Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Qasim Rashid's Tasteless Independent Piece about Sex Abuse




I was appalled to see this article on Twitter the other day. I don't even have the words to express how tacky and distasteful this is. 

As the far-right rises in the West, I find myself more interested in pushing back against that (since it's more of an urgent issue impacting our day to day existence here).....than constantly criticizing Islam in a climate where Muslims are singled out, generalized and targeted. 

Nuanced and legitimate criticisms are lost anyway nowadays, to fear-mongering about Mooz-lums raping their way across the globe to secretly instill Shariah. 

But then there comes a situation where you just have to rebut something as stupid and insensitive as the article above...with all you've got. Hopefully, my rebuttal won't get lost with ignorant takes like: "Islam is worse than Nazism" or "90% of Muslims are ticking time-bombs"...

..so here goes:  

With all the overuse and false accusations of "Regressive Left" floating around atheist twitter, its hard for an actual left-leaning person to recall a time when this term had meaning and referred to an actual problem.

Well, this article is a great reminder on how the left can utterly fail in the way it deals with the topic of Islam. I can't believe such an article was approved and put out by such a well known publication. What were they thinking? Who is making these decisions?

I mean...they may come from the perspective that they're doing this to offset the increasing anti-muslim bigotry, to normalize Muslims in a political climate where they become dehumanized more and more each day....but they can't seem to comprehend that defending Muslims can be separated from championing Islam.

Before seeing this one, I came across quite a few tasteless takes regarding the awful Weinstein scandal. It seemed everywhere I looked someone was hijacking it to further their own agenda. A few standard "Oh you think Weinstein is bad, but what about Islam...that's way worse!!" type takes from ex-muslims that I've become used to seeing....and cringing at.

Oh you think the alt right/white nationalism/nazism is bad? What about ISLAM - it's way worse!!"

It seems, that some are incapable of discussing anything other than that one topic (which makes it all the more off-putting for me). There's a time and a place....there's a way to acknowledge multiple problems without minimizing the suffering of Weinstein's victims. This isn't to say, of course that when the conversation is turned towards sexual abuse that we cannot also bring up other forms that people often let slide.... especially when religion gets a pass on everything. I saw some Saudi feminists bring up some important points about how migrant domestic workers are assaulted on an everyday basis in Saudi society by privileged Saudi men...who get away with it. But they didn't do the, "Oh you think Weinstein is bad? Well Saudi men can be WAY worse" thing....where they bring the other topic to light only by minimizing the harm that Weinstein did.

That is the difference.....one that many 'but what about Islam' types don't understand.

"Yes we have similar problems too which we need to discuss" is a whole lot different from "Oh, Pfft, this? It's nothing compared to the cause *I've* dedicated *my* life to.

And you know what, no one's perfect we're all likely to fall into that trap accidentally sometimes... but the ones who have a distinct repeated pattern of constantly being unable to address any issue without the added, "but what about Islam/The left" have become incredibly unhelpful voices.

...Speaking of unhelpful and cringeworthy voices though..I have to say Qasim Rashid, the author of the Independent piece is one of the worst I've encountered on this issue. The 'but what about Islam' takes are bad, but fuck....using a sex scandal to spread religious propaganda, to *proselytize*.... is a whole new level of scummy.

Not only is it scummy but he goes about it in the most dishonest way. Yes we should absolutely encourage liberal, progressive interpretations of Islam. I find it incredibly unhelpful when people hold every liberal muslim to an 'ISIS purity test', that basically no one passes...and therefore the only 'real' muslims are the extremists. That is not a good approach.

But, when it comes to more progressive interpretations of religion there are those who acknowledge the plurality and plausibility of multiple interpretations. They admit that some verses are just not ok by today's values. People like Qasim however will argue that everyone else has it wrong... they've misinterpreted and HE somehow has the correct interpretation. They cherry pick without acknowledging they are cherry picking, unlike more honest reformists who openly say that cherry picking is the path forward.

Like all the Abrahamic religions, obviously...Islam too is full of contradictory crap er...stuff. So naturally you can pick a bunch of things that sound alright, or you can pick a bunch of things that sound barbaric. But if you really want to look at the whole picture you can't ignore either...both anti-muslims and apologists for scripture like to ignore the aspect convenient to their narrative and push the other.

