Article: A letter to Islam

Being underprivileged, disadvantaged, unfairly discriminated against on a national level, on a daily basis, on the basis of religion, having the name of this religion torn away from compassion to be abused at the hands of both patriarchal Muslim men who use it as a political weapon and patriarchal non-Muslim men who disguise their racism with false pretense—false concern for “foreign” women even as they abuse the women of “their” country—for the sake of enforcing their own xenophobia, brothers and sisters, I understand. I understand your defenses, I understand the power dynamics that contribute to your insecurity, I understand that you are afraid.

But when a MUSLIM WOMAN says that she has been forced into marriage, when a MUSLIM WOMAN says that she has been beaten, when a MUSLIM WOMAN says that she has been raped by the brother of the man she was forced to marry ON HIS COMMAND, and when THAT MUSLIM WOMAN says that “no self-respecting woman can be Muslim”, and she says this even as she CONTINUES TO PRACTICE ISLAM, and she says this even as she is STILL a Muslim woman, and she says this out of hurt and bitterness and anger, brothers and sisters, you are selfish to be offended.

You are selfish to believe this victim of rape is attacking you when she is only making a statement of passion and anguish.

You are selfish to be offended.

You are selfish to be offended.

She has been STRIPPED of her freedoms. She has been BETRAYED by her protectors. She has been ABUSED and RAPED. And she is still Muslim. She is a stronger Muslim than you will EVER be.

With what conscience do you accuse her of attacking Islam?

With what conscience do you use this as a tactic to guilt and silence a victim, manipulating her into believing that speaking against heinous crimes she experienced is speaking against Islam, into believing it is best she stay silent for her religion, as you create a paradigm in which victims–in which women–are sacrificed for the supposed ‘greater good’ again and again and again.

7 thoughts on “Article: A letter to Islam

  1. Redd

    What bothers me more is the fact that international websites only publish hateful things about Islam. Yes, she was clear that her hate was not towards Islam, but towards the tarnished Islam men use but anyone reading this would most likely think “wow, only few people practice the right islam? then I guess all our worry about muslim terrorist actions is justified”
    Oh and, ofcourse, the intro which for any passer by would be a “thumbs up” towards hating islam!

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    1. I don’t think the article was hateful. The placement of the writing in bold was probably a choice of the editor, not the writer.

      If there is anyone who reads it entirely and thinks their discrimination is justified, or if anyone only reads the intro without finishing the article and comes to this conclusion, xie is probably someone who is looking for justification. And possibly an idiot. I don’t think material should be amended for an audience with deliberate comprehension issues, especially when that audience is comparatively advantaged (we are not responsible for educating those who are privileged; rather, they are responsible for checking their own racism) and especially when that purpose means silencing victims. We should be alleviating their pain, not ignoring it.

      This is not to say the media gets a responsibility waiver for perpetuating bigoted views, but this article is far from bigoted, and I think we need to get our priorities straight.

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  2. almostclever

    “and especially when that purpose means silencing victims. We should be alleviating their pain, not ignoring it.”

    I think this is the crux of the issue. We complain about the mosque, we air our concerns about issues of marginalization and abuse (as Muslim women) and we get told by other Muslims, and non Muslim allies – that we need to hush our mouths because it will just make the haters hate us more and it will prove they are right.

    Well, WTF, it is happening – is our silence more important than our truths? If we insulate ourselves due to fear of our image, our issues will remain stagnant. There is a difference between prejudice and fear of prejudice. We can’t silence our community members who have been victims because we fear how it will make us look. That just means we victimize them also. That just means we are like any family that is in denial and hides the truth in shame instead of protecting our loved one.

    If, after reading this woman’s story – all we do is think about what others will think, then where is our compassion, our humanity, and where the hell is our loyalty to each other and to the health of our community and religion?

    This woman’s story is a direct effect of being let down by her community, and by default her religion. Hell yes I understand her reasoning.

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  3. The article isn’t hateful, but it’s going to be used by bigoted people to justify their ethnocentrism. That’s not the writer’s fault. But I harbor no illusions that the reason this woman’s writing was published is because it already conforms to pre-conceived notions about Islam. And that is something that we have to consider. Sweeping racism under the rug is just as bad as ignoring the voices of sexual assault victims. We can’t say that some people are going to interpret this article incorrectly and that’s their problem, not ours. If you fight oppression, then you have to care what other people think because you’re trying to change their attitudes.

