Free yourselves, Muslim women!

I don’t have time to comment at length, but check out this gem of neo-colonial paternalism, unvarnished prejudice and ironic sexism from the youth wing of the hardline Danish People’s Party

They have launched a campaign directed towards Muslim women entitled "Free yourselves" ("Befri jer selv").  They’re referring to Islam, of course.

You can order a poster and get postcards for spreading the good news that they are waiting with open arms to receive Muslim women exiting Islam.

Below is a quick translation of a typical passage from the introduction on their hompepage (the paragraph "Hvis du som muslimsk kvinde frigør…)".

Danish rightwingers say 'Free yourselves, Muslim women!'

If you as a Muslim woman free yourself from old Muslim traditions that require you to submit to male family members, you can become an independent woman and member of modern society.  A woman who is not dependent on a man.  A woman able to create for herself a career on the job market and not just stand over the stove or serve as a baby machine.  You can show your children what a woman’s potential is by having a job, home, and family while remaining a good  mother.  Women in the West have done it for decades.  We live well and are thriving.  You can be one of us.

Ah, where to begin?

I particularly like the offensive dismissal of normal, un-"liberated" Muslim women as simply cooks or breeders.  An inspiringly progressive sentiment in people selflessly committed to empowering women, no?

Note also how these Danish hardliners make it clear that the only way
to become "one of us"–i.e., be accepted as members of Danish society–is for Muslim women to
abandon their traditions.    These crusaders for women’s rights exhibit
curiously conditional solidarity with the supposed victims of Islamic

That’s no accident, though, as loud, self-interested protestations on behalf of oppressed Muslim women are a centuries-old staple of Western propaganda in conflicts involving Muslims.

I’m reminded of Leilah Ahmed’s insightful obsevation in Women and Gender in Islam that at the very same time British colonial authorities were crusading to "free" Muslim women at the turn of the century they were actively opposing women’s suffrage tooth and nail back in Europe.   

Katharine Viner explains in "Feminism as Imperialism":

The classic example of such a colonizer was Lord Cromer, British consul general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, as described in Leila Ahmed’s seminal Women and Gender in Islam. Cromer was convinced of the inferiority of Islamic religion and society, and had many critical things to say on the "mind of the Oriental". But his condemnation was most thunderous on the subject of how Islam treated women. It was Islam’s degradation of women, its insistence on veiling and seclusion, which was the "fatal obstacle" to the Egyptian’s "attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilization," he said. The Egyptians should be "persuaded or forced" to become "civilized" by disposing of the veil.

Do they have similar concerns about other "Western" women who make the same choices around the globe?  Or are "submissive" housewives only oppressed when they are Muslim?   Do women leading old-fashioned lives in rural America or southern Europe also need to be saved?  There’s a lot of ‘em.

I think it’s a fair to assume they only pay any notice to Muslim women’s welfare when it serves their machinations to further demonize the immigrants that they evidently despise so passionately. 

Note as well how the poster not only removes the scarf, but puts Muslim women in what appear to be slight tank tops.  There’s something Freudian here.  They want Muslim women "freed" so they can undress for their liberators. 

  • MG

    Ha! Standing over a stove and being a baby machine are un-European, eh? Someone send the memo to Jean-Marie le Pen. The unveiling-the-oriental-babes idea is just soooo tired. They are doing Muslim feminists no favours with their dumb frat-boy approach to the veil.

  • Anon

    I think someone should send those guys a message telling them to cover the hair fully of the muslim women in the top photo

  • ayesha

    anon – yeah i was going to comment on that too. it’s a hijabi nitpick unfortunately – i mean, by all means, wear your hijab however you want, i won’t say anything – but it’s sort of another level of irony in this poster, that they couldn’t even get the hijabs in proper oppressive mode. not to mention the artfully plucked eyebrows on display under the casually sideswept bangs. although some niqabis i know take better care of their faces and hair than i do. well i guess if you’re going to be ignant, you might as well go all the way…

  • Mother Converts To Islam Whilst Living In DK. Decadent Danes Affronted.