"Islam is PURE EVIL" or "Islam is PERFECT and PEACEFUL and FEMINIST" ....

there are some pretty vile, murderous, misogynistic, hateful things in there...certainly some of that is 'evil'....but there are some alright bits that are cherry picked by modern progressive muslims, which makes most of them peaceful.

'Perfect', it certainly is not...'feminist'...nope. Be wary of anyone claiming either of those.

I mean its absurd on the face of it...morals from centuries ago are simply not going to work today. If you try to claim they are *perfect* for today, then you're endorsing or twisting some pretty awful shit.

Anyway.... *Cracks knuckles* Lets get into it....this fuckin' article. What a crock of shit.


"My advocacy is informed not just by the law, but by strategies detailed in Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example to pre-empt sexual abuse."


Almost spit my beverage all over my keyboard...thanks for that Qasim.

Would Mo's example pre-empt sexual abuse here?

From Sahih Bukhari
Slavery too....if defined by scripture is permissible in Islam....and slaves were to accept that owners are allowed to sleep with them at will. As stated in Quran 33:50


Obviously this is not a practice any decent Muslim would endorse today, but if you want to go by Mo's example...then it's worth mentioning. It would be one thing to make some excuse about it being a different time....and the example not measuring up by today's values... but if you are going to literally say a sex slave owner's values are what can prevent sexual abuse....I'm going to have a thing or two to say. Yes such slavery predates Islam, and so continued under Islam...I am not a fan of people using archaic texts to define an entire diverse group by today. So no this is not for you far-righters who paint all muslims as pedophilic rapists.

What about this strategy detailed in the Quran, 4:34


Does making men in charge, commanding women to be obedient, and giving permission to 'strike them' also pre-empt sexual abuse?

***

I have to say I cringe a little while I'm picking out these verses to debunk this idiotic article, because I'm all too used to seeing how anti-muslims use these to dehumanize and generalize Muslims who may not even be aware of such verses. I know many like myself were taught curated versions of scripture.

Religion is full of this kind of nonsense.... slavery, stoning babies, virgins...killing people who disobey...fathers ok-ing rape of their daughters for a few $$. Islam is certainly not alone in this, so think twice before painting Muslims with a broad brush. I cannot say that enough, especially in the Trumpian era.

***

"Let’s start by understanding two facts. First, a woman’s attire, alcohol intake, marital status, and education level do not contribute to sexual abuse – abusive men do. Second, sexual abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every level of society – social norms, media, and Government – is complicit in promoting the rape culture that perpetuates sexual abuse."

"Social norms demonise a woman for speaking out, victim-blaming her by asking what she was wearing, whether she gave signals inviting abuse, or asking why she didn’t speak up sooner."

Very good Qasim...I'm glad you pointed out that a woman's attire doesn't matter. But the Quran (24:31) seems to disagree,

Here it tells believing women not to flaunt their assets, and even wrap a portion of their headscarves/outer garments over their chests. Clearly a woman's attire mattered to Allah, and therefore Mo quite a bit.

(24:60) only postmenstrual woman are allowed to cast out their 'outer garments' even then being careful not to display any 'adornment':


So Qasim, when you talk about social norms demonizing a woman, victim-blaming her by asking her what she was wearing....perhaps look honestly at the things you yourself recommended to 'pre-empt' sexual abuse. Laughable really.

Don't even get me started on the punishments Islam prescribes someone for adultery...so I'm pretty sure marital status matters too. You're right when you say every level of society can be complicit in promoting a culture that perpetuates abuse....but you conveniently miss out religion - old value systems that simply didn't classify abuse in the same way we do now.

If you want to be a women's advocate, how about not preaching a misogynistic religion to them while they open up about their painful abuse experiences.

"state laws only punish the actor once the act is completed, they don’t prevent the act in the first place. This scenario plays out repeatedly worldwide, whether we’re discussing “revenge porn”, gender based violence, or sexual harassment in the workplace.

This is where Islamic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s example provide a solution that no state truly can. "
What the fuck, dude. What are you even trying to say here? While you're right that banning cat calling won't work, and that it isn't preventative... what's your solution? Islam and Mohammed? Are you for fucking real right now? Are you saying that being fearful of some god that would burn you for eternity and that following in the footsteps of a prophet who's example isn't known for his fair treatment of women, who owned slaves...and consummated with a child is what will prevent sex abuse better than modern man-made law?! 

