Drawing the Line Against ‘Footloose’ Fatwas in the U.K.
A Muslim teenager filmed twerking while wearing her headscarf causes a storm of unacceptable but all-too-predictable intolerance.
03.13.17 6:00 AM ET
LONDON—A Muslim girl wearing a headscarf was filmed dancing in the streets of Birmingham, U.K.—twerking, in fact—and the smartphone video soon went viral, viewed over a million times. Ironically, it was popularized in no small part by outraged Muslim men.
The fundamentalist Muslim backlash directed at this anonymous 17-year-old girl’s innocuous behavior was instant, personal, and severe. Amid threats in comment threads such as, “Fu**ing sl*t someone give me her address I will kill her,” and “Stupid b**ch needs to be killed,” the young girl issued a tearful, pitiful public apology that was broadcast by a pair of fundamentalist roving-fatwa YouTubers as a “repentance” to placate the frothing Islamist mob.
Two days later the world celebrated International Women’s Day. But amid a plethora of “feminist” pronouncements, including denunciations of transgender women, Emma Watson’s breasts, and even “Zionism,” not one major feminist organization or mainstream media outlet touched on what had just transpired.
A British Muslim girl was publicly slut-shamed, witch-hunted, and threatened until she totally submitted to the diktats of fundamentalist British-Muslim men, and the incident went barely noticed by our British left. This is despite the fact the brazen persecution was carried out unashamedly and unapologetically for all to witness by a pair of social media cretins.
The incident centered around the page of a quasi-literate fundamentalist British Muslim street preacher named Ali Da’wah (which somewhat unoriginally means: Ali Preaching) and his Penfold-like sidekick, Musa.
Unlike certain intersectional feminists who seem to have forgotten what it is that they are meant to be fighting for, Ali Da’wah makes no secret of his disdain for women: “I believe Muslim woman [sic] don’t need feminism… What does feminism offer that Islam doesn’t? What if feminism opposed Islam which one will you follow?” just after posting a meme showing a woman who looks frustrated and angry that reads: “When you can’t open a jar after thirty minutes and realize you’re not a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man.” Such views acted as a backdrop on Ali’s page to what happened next.
Upon seeing the video in question, by their own admission Ali and Musa reacted angrily and moved publicly to “correct” the girl. They posted an image of her dancing, and separately recorded a rant about why such behavior is totally unacceptable for Muslims. Many other Muslims on their page soon pointed out how this only helped the “offending” video to go viral. Death threats against the petrified teenager soon followed.
Undeterred, the pair got in touch with the family of the 17-year-old girl and decided to record and publish her “repentance,” to ward off the threats. Just before the terrified girl was put on, the pair of medievalists can be heard ruminating on how her dance was “really inappropriate” as Ali continued, “We was really upset to be honest, and I’m sure a lot of you guys was upset as well… a lot of us hate seeing certain things done by practicing-looking individuals.”
Not to be outdone, Musa then added, “It was very, very hard to comprehend what someone could be going through to be doing something like that while wearing the hijab.”
In what can only be described as religious mania, he then mentioned victims of suicide and rape while adding “which we can understand and advise about, but with this [dancing] we were even speechless.”
Probably ready to say anything for all this to just go away, the poor girl explained to the pair of numbskulls that she has suffered from depression since she was 13. Tragically, she then burst into tears.
At this point, Ali callously remarked: “By God, this is the work of Satan, the only reason I’m doing this is because people are going to watch the video and judge you based on that… so don’t cry, God is the most merciful… the fact that you’re crying is a sign of repentance and remorse, so don’t be upset… I’m just going to carry on so don’t worry… You said that you saw some brothers preaching and at that point you came back to your senses, right?
“I’m going to get you in contact with (if you want) some good sisters in Birmingham who can keep your company”—that is, make sure the girl stays penitent—“because this is the work of the devil and music is one of the tools of Satan.”
Just in case his message hadn’t gotten through, Ali ended his video with some final remarks to his young Muslim audience, telling them music is “like you’re on drugs… these filthy people in these songs, they don’t care about you and they’re causing harm, they talk about women like they’re whores…”
Now that they had extracted their “repentance” from her, and publicly aired her confession, the girl’s “sin” was deemed in need of hiding—for shame. In a textbook case of gaslighting, the pair went on to blame others for still sharing news of the girl that they themselves had also initially posted. Their followers were then encouraged to report anyone still posting on the issue as harassment and bullying.
To say that I stand disgusted is an understatement.
