark sheet over themselves. It doesn’t look all that stylish either.
Another possible reasons might be because that is what her religion demands. Why does her religion demand that? Well, I can’t speak about Islam, but in Christianity Jesus says that if your eyes cause you to sin, pluck them out. I imagine Muhammad said something similar. So rather than pluck out your eyes, it is easier to force women to hide their natural beauty by forcing them to wear dark sheets over their entire bodies. Women don’t want to feel responsible for causing someone to sin in their heart with lust, so they cover up by choice even if the threat isn’t there.
In fairness though, regardless of the reason Alawa should be allowed to wear or not wear whatever she likes. That is after all what Shevchenko said in her message. I agree with that and so do almost all atheists. If Alawa wants to wear a black sheet over her head in the summer, that’s fine with me. I’ll criticize it as silly, ridiculous, and possibly dangerous (as it could lead to heat stroke), but if that’s what she wants to do, have at it.
- Laila Alawa: I Am Not Oppressed (huffingtonpost.com)
- ‘Topless Jihad’ protests over call for stoning of Tunisian activist (Photos) (examiner.com)
- Lawrence Krauss nearly walks out of Islam debate over segregation (examiner.com)
- Arrest of atheist bloggers inspires protests in Bangladesh (examiner.com)
- The Path to Atheism is Paved with Hell (skepticink.com)
- The Hard Truth About Religion (skepticink.com)