Right because religious people NEVER sexually abuse anyone....if only they had had access to the teachings if Islam and the example of Mo.

It's embarrassing really, to even debunk this.


Read story here

"Yes, Islam implores accountability to the creator, but rather than preach empty dogmatic theories, Islam instead prescribes a proven secular model."

What are you even on about? Accountability to the creator? How old are you... how well has that worked to prevent religious people from sexually abusing people or committing any crimes?

Secular model? What?

"Thus, the Quran 4:2 first establishes men and women as equal beings. Chapter 4:20 then forbids men from forcing a woman to act against her will, thereby ensuring women maintain autonomy and self-determination. "

Now, just because theres some contradictory more benign seeming stuff in there... doesn't mean you can ignore the wife beating verse (4:34), where aside from the 'strike them' nastiness...it literally says this:

"Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other"

Or how about the women are your farmland... plough them however you like (just don't do anal tut tut) verse (2:223)?


I mean, I hate to put on my "let me point out all the awful verses in the Quran/Hadith" hat right now, because I know the alt/far-right loves that stuff and uses it to stir hatred for whole groups which include people like me and my family. But in the face of this tasteless absurdity, I cannot remain silent. I can only hope I put enough "I dislike anti-muslims" caveats in here that it prevents them from latching on to this particular piece.

I'm not alone in feeling that my criticism of Islam is sort of stifled at the moment because it's too easily hijacked by bigots, anyone with a shred of decency is feeling that right now.





Anyway, back to this unfckingbelievably ridiculous piece. I honestly can't wrap my head around how awful it is..and what kind of person you'd have to be to write something like this, especially in the midst of a high profile hollywood sex scandal. "Here..... stop fussing about this sex scandal...and listen to all the good things about MY religion, one that has a bad reputation for it's treatment of women"

....Oh ok @ssh*le.  -___-

Aaand it gets a whole lot worse than I imagined. Qasim actually links to a previous even more nauseating piece he did about THE WIFE BEATING VERSE FFS, where it's a bunch of the most pathetic and weak twisted apologetics for 4:34, and it's actually titled:

"The Islamic Solution to *stop* Domestic Violence" [emphasis mine]

I can't....I have to take a break.....I walk away from the computer, pour a drink, take a breath.

Alright, I'm back...What was I saying?

Oh yeah...

His fucking *solution* is the verse that says men are in charge of women and you can strike them. THAT, to him is pre-empting domestic violence.. because by making men in charge it gives them some responsibilities and shit. He's thrilled it doesn't go straight to beating....this is a good thing apparently....An 'anger management strategy' - what the actual fuck is wrong with this guy and how is he allowed to pump this shit out in mainstream liberal publications like Huffpo and Independent??

And I quote, from the Huffpo piece,

"Pre-emptive deterrence is the key. And this precisely is the wisdom behind verse 4:34 to decrease and stop violence against women. The verse in its totality describes a process of restraint, anger management and reformation."

'Wisdom' he says...About an infantilizing, abusive verse that clearly doesn't hold women in high regard. Just because it doesn't jump straight to the beating, it's a process of restraint. Fucking hell.

"Employed effectively, these two steps help reconcile the vast majority of domestic disputes. Should the first two steps fail, however, the Quran allows — never commands — men to consider the third step, translated as “to chastise them.”

Look, it *allows* --- it doesn't *command* you to 'chastise' your wife. (since the beating isn't compulsory...that makes it totally ok)

Firstly Qasim, slick replacement of strike with 'chastise'. Secondly, obviously this is only for the rarest of times...for when the first two infantilizing and humiliating methods don't work on her (that totally excuses the fact that u can resort to ..you know... beating her)

If the first two steps don't sort out your domestic dispute, it's because you didn't employ these perfect strategies 'effectively'....

Of course then his article delves into semantic bullshit about how the word for strike isn't actually that. Nothing I haven't heard before...but I haven't come across anyone with the audacity to argue they are progressive *and* suggest the wife beating verse as a goddamn *solution* to domestic violence.

There are many Muslims who genuinely acknowledge that this verse is not palatable today....Qasim is not one of them. He would rather twist it to say it means the opposite of what it says in mainstream interpretations of the Quran. He'd rather appear dishonest in front of anyone who knows anything about Islam.