No doubt the petrified girl will stand by her apology, and just wants the incident to go away. I understand that. And I fully expect her to maintain her “repentance.” She will probably wish that I had not resurrected this issue by defending her right to dance as she likes, when she likes, and where she likes. But no. Before it all just goes away, we as liberals, as a society, and as her fellow human beings have a duty to at least acknowledge what has just happened: We just missed our first modern religious inquisition, initiated, conducted, and concluded solely through social media.
Our communities, Muslim or otherwise, must awaken to the predators of liberty that live among us. Similar to the now infamous “sharia patrols,” British-Muslim religious-policing must not be tolerated. It is no coincidence that this incident unfolded in the English city of Birmingham. A tenth of all Britain’s jihadist terrorists hail from just five wards in that city.
And for the sake of British Muslim female victims of “honor” killings, we must mark this moment, because the girl’s inquisitors appear utterly unable to comprehend why anyone would be so angered by their actions. They conclude their video inquisition by promising, “It’s gonna happen in the future, another video might come up, obviously we have to go about it the right way, but if it’s going viral, we have to touch upon it.”
So untouchable do they feel as Muslim fundamentalists in modern Britain that they vow to do it again. Welcome to the United Kingdom, 2017.
Video: “Stupid b***h needs to be killed”: Muslim Girl in Hijab Barraged with Death Threats for Twerking
A wake-up call for the Left and Intersectional-feminists
March 8, 2017
Written by Benjamin David and Terri Murray
This week a Muslim girl was captured on camera dancing in Birmingham. Viewed over 1 million times on social media, the Muslim girl, who is seen wearing a hijab during her ‘twerking’, received a barrage of criticism for allegedly “disrespecting” Islam and and dishonouring the Muslim community.
After receiving thousands of negative comments, including death threats, the unnamed Muslim girl apologised for her supposedly defamatory act. One person, so galled by the Muslim girl’s carnal display, commented by saying, “F*****g s**t someone give me her address I will kill her”. Another man seconded: “Stupid b****h needs to be killed”.
Interviewed by the Conservative and always-perfervid Islamic YouTuber Ali Dawah, the Muslim girl’s actions were deemed “really bad” and “inappropriate” – actions which, she was reminded repeatedly, is being gauged by her community, particularly when her actions connote sexuality.
In the “interview”, which at times feels more like an inquisition, Ali Dawah presses the Muslim girl to explain why she would resort to such a salacious dance in public. Acknowledging that she’s an ostensibly legitimate figure of opprobrium in her community, the Muslim girl explains in the interview that, “I was out with my friends, we were going shopping and there were these people playing music, there was one song that a girl wanted to dance with me,” and later adding that her mental health problems often hinder her ability to “think straight”.
Dawah goes on to remind the sobbing girl that Muslims are judging her behaviour and petitions the Muslim girl to apologise for her defamatory behaviour. The Muslim girl accedes, stating: “To all the girls that wear hijab and wear abayah, I’m sorry for disrespecting it,” and “I’ve learnt from my mistake, …. I’m just hurt, I just want everybody to leave it alone and keep everything away. I don’t want it to be how it was and I’m not gonna do anything like again and I’m sorry for disrespecting it and thank you to all of you that helped.”
As the video goes on, and he continues to eyeball the situation, Dawah claims that music was to blame for the girl’s actions. Dawah’s co-host, Musa, in a similarly unctuous posture, responds by claiming, “this is why music is haram [forbidden in Islam]”.
Following her public character assassination, others defended the Muslim girl’s actions. Iranian critic of Sharia Law and proponent of secularism, Maryam Namazie, lambasted those who insisted that the Muslim girl apologise. Maryam said, “Why the hell does she need to say sorry?”.
Indeed, why does the Muslim girl need to apologise? This incident not only shows the extent to which Wahhabism is monopolising Islam, it exemplifies the strength of the Islamic taboo on womens’ public expression of sexuality. Arguably, the whole response to the incident implies the opposite: hyper-sexuality. Lurking underneath the suppression of female sexual agency is the notion that the male sexual appetite is so powerfully huge that nothing short of female “modesty”, public taboos, witch-hunts and confessionals like this one, can remedy the danger it poses to women. The taboo is not on female sexuality as such, but on women’s assumption of sexual agency — the preserve of men.