    Long comment (rant), please forgive.
    I know that not all Danes think along the lines that muslim women are downtrodden..but sadly, I have yet to meet one Dane who states anything other than that opinion. I like to think that the Danske Folkeparti are just a bunch of idiots who have gobbled too many cheap pork products and mushed their brains but perhaps they are just the thin end of the wedge? Scarey thought.
    Most Danish women appear to feel themselves somehow ‘above’ muslim women. Apparently we are disadvantaged because we do not take advantage of the current trend to exhibit our bodies in an ‘inviting’ way to all and sundry. We are not free because our first priority is taking care of our children. We do not know the joys of life because we don’t chug-a-lug on a glass of wine after our demanding work day is over and the kids are in their bedrooms sms’ing compulsively or staring bleerily into a computer screen or on the streets swapping spit and cigarettes (and worse).
    As a ‘convert’ to Islam, I have been treated by the Danes as if I am grossly misguided..and that I don’t quite know my own senses. Apparently I must be mad to want to value my family above being ‘productive’ and if I choose to cloister my femininity then I have some major hang ups in the bedroom. Little do they know of the bliss of absolute fidelity. Sales of ‘marital aids’ in Denmark are sky high. That surely is indicative of their frustrations.
    Many Danish woman spend so much time on their outward appearance that I find it difficult to know why they are so insecure. Why do they need the attentions of men apart from their husbands when they are married? Dressing ‘down’ here is still dressing ‘up’. Even very old women and very young girls are struggling into garb that can only be described as ‘sexy’ say the least. I mean ..what is that all about? Why the unceasing obsession with appearing ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive’? Am I making a politically incorrect statement? Whatever.
    And now that I am in hijab (alhamdulillah) I experience something rather inescapable…get this: a Dane sees a Somalian sister in her a look of: disgust, disbelief, silent judgement and then a kind of lingering shrug..thinks (perhaps) “She cannot help it. She has no choice. She lives under the toe of her overbearing disrespectful husband” etc.
    Same Dane sees me (obviously a fairly recent convert to Islam)in me a different kind of look: (again) disgust, disbelief, but then the rage comes….they get really red faced angry – (I cannot miss the reactions because they are so overt)…I have been in supermarkets where twenty people stop in their tracks to look and look and look and look at me..they literally cannot compose themselves…it is more than rage they are is confusion, indignance, they are offended..they know I have made the choice. It is easy for them to reckon that I am not the ‘born-muslim’ woman they pity for her ‘helplessness’. They cannot think: “She cannot help it!” So they are angry at me.
    And yeh. They should feel threatened. I am peacefully going about my life and yet by being a muslim I am saying: I don’t buy your lifestyle. And I am THIS brave. And I have a right to be here.
    And then looking at the Danish women. I really cannot see the liberation there. Oh sure, they mostly look ‘purty’ as a glossy picture, they must! That is part of being a free woman in Denmark. Perhaps that is why hijab is so offensive. The average Danish woman spend thousands of kroner a year on that extensive wardrobe for all occasions and hours lying on the sunbed or sweating at the gym or running around in jogging clothes puffing and panting to stay..not fit (I don’t think so) but attractive and ‘in the running’ so to speak. She doesn’t want to accept that it doesn’t take all that..that a woman can feel beautiful and secure and cherished and respected and dignified without all that struggle to look ‘fit’. Fit for what I ask?
    This is the place where most if not all babies are dumped with a daycare childminder from as early as 9 months old and certainly very few are still near their mothers after one year. Before living here I thought that Denmark supported the importance of parent-child bonds because they do not begin official school until they are in the 7th year..but what I didn’t know is that all kids are institutionalised and taken out of their family by the age of 1..and why? Because they like the lifestyle I guess.
    I don’t know one person here who isn’t loaded. Even the alchoholics staggering around (plenty of them here) smell of freshly laundered clothes. And even the single mothers I have met are laughing all the way to the bank. But that might be because the state sometimes pays them a little extra and because their kids not only spend all week safely housed away from Working Mom in a schooled institution but they are away alternate weekends with the other parent. Huh! And it sure shows on the kids here..whose main influence seems to be eachother and MTV. Very few kids here are without all the technological trappings of todays ‘latchkey kids’. The family still exists here..I see examples out for leisurely strolls on a Sunday (all looking like something out of a commercial for health insurance)..but it ain’t got no soul.
    In these families it is normal for both parents to work full time..for the teevees to be big and for the kids to be clutching their mobiles like some sort of vital organ awaiting transplant in their bodies. *sigh*
    I shouldn’t go on blood pressure is rising.
    But let me say one thing. The typical Danish woman is not as free as she imagines. She is shackled to this thing about being a woman who can have it all…and in reality she has so very little. She has absolutely no value here if she chooses to mother instead of ‘produce’ in some workplace. She rarely sees her kids..and divorce rates are high. The kids are fitted in for ‘quality time’ perhaps..but mostly, if these so called women want to know how their babies are doing..they had better ask the professionals that do take care of these kids. It is fairly unusual for a parent in Denmark to take care of their own kids..the responsibility is delegated to the state chosen day care workers and then the state run schools where the kids strive to fit in or else. In my (*humble*) opinion it is the Danish woman who doesn’t feel she has a choice. Danish mothers choice: put your kids in daycare before the moisture behind their ears has dried or become a pariah.
    ‘Befri jer selv’?…don’t make me laugh! Islam freed me from the notion that I had to live at a hectic ‘modern woman’ pace to have any value, Islam freed me from the tyranny of fashion clothes and being trussed up like a chicken, from the pressure to abandon my children to daycare and to neglect, Islam restored the sacred to my marriage. Are women being forced to wear hijab in Denmark? I dunno..but I sure feel a lot of pressure NOT to.
    Anyway. Hijab is beautiful.
    And. All praise is due to Allah.
    I think people either get ‘it’ or they do not.