This doesn't help Muslims, or their reputation...quite the opposite in fact. So I sincerely don't understand why left leaning publications put out stuff like this.

All this does is breathe fire into anti-muslim movements. It energizes them, gives them something to rally around.

***

Sorry I went off into a rabbit hole there for a bit, so enough about the horrid Huffpo piece, and back on to the horrid Independent one....where were we...

"And when it comes to the Islamic concept of Hijab, it is men who are first commanded to never gawk at women, and instead guard their private parts and chastity, regardless of how women choose to dress – pre-empting sexual abuse."

I just love how he selectively points to the male requirements for modesty, saying that it tells men to lower their gaze... but he completely skips over the modesty requirements for women. You know, what hijab is literally KNOWN for? Slut-shaming women into covering head to toe and holding them responsible for provoking lust....no mention of the double standards about what men are required to do vs women. Of course men are commanded first because the whole Quran refers only to men directly (with a couple of exceptions)...when it refers to women it is in third person or via men..."tell your women/wives" type stuff.

The Quran isn't some great feminist book, it puts men first because it only talks to *them* directly.

"Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad by example demonstrated that the burden of modesty, respect, and combating abuse of women rests on men. Indeed, men must take the lead in stopping such sexual abuse."

Oh COME ON, the guy who married a six year old and had slaves? I really hate to sound like a broken record here... but Qasim is being one, so I need to keep repeating the obvious.

"After all, while the Quran obliges women to dress modestly as a covenant with God, Islam prescribes no punishment whatsoever for women who choose to dress otherwise."

Oh yeah totally, it's just an afterthought that the Quran obliges women to dress modestly...nothing to do with placing the blame on them for enticing men. Oh and the Quran doesn't describe the details of Salaat/prayer either....so I guess that must not be Islamic either.

Here's a verse specifically commanding the wives of the prophet to stay home and not display themselves if they want to be 'purified' (funny thing is, this is one of like 2 or so verses that directly address women, and it's to tell them to not put themselves on display! Imagine that.)

O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.

And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance. And establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet's] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification.

And 33:59 spells it out clearly, women of the believers....cover yourselves so you aren't abused.

Just because the book hasn't specifically prescribed a beating in *this* situation... (I mean... a lot could be covered under 'disobedient wives') - doesn't mean that the general climate of "stay at home, do not put yourselves on display... or else you won't be pure" crap isn't pressuring women with the threat of hellfire.

"women in Islam rise to the rank of legal scholars, warriors, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists while lovingly embracing identities as mothers and housewives.
Weinstein is a symptom of the greater disease of arrogance, unaccountability, societal apathy, and from men who knew of the abuse but did nothing. Islam and Prophet Muhammad provide a practical solution."
Oh ffs, a man who ok-ed wife beating and keeping them at home, married a child and thought women could be owned as slaves does NOT provide a practical solution to sexual abuse. You're an embarrassment Qasim. 
So shameless...
"Together, we can employ a proven Islamic model that will stop this madness, and re-invoke gender equity today in America, and the world."
Who is he preaching to? How did the Independent let this happen, this is like a lecture you'd hear at Islamic Sunday School....does no one understand that this kind of horrific dishonesty, easily debunked....does nothing to help muslims. 
It's a real shame this man gets a platform like this. I'll say again, who approved this and what were they thinking? Who is the audience they hoped to reach with "together lets employ an Islamic model to stop sexual abuse"? This is some bullshit 'religious right' propaganda....get it together Independent. 
I'm all out of facepalms. I think that's all I got for today. 
***
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Forbidden Intersectionality: Liberal + (Ex) Muslim

Some of you may have seen my interview on Cracked recently. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak on a larger platform. Below is a blogpost thats basically an extension of my thoughts from there:

-------

Being of Muslim background in the West right now...in this Trumpian, 'rising far right' era is tough enough as it is....but being a secular, non-religious person of Muslim background is a whole other level of fucked up at the moment...

So many of us thought there weren't others like us, questioning Islam, questioning conservatism in our communities...because these things just aren't talked about. The risks are too great especially if you're living in a Muslim majority country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (the two places I've lived).

And when, through the internet, we found each other....us secular/agnostic/atheist types of Muslim background were just so relieved that there were others...that there was a growing voice for us...that we banded together on something that doesn't tell you much about a person's values: rejecting/challenging religion.

