If You Care About Women’s Rights, Stop Saying that Islam is a Religion of Peace.
As feminists, we have to be able to speak honestly about patriarchal systems, and religion is no exception.
I wrote in a recent post that one of the best things in life is basketball. But another one of my favorite things... is critical thought. Debate. Confronting ideas that may be uncomfortable.
Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, I hope we can all agree that no idea, ideology, or religion should be exempt from skepticism.
Which is why I'm so stoked to share this amazing guest post by Shruthi Sailesh, who studies biotechnology and economics at the University of Waterloo. She enjoys debating and writing about politics, feminism, and literature. For more of her writing, follow her on Quora.
I know. You probably think I’m hateful and bigoted, and are proceeding to the comments section right now to say so. Before you do, hear me out. Whatever right-wing xenophobic nut you’re picturing in your head, I’m not it. I’m about as socially liberal as they come. Though I disagree with much of third-wave “feminism”, I am passionate about gender equality. That’s why I’m writing this. As feminists, we have to be able to speak honestly about patriarchal systems, and religion is no exception. Organized religion has long been intertwined with the oppression of women, but Islam in particular poses an unparalleled threat to women’s rights at this point in history. Islam is different; and it is intellectually dishonest to pretend otherwise.
Let’s get one thing straight right away; I am not attacking Muslims. I do not believe that all Muslims are violent terrorists; I am well aware of the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding citizens. That however, doesn’t change the fact that Islam as an ideology is fundamentally authoritarian, violent, and misogynistic. It isn’t “Islamophobic” to acknowledge that. As the writer Sam Harris so eloquently put it, “We are sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry against Muslims as people.”1
You would think that modern feminists would devote more of their time and energy to the plight of Muslim women. Muslim-majority countries consistently rank among the worst countries in the world for gender equality, and it doesn’t take a scholar to realize that the second-class status of women in the Muslim world is inextricably linked to Islamic scripture and doctrine. So why aren’t more Western feminists talking about it? Look at the scathing feminist critiques of fundamentalist Christianity; where is the equivalent for Islam? Where is the feminist outrage at honor killings, forced veiling, female genital mutilation, and Shariah law? Why are feminists, who can expound theses condemning lipstick and dolls, silent when it comes to the oppression of Muslim women?
Let's ignore oppression in the Muslim world. It's much more important to talk about pumpkin spice lattes.
Intersectional feminists are so obsessed with cultural sensitivity, so mired in collective white guilt, that they’ve succumbed to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” (to borrow a phrase from the writer Michael Gerson). How utterly hypocritical, to condemn misogyny when its perpetrators are white, but to turn a blind eye to horrific practices like FGM and honor killings, or worse still, defend them so as not to be branded as “racist” or “Islamophobic” (Germaine Greer, anyone?) Worse still, Western feminists actively condemn those who speak out against Islam, accusing them of racism and bigotry and effectively shutting down honest debate.
Take Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example. An ex-Muslim who was a victim of female genital mutilation as a child, she fled an arranged marriage and escaped to the Netherlands, eventually becoming a politician, writer, and fierce advocate for women’s rights. She is by all accounts a feminist hero. Yet, the leftist feminist critique of Hirsi Ali is so widespread that despite her liberal views, she took a position at the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute. Imagine if Hirsi Ali had been a dissident and outspoken critic of Christianity instead. Is there any doubt that the left would have embraced her?
Of course, intersectional feminists aren’t totally silent when it comes to Islam. They’ll talk about it, but only when they want to make false equivalences and pat themselves on the back for acknowledging how terrible white people can be, too. Who hasn’t seen this image floating around, often accompanied by a sanctimonious caption meant to highlight how the poster is SO open-minded and tolerant?
(Image credit: Malcolm Evans)
It’s a misleading image on many levels, not least because no Western woman has ever been killed or threatened with rape because she refused to wear a bikini. Can the same be said of Muslim women and the veil?