With the exception of Maryam Namazie and a few other Liberals, the political Right appear to be the loudest voice reproaching those in the Muslim community who deem it necessary to slander and threaten a Muslim girl for her “lewd” dancing in Birmingham. One only need inspect the modest assortment of counter-videos on Youtube and the stream of fervid Facebook and Twitter commentary to see that the loudest bloc vying against the Wahabbists’ Puritanism are those peremptory, political Right commentators who tend to lump all Muslims together under the umbrella of ‘miscreants’ (perhaps forgetting that the girl they mean to defend was herself a British Muslim).
We should not really be surprised that the political right are virtually alone in protesting Salafi-Islamism’s monopoly of public spaces. So enamoured have the Left become of the multicultural “underdog” and so readily do they pander to moral relativists, that those who would have once defended a Muslim woman’s right to dance in public have gone AWOL, even forsaking persecuted individuals threatened with death. Though the victim of this authoritarian Puritanism was herself a Muslim, the Left seem to think that “protecting Muslims” entails embracing Salafi-Wahhabism’s most sexist community standards. The result is that self-described ‘Liberal’ Europeans are not defending the right of Muslims to choose how to live unless that ‘choice’ is consistent with “their own” culture (and a particularly conservative version of it). Rather, the Left are defending a tyranny of the Muslim majority that has allowed Salafi-Wahhabism to grow unchecked, resulting in the extra-judicial enforcement, in allegedly modern Britain, of patriarchal religious laws virtually equivalent to those found in Muslim theocracies.
The Left, kowtowing to a communitarian form of cultural hegemony, have stripped this “Muslim” woman of any individuality, viewing her only as an adjunct of one singular group (among many) to which she belongs – in this case, “her” Muslim community. Not only that, the Left homogeneously conceptualise their own identities as inescapably rooted in a power dynamic that pictures all white Europeans as permanently guilty of historical colonial plunder and privilege, irrespective of their current life histories or complex cultural positioning. The Left will readily brownnose almost any ostensibly persecuted group (minority or otherwise) to assuage their craving for penance.
One would think that even if the Left aren’t able to safeguard the Muslim girl, feminists might. Well, yes and no. New forms of feminism, which increasingly fawn over ‘intersectionality’, have also turned a deaf ear to this victim of slut-shaming and sexual disempowerment. Of course, as Catharine MacKinnon’s own observations attest, what feminism should always be about (and what it should never cut loose) is, amongst other things, the attempt to stand in solidarity with others (both victims and non-victims alike) to overturn the institutions that afford women little control over their own bodies, given that female sexuality is largely controlled and defined by men in patriarchal societies. However, the fashionable re-branded version of pseudo-feminist, “intersectional”-servitude has demoted its original standards to such a degree – pluralism at the expense of principle – that even barefaced examples of female oppression such as the hijab are now paraded as feminist tokens for the sake of “inclusiveness”.
Islam’s overt patriarchal infrastructure, like that of most religions, aims, as Yvonne Aburrow succinctly put it, “to regulate and control the body – especially women’s bodies – because women are constructed as the Other, . . . our bodies and our hair (traditionally hair is a source of magical power) must be controlled, groomed, reduced, covered, suppressed.” So-called “intersectional” pseudo-feminism, or perhaps what can most succinctly be called nu-feminism, in accord with communitarianism, shuns individual victims of community-based sexual inequality. Any critique of this situation is championed by, for the most part, the galling cries of the nationalist-Right who look for validation of their simplistic generalisations about “the Muslim community”. Yet the Left, who are wont to say that no such (homogeneous) “Muslim community” exists, are appallingly inconsistent. They are the first to defend the “community standards” imposed on individual dissidents, having aligned themselves with Salafi-Islamists in the mistaken belief that the latter represent true Islam. While Islamism (a socio-political system which advocates an expansionist Islamic state governed by sharia law) is not definitive of Islam (the faith), the pro-Islamist Left has been credulous in accepting the Islamist conflation of the two. Embracing multiculturalism and moral relativism, the pro-Islamist regressive-Left now regularly bolsters religious conservatism.
The breaking point for the Left and nu-feminism (feminism à la mode) occurred when they abandoned liberalism, a political philosophy or worldview that, as Terri Murray rightly points out, “Is above all concerned with protecting the freedom of individuals from the tyranny of the majority, and avoiding coercion in spheres of activity and thought which are the preserve of the private individual.” Only when the Left and nu-feminism reinstate a commitment to the individual above the majority will we see they resume their place as the appropriate defenders of a Muslim girl who has been unfairly vilified, rather than abettors in her subjugation. Giving primacy to individuals over majorities (and thus protecting individuals against mob rule) is the beauty of liberalism. It functions on the basis of competitive elections and representation, and a set of laws (usually embodied in a constitution or bill of rights) that simultaneously protect individuals’ basic rights.