Now...as the political climate changes in the West, we see the cracks in the ex/reformist Muslim movement more obviously than ever. There are those of us who were coming at it from the angle of opposing conservatism, rightwingery whatever form it may take, and others who were specifically only opposing Islam. As a result the people who prioritize opposing Islam alone, are happy now to side with the Western right. Some even going as far as joining anti-Muslim movements, the alt-right, supporting Trump, etc.

Back in the old country, expressing doubt about religion or challenging cultural boundaries can mean serious consequences. At the very least resulting in alienation and being ostracized, disowned, ex communicated (we are not free from this consequence in the West either) ....and at worst it means things like blasphemy accusations, death.  So I do understand where the anger and bitterness some have is coming from (I don't excuse it, but I can see what created it).

This taboo and loneliness surrounding Islamic apostasy is also why finding others simply to align with you on this one thing feels so big, that almost nothing else matters.




However, as more and more of us come out and express ourselves, we begin to see the diversity among Islam's apostates too.

Still we are often lumped in as one, and even at times put on an unnecessary pedestal in the western atheist scene when discussing Islam. I hate to be the one to say it, but ex-Muslims can be wrong in their assessments and opinions of Islam too, like anyone else. And if they are allying with the Dave Rubin's and Kekistanis of this world then it's increasingly important to see beyond the 'ex Muslim = they're infallible when it comes to speaking about Islam' view. Ex-Muslims too can overshoot in their criticism or overreact, tainting a movement that began with thoughtful critique.







Yes the stigma and risks that come with apostasy in Islam are high and frightening. I'm a living example of how high the stakes are, I have to work under a pseudonym to feel safe.

But at the same time, it's important to keep in mind that things aren't always that intolerant and there are all types of people in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia too, people who are struggling to be heard - further silencing them with generalizations is not only unjust but also counterproductive if reducing extremism is the goal. Liberal, accepting-of-apostasy Muslim families do exist there, but sadly in small numbers. It is voices from those minorities that need to be empowered...but so rarely are.

Instead, the narrative that Muslims are always conservative rules the airwaves in the West, be it left or right leaning media.

Yes...there are crazy mullahs saying ridiculous, vile, intolerant things (often focused on by the right) ....and yes there are hijabi women who need our solidarity (often focused on by the left), but Muslim existence isn't limited to these simple caricatures - yet most representation of them is (and no, I'm not drawing a moral equivalence between vile intolerant mullahs and peaceful conservative Muslim women who wear a headscarf).

It's been incredibly hard to break that mould...and the few instances of people trying to represent the more secular, liberal types of Muslim existence are met with a huge amount of resistance from all across the political spectrum. I mean....we already have so much to deal with from within the community, that tacking on these external battles, simply for a foothold... for a place to say "I'm here, and I exist"...are disheartening and exhausting.

As if dealing with angry Mullah’s against fun and freedom wasn’t hard enough!




Image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7IpMIhR6Yg

The left, the rightMuslims and non Muslims too, can all be hurdles for secular, liberal and progressive Muslims.


This is so incredibly untrue, as secular, liberal portrayals of Muslims are only
just starting to break through into the mainstream. While we have a whole
host of characters that play the token religious character, or 'the terrorist', etc. 

There's really no winning as a 'secular Muslim'.
People want to shove you into a box with extremists and nothing will stop them.





"Why don't Muslims tolerate apostasy, it's outrageous!" - well here's a Muslim woman
expressing support for people who have left the faith, and this is what she has to hear.


Why Don't Muslims fight for LGBT rights? Some do. And when it's not the western far right trying
to get them to adhere to a literalist interpretation of Islam, it's a Muslim right-winger who wants to drag them back.


Muslims lie. There you have it. Because lying is totally unique to Muslims.
There really is no winning. As a liberal+Muslim, someone always turns up
to either discredit that you're truly liberal or that you're truly Muslim.
And thus, 'Forbidden intersectionality'. 


---------

As an ex-Muslim, I still very much consider myself a part of the Muslim community - like any secular Jew or Christian would consider themselves connected through culture, shared history, family, holidays, etc. Never before has my need to identify and stand in solidarity with the Muslim community felt more pronounced, than in a time Muslim registries and Muslim bans are casually being spoken of in mainstream discourse. 

This is truly terrifying for anyone of Muslim background. 