The issue of the Islamic face veil is another article all together, but suffice to say that the erasure of identity associated with the burqa or niqab would be seen as diametrically opposed to standard feminist theory...except when it comes to Islam, because that would be racist/bigoted/Islamophobic (take your pick). According to the left, all of the problems in the Muslim world can be traced back to Western colonialism and imperialism, and not, you know, the Islamic scriptures that are literally at the core of everything groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda do.
The bottom line is that the regressive left’s empty rhetoric is hurting the very people they claim to stand for. By refusing to speak openly about Islam, intersectional feminists are silently condoning the atrocities that Muslim women all over the world face on a daily basis. A fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is incompatible with the fundamental values of Western democracy, and no amount of evasion, obfuscation and cognitive dissonance changes that. If you truly care about women’s rights, stop saying that Islam is a religion of peace.
In the words of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”
Author Bio: Shruthi studies biotechnology and economics at the University of Waterloo. She enjoys debating and writing about politics, feminism, and literature. For more of her writing, visit https://www.quora.com/profile/Shruthi-Sailesh.
6/21/2017 03:43:41 pm
I could not agree more. I'm a big fan of Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Saying "Islam is a religion of peace" is like saying "Heroin is a safe medicine."
6/22/2017 01:58:16 am
I could not agree more as well. When Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited from my alma mater (where she was slated to receive an honorary degree) for being "anti-Muslim," that's when I knew that third-wave feminism had jumped the shark. I guess the usual SJWs decided that "lived experience" didn't count this time (to say nothing of intellect, academic experience, etc).
6/22/2017 06:08:30 am
6/23/2017 01:03:18 pm
I once met two Pakistani women who were students at a top London University. They told me that when they tell white British people what things are like in their own country they are told that they must be wrong "because Islam is a religion of peace".
6/23/2017 01:16:36 pm
WOW. Talk about "whitesplaining."
6/26/2017 12:52:15 pm
I definitely agree.
2/8/2018 12:43:04 pm
Part of the problem of fixing is that people refuse to see the problem in the first place, and if you point it out, you're a hateful bigot.
7/6/2017 07:09:53 pm
"That however, doesn’t change the fact that Islam as an ideology is fundamentally authoritarian, violent, and misogynistic."
2/8/2018 12:49:09 pm
You missed the point. The point wasn't putting Christianity on a platform, it was pointing out how Islam has become untouchable, even with obvious problems.
10/3/2019 12:19:34 pm
you said," 1400 little girls were raped in Britain, and the police didn't stop it because the perpetrators were Muslim."
1/13/2021 04:16:30 pm
'as authoritarian, violent, and misogynistic as Christianity'
7/17/2017 09:30:05 pm
What a great insightful article! You are very talented as a writer
7/23/2017 01:18:35 am
I am blocked by Facebook from an 'offended' person after he said that Islam is a religion of peace and I said that he was a liar and printed a list of Islamic wars.
11/14/2017 12:15:58 pm
Great post! This is an issue on which I disagree with most third-wave "feminists" too. I have lived in close proximity to "moderate Islam" all my life and all around me and it has made ma radically feminist! Can't even imagine how the women in extremely Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia not become extremists! The power of indoctrination, no doubt. As an aside, I was not surprised to find the typical whatabouttery going on - what about Christianity... blah blah blah. Do these people go on breast cancer posts and say "what about prostate cancer? do you even know how dangerously sneaky that is! stop talking about breast cancer and taking focus away from prostate cancer, you prostater-phobes!" Sure, all religion is misogynistic, but few religions are practicing their misogyny in the current times with as much relish and approbation as Islam (although Hinduism with its honour killings and caste system comes pretty close, indistinguishable from Islam in select parts of India, really).
1/12/2021 08:14:59 pm
So not only are you a narcissistic, disrespectful, entitled shit, you're also an anti-religion bigot. Okay then.
1/13/2021 04:10:47 pm
since the religions teach and practice bigotry - with other religions - with women - with Human rights.... it is appropriate to be bigoted against religions;
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