  • Maha

    Assalamu alaikum,
    Did anyone else notice the thinly veiled (pun intended) color reference here? The “Muslim” women are “shrouded” in black, but the “independent” women are in bright white tanks. I’m sensing some very deep racial (i.e., white skin is “better”) and spiritual issues (i.e., “come out from the darkness into the light”) being connoted here. And, as someone else pointed out, they might score more points with Muslim women if they actually were representing how their target Muslim women are probably dressing.
    Another thing that gets tiresome is the assumption that Muslim women can’t go out there and work and raise families. I know lots of Muslim women who are professionals. I know lots of Western women who stay home with the kids. I know abuse and oppression happens in all cultures. Frankly, I think Western society has given women a raw deal. Whatever they choose is wrong. If they choose to stay home, they are wasting their education/talents. If they work, they are neglecting their homes/families. Women can’t win. And more often than not, a woman has to go out there and work just as hard or harder than men, then come home and do all the housework and take care of the kids while the man sits on the couch and watches TV. I’d rather just have one job (although not currently possible). Really, this whole “Muslim women are oppressed because they wear scarves, we need to free them” is really, really old.

  • Maha

    When I said: “If they choose to stay home, they are wasting their education/talents. If they work, they are neglecting their homes/families” I should have said that this is NOT how I feel, but what “society” implies or connotes. I don’t actually think staying home and raising children is a waste of anyone’s talents or education. Nor do I believe that professional women necessarily neglect their families or their home. I just wanted to clarify in case someone misunderstood my meaning in the post.

  • ayesha

    mother converts: nine months!! here in america babies as young as six weeks are in daycare. and it’s not necessarily the mother’s fault: the working system is like that here. medical residents get barely a month with their babies unless they can wrangle more from their hospitals.
    i’m saying i agree with you :) just agog at how much MORE family-sensitive the system is in europe than america. if you can believe it. and i’m sorry you face such vitriol as a woman who has chosen islam :(

  • George Carty

    Are you aware that while many Western countries mark “nude beaches”, Denmark marks the beaches where nudity is not allowed? (There are only five in the whole country).
    In general, sun-deprived northern Europeans long to expose themselves to the sun (that fact is the basis for a multibillion dollar contribution to the global tourism industry). That is probably why they think “oppressed” when they see a covered-up Muslim woman.
    An interesting aside: almost all of the lands in Europe with more than 2000 hours of sunshine per year (except for peninsular Italy) were ruled by Muslims at some point in their history, while almost no lands with less than 2000 hours per year were ever under Muslim rule.

  • Cora

    The problem I see with women in Islam is choice. Do women there really have the choice to be what they want to be? In the western world, woman are given the choice to be a housewife, a career woman, a mother, single, married, religious or not, etc. And while people might frown at some choices people make (women and men), they are free to make the choice without danger for their lives or for their safety (there are always exceptions, but as a rule women can make their choices without having to fear any harm coming from it). I want to know, whether you can truely say that for the majority of women in Islam. In my eyes it is a basic human right that I can decide how I want to live my life as long as I don’t harm others with the choice I make. Do women under the rule of Islam have this right?