When it comes to things like the registry or being barred from entering the US, I don’t think secular, non-believer status matters. And when it comes to hate crimes, I'm pretty sure no one will bother checking how devout you are, either.

In fact, there have been many victims of anti-Muslim hate crime that just happened to have brown skin, or weren’t even remotely Muslim

All this certainly complicates things for those of us from within who do have legitimate critiques of the community and of Islamic fundamentalism. How do we demand progress in a political climate rife with anti-Muslim sentiment?


Battling Homophobia in a Muslim context

The orthodoxy Islam still commands worldwide in its adherents is unmatched by most other mainstream religions in the 21st century. For example the countries that still carry a potential death penalty for homosexuality are largely Muslim

Three years ago I wrote and illustrated an anti-homophobia children’s book set in Pakistan, called My Chacha (uncle) is Gay (you can get a copy here).



As I mentioned in my Cracked interview,

"I was delighted when it got picked up by some schools in the Toronto area and was used as a resource for The Day of Pink (which is an anti bullying initiative)."

The book was read out in classrooms and assemblies, and the response was incredibly supportive at first. Then, as parents 'discovered' that not only were their children read an LGBT-positive book *gasssp* ...but were read one set in Pakistan, the outrage began. 

Many claimed it was an assault on their religion, and a misrepresentation of it. Some said I was attacking the moral fibre of the ‘Muslim family', I received countless death and rape threats. Some referred to me as Wajb ul Qatal - 'worthy of killing’, they wished STD’s and Sharia punishments of being 'stoned to death' upon my *fictional* character Chacha.

This went on for quite some time. 







The most amusing comments called me 'Satan’s daughter' or compared my children's book's evilness -evels to that of Salman Rushdie’s notorious Satanic Verses! I am not worthy, but I’ll take the compliment with pride.

In Toronto a radio show broadcasted calls from angry parents, punctuated with a few obligatory calls from people defending the book. Some parents threatened to sue the school board, and predictably the LGBT supporting liberal school board backed away from such a book. It was never used in an official capacity again.

There were warnings being circulated on Islamic sites that people should protect their children from corruption, as they too could be exposed to this gay-turning, soul-sucking 15 line picture book.

As I said on Cracked,

"Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) published a blog post claiming that the school board was the one bullying parents into teaching their kids about LGBT diversity. I was branded an ‘Islamophobe’ and that was it - a resource that many children/teachers enjoyed and found useful was no longer available."

When Muslim communities have problems with integration or accepting values like being LGBT positive, the way to tackle that would be precisely through such resources. But often in the face of accusations of Islamophobia even books about love and tolerance are tossed out as controversial. It's the kids who lose out the most.

Just recently, a conservative Islamic lecturer discovered my book and posted about it's 'evil agenda', sending a fresh new batch of threats and haters my way.

(click to enlarge)

On the other side of this battle right wing non-Muslims accused me of trying to ‘sanitize homophobia’ in Islam and said that nice gay uncles like this simply didn’t exist in Pakistan, that I was painting a rosy picture of what it was like to be gay in a Muslim country, that Chacha would have been stoned to death in reality. I mean…it was a fictional children’s book, thus obviously simplified to a great degree. It's incredibly frustrating that If ever people from the Muslim world are challenging things and pushing boundaries the Western right often wants to pull them back to standards that Islamists would be proud of. 

For one side I was an Islamophobe, for the other a sanitizer of Sharia. And that pretty much encapsulates what it's like to discuss Islam as a liberal (ex) Muslim nowadays, caught between a rock and a hard place. 

It's like walking a tightrope...you point out there's homophobia in Muslim culture and you risk that being grabbed and used by people who want to ban Muslims.

What do you do, when stuck at this impossible junction... Being liberal and Muslim is unacceptable...invisible even.


Image from Cracked.com

It simply doesn't fit the narrative - but being liberal and ex muslim is also an overlap that many days, seems unmaintainable.

Often, you are not accepted by fellow liberals in the west (because Islamophobic) or you're not accepted by those who are interested in critiques of Islam because those circles are increasingly becoming anti-sjw, anti-feminist, anti-left...

