FEMEN Movement: Islamophobia, Patriarchy and Clash of Civilizations

On April 4, 2013, Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN carried out a protest in support of a Tunisian girl Amina Tyler. This protest was staged across Europe (Paris, Belgium, Italy, Ukraine, Sweden and Germany) and is called ‘Topless Jihad’. While many of the protests were done outside Tunisian embassy, one of them was carried out in an Ahmadiyya mosque in Berlin. Below is an opinion from a tumblr user.

“Femen protested naked in front of an Ahmadiyya masjid. I think I’m actually going to cry. You don’t, you can’t, understand how insanely wrong that is and how much that speaks for how ignorant they are of the people they’re claiming to want to liberate. Ahmadis are discriminated against and shunned by “mainstream” Muslim communities. They’re systematically oppressed in countries like Pakistan. And it is their masjid that these so-called women’s rights activists decided to act so shamelessly in front of. Shamelessly not because there is shame in being naked, it is the utter disrespect of other cultures, other religions, other peoples that is so shameless.

I can’t even imagine how Ahmadiyya Muslim women must have felt seeing this spectacle at their place of worship. When they aren’t even allowed to have masjids, that look “Islamic”, in other places, to finally have that sanctuary and then to see it disrespected like this — honestly my heart goes out to them.”
Source: http://stay-human.tumblr.com/post/47236976195/femen-protested-naked-in-front-of-an-ahmadiyya

Also, there’s this discussion over what FEMEN is about on tumblr:

Statement: “Just making a point about your post about the group “Femen”, I used to be a Muslim man, now I am an Atheist, I think there is one very important thing that Femen is trying to point out, whether you like it or not, nearly every Muslim country has a ban on public Nudity, and whether you like it or not these laws apply more strictly to females. Also, most Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia and Iran being examples) have laws forcing women to wear hijab, yes, forcing, that’s the problem, that’s Femen”

Response: “A ban on public nudity applies to both, men and women, in both, Muslim-majority countries and the “West”. Just as those countries (not “most” as you claim, by the way) force women to wear Hijab, countries like France and even Turkey (an “Islamic” country) to some extent, force women to take off their Hijab, so I don’t see FEMEN in outrage over that – oh wait, that conforms to their Euro-centric ideals and forcing women to fit into those is supposed to be liberating, right.

The framework through which you – and FEMEN – are approaching this is wrong. You people are taking one aspect of the life of Muslim women — the Hijab — and portraying it as the number one issue those women face. You, as a man, and them, as non-Muslims, would really know very little about what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in those countries — or in the West, for that matter. So, to set aside all sorts of economic diversity and oppression, all sorts of political, ethnic, racial, sexual, linguistic and historical differences, problems and points of contention and all kinds of internal and external conflict, colonialism, war, jingoism and exploitation — that is oppressing men and women in Muslim-majority countries, and to focus on something so self-serving and patronizing is so ridiculous. If they/you truly wanted to “liberate” us Muslim women, they/you’d let us speak for ourselves and HEAR when we say that there are other things that are oppressing us, our choice of clothing certainly being one of our smaller concerns. And whatever it is you want to liberate us from, nudity will not achieve it. Period.

With all of that said, I don’t think it’s up to a man how women belonging to a tradition he has left are to be liberated. With all due respect, there’s nothing a man has to say in this and just the fact that there are men who are defending FEMEN attests to the reeking patriarchy that is at play everywhere. We can and will liberate ourselves in ways that we see fit, we do not need you or Western feminism for that. Thanks.”

Source: http://musaafer.tumblr.com/post/47178123034/just-making-a-point-about-your-post-about-the-group

FEMEN protest has shown that several things are still alive in this modern age: patriarchy, Islamophobia and the clash of civilization. The ‘Clash of Civilization’ thesis by Huntington is still real. FEMEN might have seen Muslim women as oppressed people, while Muslim women seen them as barbaric. This lack of understanding shows that there are disparities between the two groups. It is a real shame that feminist movement is very divisive now. Feminism that I envisioned is the one that is inclusive and full of understanding towards other women’s point of view – feminism where women can choose how to live the life they desire, whether they chose to be nude or fully covered with veil (whether it is a hijab, a niqab or a burqa). Feminism is about fighting stereotypes. However, for some reason, this organisation chooses to stereotype people even more. If they want to fight for male dominated culture and patriarchy, they cannot go around stereotyping other marginalized group (in this sense, Muslim women). What FEMEN did is actually similar to what patriarchy does to all women – marginalize them. Feminism cannot thrive when it only fights for a particular group – and what is worse, if they chose to violate other people’s rights.

Protesting in front of a mosque, in the way FEMEN did should be unacceptable. Slogan such as ‘Muslim women, let’s get naked’ is deeply disturbing and irrelevant to the feminist movement. Not only does it violate other groups’ rights, it also shows how disrespectful this NGO is towards other culture or religion. I agree, however, that FEMEN has done a good job to shed a light on what happened with Amina. I actually believe that Muslim women need to take part in this campaign to free Amina too, even when it is not under the umbrella of FEMEN. Amina might not represent all Muslims, but she is part of the Muslim community. Not all Muslims choose to wear a veil and some countries make it illegal for them to choose to do so. On the other hand, even if the girl who they fought the right for (Amina) might not want to be subjected to Islamic custom, this does not mean all Muslim women do not choose to live their life in an Islamic way. Some Muslim women do choose to wear a veil and choose to have Islam as their religion. While being nude or naked might be liberating to FEMEN and many more women in this world, wearing a veil (hijab, niqab or burqa) liberates many Muslim women. FEMEN did a poor job on this campaign because it generalises people. Feminists need to understand every women group’s perspective in order to thrive. Only then, can this movement be seen as a useful one, where it can be beneficial for all women. It can even be beneficial for men, in the sense that they all can live the way they want, even when it does not fit with the men’s stereotypes. FEMEN is undoubtedly a powerful group, but it can be more powerful when all types of people can relate to them. The group needs to be more inclusive. When you want your freedom, insulting other religion is not the answer. It is like fighting for your own agenda in the expense of other people’s agenda. I am all for human rights, from freedom of speech to freedom of assembly, as long as it is respectful towards another groups of people.

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