This innocent Birmingham girl’s tormentors represent fascism with an Islamic face. They abhor ‘the West,’ as Wahhabist ideologues profess. Wahabbist-Salafits revile the very things that many Liberals in the West still like about Liberal Democracies: emancipated women, scientific inquiry, separation of religion from the state, and the right of individuals to pursue their own vision of “the good life”. The Left and nu-feminismare not only servile to Salafi-Islamists, but are aiding and abetting their attenuation of liberalism. As long as they continue reducing individuals to abstractions (in this case “Muslims”), the Left and nu-feminists will, once again, continue to fail to prevent the iniquities that befall the innocent.
Why Aren’t Feminists Battling Religious fundamentalism?
March 20, 2017
A few years ago, a certain type of article became extremely common and frequent on feminist blogs and websites, a set of articles that non-white women were writing and sharing with some gusto. In varying forms, they all deal with the spectre of ‘feminism’ and whether it had accorded Muslim women their due respect and acknowledgement of their agency. They ranged from Muslim feminists wondering if they would ever be considered and accepted as feminist, criticising feminism for failing to be ‘inclusive’ of Muslim women and their life experiences, personal tales of feeling ‘excluded and unwelcome’ within feminist spaces and communities, contemplative pieces about Muslim women’s agency being invalidated, and, above all, pieces stating that Muslim women did not need to be saved.
To a non-white, non-westerner from a conservative religious country, many of these articles were well crafted, eloquently argued, yet baffling for defending strictures that other non-western feminists were pushing back against with all their might. With time, these voices grew louder, and more strident so much so that simple Google searches on the disaffection of Muslim women with feminism will yield a trove of details, and recent titles are more of a taunt to western women, insisting that Muslim women did not need them. Slowly, but surely, one began to notice the effect of this sustained stream of views, which relentlessly accused western women of either imposing their cultural values on Muslim and conservative women, insisted that the movement refused to acknowledge the agency and independence of Muslim / conservative women, that they did not need ‘saving’ and any attempt to think so was an extension of the ‘white saviour complex’ that heralded colonialism, and derided what was labelled as a belief of western feminism that sexual liberation is fundamental to gender equality.
Generally, such opinions were also bundled with hefty doses of allegations of ‘neo-colonialism’ and ‘cultural paternalism’, terms that, to this day are bound to evoke apologies and sheepishness from liberally inclined westerners (generally white). Remember that, of course, one of the most profound experiences of being a feminist is to be confronted with ignorance. From men, from non-feminist women, all around. So when it is alleged that the position is due to ignorance, in the absence of a profound arrogance and superiority which, thankfully, most younger feminists in the West seem to lack, to strenuously insist that their detractors are wrong is extremely difficult. Being told that one is unaware of other cultures and that the lived experience of women of colour and of other religions should be taken into account is therefore like a siren call – most feminists recognise an uncomfortable truth within, and so to dismiss that same argument would have been profoundly hypocritical.
These arguments, therefore steadily gained traction and persuasive value, and opinions on the situation of Muslim women from white, western women gradually became less authoritative and more reflective. This is not to suggest that it was a sustained attack on the feminist movement – some or more of these criticisms and grievances do have legitimate roots, and certainly, there is generally benefit to diversifying the perspective of a system of thought such as feminism, which is trying to encapsulate the experiences of half a billion women. But I narrate this to recount an almost invisible drawing of ‘spaces of expertise and activism’ occurred, with or without most feminists realising it, mainstream activists withdrew from some debates while focusing their energies elsewhere, and feminism subtly changed. White, western feminists were happy to defer to the wisdom of their Muslim and other peers when it came to issues that they could not be certain of, and some women felt that being spoken for by their own religious counterparts afforded feminism some much needed legitimacy.
At this point I can almost hear the chiding of feminists for withdrawing from such ideological battles so easily. It must be remembered that this phenomenon, of cultures from the East and South accusing the West of cultural hegemony is not new, and continues to be played out in the halls of the UN. In memorable incidents, subject matter experts have had to draw on their own national background to lend legitimacy to their criticism when faced by resistance from countries on issues they consider not open to argument. It’s a push and pull dynamic that takes place in the context of numerous issues, but mostly concerning women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.