Having few and mild opinions about the Western far-right is appreciated by many in the audience that will inevitably be drawn to you for your criticism of Islam. They usually tell you to stfu about Trump ...and accuse you of Taqqiya (an obscure concept in Islam which I only heard about in the West) if you don't, because they want to get to the 'good stuff'...the part where you confirm their ideas about generalizing Muslim immigrants, and act as a shield from accusations of bigotry.




We-ell thats not gonna happen with me....and I can't seem to keep quiet about Dave Rubin and Gad Saad, Peterson, Shermer...I certainly won't be going on Breitbart or Rebel Media to talk about how there's no place for Islam on the planet. So.....that leaves me walking a rather lonely path....and as you can read in my tweet above, often has me wondering what my place is in all this. If it's even worth it to try and counter the avalanche of bs, that seems to be coming from within the ex-Muslim movement...bs like, 'Islam can't be reformed', 'there's no place for it on the planet', 'Islam is worse than Nazism.'

I mean, at this point the discussion really seems to have left the grown up table.






The Term Islamophobia Adds to the Confusion

The waters are so muddied, that the term really does more harm than good. Allowing any criticism of Islamic fundamentalism, homophobia, etc. to be labelled as 'Islamophobia', gives right wing fundamentalist Muslims a chance to shield the religion from valid criticism. It's essentially the same thing as right wing Christians trying to shield their religion from criticism. Think of the absurdity of the 'War on Christmas' to get a feel for how 'Islamophobia' sounds to us. That's why I prefer the more precise term, 'anti-Muslim bigotry'. The problem is not theological criticisms of Islam or criticisms of literalist interpretations, it is the generalizations, hatred and fear-mongering around Muslims.

Seeing the confusion surrounding this, the Western far-right swoops in to claim that "Islamophobia" isn't real even when its being used to describe blatant anti-Muslim bigotry. The cries of "Islam is not a race", while technically true...ring hollow in a climate where brown people are targeted based on their skin colour and appearance.

And thus the cycle of confusion continues.

As anti-muslim sentiment skyrockets, the emboldened far-right uses this opportunity to gain more support. As the Western far right lashes out at Muslims, the Muslim far-right uses that opportunity to also gain more support.

And the rest of us, are well and truly fucked by them both.


The Hijab Debate

The Hijab is a hot topic, both within Muslim circles and outside. Well-meaning Western liberals tend to overcompensate in their desire to make Muslims feel accepted and can end up championing conservatism from our communities. This is particularly tricky now, because Muslim women are in actuality being attacked for their modesty garments. So in the West, it's not exactly on the same footing as opposing something like a Christian purity ball or virginity pledge - though it largely comes from the same place and regard for women.

As a woman who grew up in a theocracy, Saudi Arabia, I was forced to wear modesty garments by the state and have encountered "morality police" on several occasions. I have seen them hit my mother's ankle with a cane for letting her headscarf slip. The memories are not pleasant.

So...for me, it's rather distasteful to see the constant celebration of modesty garb. It leaves me feeling very isolated from my fellow liberals, who I assumed would stand with me in opposing body-shaming of women in my culture too. Simultaneously, I can understand that it has become hard to oppose a garment that is causing women to be targeted.

My personal solution to this is that I stand in solidarity with hijab and niqab wearing Muslims when it comes to bigots singling them out because they are visibly Muslim. But I still vehemently oppose the concept of a requirement for women to cover up so as not to invoke lust.

Both things can and should be done together. One can show solidarity with hijabis without championing the hijab as some great symbol of liberation, which it clearly isn't, as many Muslim girls and women continue to be forced into modesty against their will.


The Media gives little coverage to Muslims who don't 'Look like Muslims'

There is so much noise around supporting the hijab that non hijabi Muslim women are drowned out. This results in a very one dimensional coverage, that yet again perpetuates the stereotype that 'Muslim' is synonymous with 'conservative Muslim'. Even Playboy Magazine isn't immune to this and had to get in on the hijab celebration!

Another example of this misguided support is the Shepard Fairey poster from the Women's March.




An admittedly powerful, iconic poster of a woman in a US flag hijab was displayed as part of a series. It was seen as a symbol of resistance, as the 'anti-Trump'. But it's hard for women like me to get behind one form of conservative symbolism to oppose another form of conservatism. So I created some artwork accompanied by a short audio message explaining that we do indeed need to show solidarity with hijabi Muslim women, but perhaps this wasn't the best method since there are many connotations to such a garment, not all positive



Despite my clearly liberal sentiments and disclaimers that it was not to be used by people spreading hate towards Muslims, despite my opposition to Trump expressed in the audio message the post was widely retweeted by Trump fan accounts as well.