    I agree with your final conclusions, but I really don’t think personal attacks are ever justifiable. (Calling someone stupid/selfish isn’t really the way to go…mostly because these accusations are unpersuasive and because you then forgo the opportunity to critique and explain what is misogynistic/racist about silencing victims. Calling someone selfish isn’t an argument.)

    I wrote a very long piece in response to your blogpost. I won’t post it all here obviously, but a snippet of what I think:

    We are willing to believe this woman’s statements because we’ve already collectively crucified a culture and religion as being inhabited by savages. Her ability to have her story believed, therefore, is due to the already marginalized status of the men who committed the crime. We believe her because she’s saying something that conforms to our pre-conceived Western notions about Islam. White men, on the other hand, are not seen as rapists by the general public. The problems of Muslim women are highlighted, not because we’re seriously concerned about their issues, but because we’re a racist society. Her statements will inevitably be used as a way of justifying our racism, ethnocentrism and military interventions…We listen to women when the male attackers are already marginalized. We listen to women when it suits our interests. We do not listen to women when it is difficult to do so, when listening to them threatens our privilege and forces us to examine our own oppressive structures. We listen… because we already agree with her, not because what is traditionally perceived as the “western” public is concerned about her welfare.

    As you might have deduced, I’m interested in understanding why we’re more likely to believe Muslim women when they say a Muslim man has attacked them, but when women are attacked by men of privilege they’re called liars, or somehow it’s their fault. This divide exists because of racism.

    Anyway, if people are interested in reading the entire post they can do so here: http://politiciansathogwarts.blogspot.com/2012/01/muslim-women-are-oppressed-western.html

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    1. Thank you for your response Sarah. I hadn’t bothered writing about the dynamics you explained, because I feel that I’ve done it over and over–but that doesn’t mean it needn’t be said again. I’ve also written in entries in passing (because I can’t dedicate a post to myself surviving abuse on account of I like to pretend it never happened) on women refraining from reporting to authorities because they are afraid it will reflect poorly on their religion, culture, or race, and presenting this phenomenon as an illustration on how damaging Islamophobes are. So it enrages me at once when a woman does reveal her traumatic experiences and she is met with this kind of reaction from her community: one that doesn’t attack her abusers, or even the publisher for running the piece and neglecting to run pieces in which the perpetrator is privileged, but attacks her–offended she would write such a thing, reinstating the obligation for women to stay pleasant and show forbearance for the image of their communities rather than attacking the rapists who destroy it–and when it comes to this point I’m much more involved in the dynamics of sexism than of racism because (at least on this level) focusing on the racism privileges men of color over women of color (until it doesn’t). I am not interested in assuring men that I understand why they are shaming a rape victim. They should know I understand their concerns of racism (as a Muslim woman of color) without me constantly making disclaimers to appeal to them and their privilege. They should–quite frankly–stop being so selfish. I never intended that to be a tactic or a persuasive argument (unless in a religious way, I guess) but quite deliberately as a sharp wake-up call. The men of color whom this offends are much more patriarchally secure over the women of color who are victims (and who have internalized it), and I feel no obligation to restrain myself.

      In short I was addressing a specific audience. If a white, western non-Muslim had shown me the article I would have been infuriated, and this post would have been about how Islamophobia fuels violence against women by creating an environment in which women of a disadvantaged community are discouraged from reporting rape and abuse in fear that their accusations would have the effect of perpetuating racism.

      Anyway, your post is excellent, and I’m grateful you have the patience I lack. From your comment and post I do understand that your concern is women who aren’t believed when accusing men with privilege. The immediate issue I’d gathered from this article is that men are always protected by their own communities (whether they be white or of color) at the cost of women’s health and safety, as evident in the fact that there was initial outrage at the woman making a declaration of passion instead of at the husband and in-law who raped her. I don’t think wariness of Islamophobia is excusable. Victim-blaming would happen (and does happen) regardless of the fear of Islamophobia, and I have met men who use the existence of Islamophobia maliciously as an excuse for their actions against women. That was the point of this post; the neglect and erasure of other victims whose rapists are privileged men is irrelevant to the demonization and silencing of this victim by her own religious community, and shifting the focus to racism removes her, the most important part.

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