But what does all this have to do with today, and right now? Only recently, a video of a girl wearing a hijab dancing in Birmingham went viral. In it, the girl was subjected to profound harassment, and death threats from fundamentalist and ultra-conservative Muslims, and the tearful girl tendered an apology and an acknowledgement that her behaviour had been “unseemly” and “inappropriate”. Among the various reactions to this incident, one that was not gone unnoticed was the lack of feminist condemnation of the threats and harassment and their failure to stand up for and protect this girl. Only a few days ago, Maajid Nawaz in his Daily Beast column echoed the criticism, pointing out that while feminists had time to seemingly debate non-issues, they failed to rally around such a crucial incident.
This criticism, I believe does not take into account the complexities and layers within the feminist community, many of whom now believe that a community or an individual are best served when their own representatives speak up, or speak for them. In other words, while some feminists are now wary of expressing condemnatory opinions of conservative and religious beliefs, others have respectfully withdrawn, since they deem an uninformed intervention is more dangerous than none. The wisdom, sustainability and indeed, intellectual honesty of this stance should be debated, but the fact remains, that barring a few, this thought process tends to permeate among white, western feminists.
For a minute, let’s assume the opposite had happened, and well-known feminists had penned or expressed scathing opinions critical of the fundamentalists. One of three options would have transpired: The girl, easily made to apologise by the environment she is in, could have just as easily been made to disown or distance herself from any such gesture of support, in the guise of loyalty to her culture and identity. If not, even if the girl had not expressed any such opinion, feminists would have come under attack not just from those who subjected the girl to harassment, but from a separate group of people accusing them of insulting and interfering in their cultural norms and lives. It does not stretch the imagination to predict that quite a few women would have been among this group. Now one can argue that feminists should stand their ground and be unapologetic about their stance, one that they do successfully when it comes to issues in their own lives. But the fact remains that accusations of ignorance and cultural insensitivity are hypnotically powerful tools employed against Liberals and countering them will require a willingness to enter uncharted and boggy territory.
Some argue that, given the obvious fear the girl experienced, she more than anyone else required feminists to stand up for her. Regrettably, as feminist advocates throughout the world will testify, standing up for a perceived ‘victim’ has never been that easy. The power of social stigma and isolation can very easily convince the putative victim to change her stance, and advocates will find themselves in the midst of a firestorm of criticism, risking their own reputation, achieving little and end up losing social capital. Adding to the complications in this particular incident is the fact that the girl in question was wearing the hijab, that indelible symbol of modesty and of belief in a certain social and cultural code. In fact, as her ‘interviewers’ themselves apparently emphasise, in Nawaz’s article, their outrage was actuated by the realisation that a ‘Hijabi’, clearly a practising Muslim woman, would indulge in this behaviour. Perhaps the girl wears the hijab freely, of her own choice, but the fact remains that for non-muslim feminists, this signals an area where they cannot be entirely certain of their moves. Does she want to be defended? Does she feel the reprimand was deserved? Who is to say what would be a desired outcome in this scenario? The memory of the cultural and legitimacy conflict described above, and their inevitable consequences has faded, and mainstream feminists now find themselves in the unenviable position of being damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
This is not to say that feminism is without problems, and that criticism is invalid. Undoubtedly, like all other social movements, the incompatibility with cultural regression has to be dealt with in a better way. But as things stand, to accuse them of “deserting” this girl in her time of need may be over harsh. In many ways, feminists themselves find their hands tied and must find a way to honestly resolve this perceived conflict with culture, to move forward. However, it must also be remembered that this situation was not engendered by feminists alone – they are merely the latest manifestation of a power dynamic that takes root when one tolerates the unreasonable. The blame for that, clearly, lies with many parties other than feminists.
Readers may well wonder, what happens now? There was a clear case of a cultural and value based conflict that should not have played out in the UK in 2017, and there is an understandable anxiety about which faction takes on this trend. Certainly, feminists have a role to play, and how this perceived conflict should resolve, but perhaps the persons most suited for this debate are ex-Muslims, the people who can speak with authority about its norms and values, their legitimacy and compatibility with a free, democratic society. They are uniquely placed to understand and accurately discern the thought process of girls like this, caught as they are between the restrictions of fundamentalists in their religion and the world they live in, to identify with them and decide the course of action necessary to fight these battles. Their voices are indescribably and indisputably important in this struggle, and they require every shred of support that mainstream society can afford them. Mainstream feminists have a role to play as well, but that is going to require a process of profound soul searching and consistency that is going to have to be undertaken within the feminist stream of thought, whether we like it or not.