It seems there's almost nothing we can do to prevent this.

Either you suffer in silence under the homophobic, misogynistic Islamic far-right, or you risk emboldening the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Western one. 

In fact both LGBT and women's rights in Islamic countries are causes appropriated by the Western far-right now. In Alt-Right/Lite circles, you'll see gay rights used as a white nationalist tactic, it's deeply concerning and sinister that an ideology so troubling can be dressed up as 'human rights'.

They use these things as a cudgel, a mere pretext to bash Muslims with.

The trick is to express a faux-concern over these things not being up to par in the Islamic world, while having little regard for the same in your own part of the world. I cannot tell you how many Western anti-feminists champion women's rights when it comes to Islam, but will callously tell Western rape victims that they are privileged because at least they don't live under Sharia. 






Difficult Dualities

Whether it's accusations of Islamophobia or fears of emboldening anti-Muslim hate, either way, we are silenced. Just like any culture we too should be able to criticize our own, without being branded sell-outs, traitors or Islamophobes.

Except there is one problem.

In this complex political climate there *is* an actual loss of credibility too, which I covered in my interview;

"As more and more Muslim Reformers/Ex Muslims either get on the Trump Train, defend the Muslim Ban or join the Alt Right."

And on the left, secular, liberal Muslims continue to not be adequately represented. This tips the scales massively towards high-visibility of right-wing critics of Islam. 

Well known Ex-Muslim Breitbart Editor, Raheem Kassam, has said things like "If Merkel took a million rapey migrants, Hillary will take 20 million"

We also have the 'red-pilled' ex-Muslim types, who believe no Muslims are peaceful.






Now I as an ex-Muslim can tell you, that this is not representative of *all* ex-Muslims obviously, and there are many compassionate, progressive people among us. But the movement has taken an undeniable rightward turn without many denouncing the bad actors that are nudging the movement further towards Pepe

This is definitely not what I signed up for. 

YouTube shows that regularly feature alt right/lite figures will also court ex and reformist Muslims to come and criticize Islam from their platforms. 

When you go on Breitbart, or Rebel Media to criticize Islam - how can you complain that the Left won't take your voice seriously.

Credibility is a two way street. 



I would urge my fellow liberals to not champion Islamic conservatism and I would urge my fellow ex-Muslims to not prove critics of the ex-Muslim and Islamic reform movements correct by allying with the Western right and supporting/downplaying things like the Muslim Ban. 

This rightward shift of Islam critics has even produced a Trump-supporting, anti-multiculturalism Imam, would you believe it?  

2017, what a year!

The Imam once put out an 11-step plan to crack down on Wahhabism, a literalist and harsh interpretation of Islam. It sounds reasonable in theory, but reads more like an authoritarian plan to put ordinary Muslims under strict surveillance. Australian media has dubbed him the 'Fake Sheikh' 



 ABC states,

 "...Unsurprisingly, Tawhidi's tales about Sunni Muslims' shadowy plot to instate Caliphate have been enthusiastically embraced by the far-Right, including Reclaim Australia. Perhaps less expected is the extent to which Tawhidi himself has courted such groups. In the lead-up to last year's federal election, he made offerings of roses to roadside anti-Muslim Liberty Alliance and One Nation posters, as if the face of Pauline Hanson belonged not to Australia's most recognisable anti-Islam campaigner, but a titian-haired deity."



 


He throws around terms like 'Fake News' and 'Lying Left' - reminiscent of Trump himself. 

It's no surprise the term 'red-pilled Muslim' is also seen in comments from his fans. I honestly never thought I'd see that combination of words, but 2017 is full of surprises. 




I hope that one day, just like Sam Bee or The Daily Show, progressive Muslims can earnestly push for change without getting lumped in with or enticed by those with an anti-Muslim agenda. 

Islam is not a monolith, neither are its adherents nor its critics. Just like Islam can be interpreted and practised in a million different ways so too can criticism of it come from different angles and politics. It's important to be aware of the general Trump-era anti-Muslim climate, but its also important not to erase the few secular, liberal and progressive Muslims that exist. 

Recognize that people in my position are fighting a battle against bigotry from all angles. 

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