Front Page News: Islamophobia Makes You An Expert on Niqab

Readers, I’m not a masochist. I know there are some very Islamophobic media outlets who actively try to spread misinformation about Muslim and Islam for their own purposes. FrontPage Magazine is one of those outlets; this is why you won’t see it on MMW often. I know that critiquing and engaging these people is useless.

But, every now and then, I see something in one of these outlets that boggles my mind with how offensive, inaccurate, and just plain wrong it is. Stuff that makes me want to bang my head on my keyboard, but usually just causes me to yell at the computer screen, or pace around my home yelling angrily at an imaginary audience at how effing stupid this is.

Instead of tormenting my neighbors, however, I thought I would share. Mind your keyboards.

Like I mentioned earlier, FrontPage Magazine is a blatantly Islamophobic website: it houses David Horowitz, the genius behind Islamo-Facism Week on university campuses in the U.S., and hosts columnists such as Ann Coulter. Enough said, yes?

On April 25, FrontPage sponsored a symposium entitled, “Hate Behind the Niqab.” Charming.

My purpose here isn’t to discuss the symposium at length. It’s to examine the “experts” that this symposium has brought together: Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel, Dr. Nancy Kobrin, David Gutmann, Abul Kasem, and Phyllis Chesler.

Last year we talked about Nonie Darwish; you can read up on it and see for yourself why she’s not a good expert on niqabs.

Brigitte Gabriel is a Lebanese-American Maronite Christian who founded the American Congress for Truth in 2001 and wrote Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. She has referred to Arab Muslims as “barbarians.” Apparently, to FP, living in a country that has Muslims in it makes you an expert on niqabs.

Dr. Nancy Kobrin is a psychoanalyst and “Arabist.” Dictionary.com’s definition for Arabist includes:

  1. a person who specializes in or studies the Arabic language or Arab culture.

  2. a supporter of Arab interests, esp. in international affairs.

Reading Dr. Kobrin’s bio makes it obvious that she’s not in the latter camp. She’s written a book called The Sheikh’s New Clothes: Islamic Suicide Terror and What It’s Really All About, and wrote an article on FP recently which compared the Virginia Tech massacre to suicide bombing.

David Gutmann is a Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. Which automatically makes me think, “Niqab Expert.”

Abul Kasem has left Islam. That’s all the information I can find on him. But it’s important here to note that just because someone is or was Muslim does not make him/her an expert on niqab or the reasons that women have for wearing it.

And finally, Phyllis Chesler. She is currently an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York, a psychotherapist, and the author of thirteen books. I think she derives her “niqab expertise” from the fact that she was married to an Afghan and lived in Afghanistan for less than a year before returning to the U.S. in December of 1961. You can read about her brief life in Kabul here.

Now, my intention here is not to callously ignore some of the things that these people have gone through which have shaped their viewpoints. My intention is to question why these people are considered experts on niqab.

The purpose of FP’s symposium is to explore:

“the psychology of the Niqab. Why would a culture want to cover the female from head to toe in this way? One angle is the hate (and self-hate) that the men behind this ideology have in terms of trying to put the female gender out of sight and mind. But another angle is also the women who wear it voluntarily (and many do not of course). Their psychology is also very interesting in terms of how they look down at the unveiled women. This is a form of discrimination that is almost never discussed in our society.”

I’m not going to discuss or critique the actual discussion, because it falls into the “not worth it” category. Let me save you some time and tell you that it’s a circle jerk (please excuse the phrase) of Islamophobic thinking and reasoning that doesn’t take into account Muslim women’s own voices or experiences.

What drives me crazy is that these people are all accomplished professionally in their respective fields, but they are not accomplished in the field of being a Muslim woman who wears, understands, or educatedly critiques niqab. This is a group of people running their mouths off about an issue and experience that they have no personal knowledge of. So why are their opinions on this subject considered valid?!

And, with their often negative views on Islam and Muslims, how can they understand something so personal and complex? I think it’s too much to assume they’ve even thought of listening to Muslim women’s voices about this topic, considering that many of them may view Arabs and/or Muslims as “barbarians.” And, for many Muslim women, their reasons for wearing whatever they do are personal. Why would a woman bother to discuss a personal matter with someone who so obviously doesn’t care what she thinks? Understanding a person’s reasons for doing anything requires a willingness to listen and accept the reasons, worldview, perspectives, and idiosyncrasies that cause this person to make the decisions s/he does. Something tells me that the panelists on FP don’t do much listening and accepting when it comes from viewpoints that oppose their own.

(banging head on keyboard)

That is all.

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