A Satiric Guide to Writing About Muslims

Muslimah Media Watch thanks Faisal Kutty for the tip.

This was written by both Krista and Sobia.

Before we start, we want to take a minute to remember and honour Aqsa Parvez as a person and not just as a topic of debate. A lot of the writing about her – whether by people who use her story to fuel Islamophobia, or people who are trying to stand up against the resulting misrepresentation of Muslims – ends up overlooking the fact that this is a real person that we’re talking about. While we ultimately decided that we had to cover this article because it is so full of problems, we don’t want to do so without acknowledging the life of the young woman who is at the centre of the story. May Allah give her peace.

Disclaimer: What you are about to read is pure sarcasm.  The article that we are critiquing is just so outrageously Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist that the only way we felt we could point out its ridiculousness was through the use of sarcastic humour.  We have made every effort to ensure respectful treatment of Aqsa Parvez herself, and the humour is only directed towards the writer and those he interviews.  We may not necessarily agree with the view that her grave should be unmarked; however, the situation is complex, and we don’t have all the information about why her grave is currently the way it is.  The discussion here is not about whether her grave should be marked or not, but rather about how this story is getting talked about and used to perpetuate unfair and negative views about Muslims.

What follows is a list of principles for How to Write about Muslims, inspired by this article by Joe Warmington. (Just a warning: his article is the worst Islamophobic, xenophobic bullshit we’ve come across in a long time.)

Rule #1: Always assume a Muslim woman needs to be saved, and write accordingly.

This article does this perfectly, by focusing on the “selfless” efforts of Pamela Geller, non-Muslim white woman saviour, leader of a mission to provide Aqsa Parvez’s grave with a headstone.  As Warmington points out, Geller’s “main interest is making sure people knew this girl did exist,” so much so that immediately after hearing about this case, her response was, “I wanted to do something for her.”  Clearly, without the efforts of Ms. Geller, Muslims would have completely forgotten about Aqsa Parvez, considering how bad our memories are, and how much we hate women.  (Krista to Sobia: I hate you.  Sobia to Krista: Fuck you, bitch.  I’m only working with you because Fatemeh made me.) Ms. Geller was very intuitive to realise that Muslims would be doing nothing, and that as a non-Muslim, she had to step up to the plate.  (Sarcasm off: See here and here for some things that Muslims are doing to honour Aqsa Parvez’s memory.  Okay, sarcasm back on.)

Along with Ms. Geller, this article has also brought in the example of a brave  man in the heroic form of Norm the Firefighter (who we suspect is friends with Joe the Plumber.)  (Ladies, he does fire safety talks. *wink*)  Warmington, a white non-Muslim man himself, has enlisted the help of another non-Muslim man in his tireless efforts to save a Muslim woman.

Rule #2: Always be confident that you know everything there is to know about Islam, and that you understand it better than most Muslims do.

Warmington brilliantly exudes such confidence, not only through his own words, but also by using the words of Ms. Geller (who we suspect may be a secret Islamic scholar, just like Barack Obama is a secret Muslim.)  Her concern about “creeping Sharia law” is just so profound, and really gets to the heart of Islam.   Warmington reflects an in-depth knowledge about the “traditional Muslim hijab” and its relation to violent conflict in Canadian Muslim homes.  Considering the correlation between the number of number of young Canadian women who have conflicts with their parents over the “traditional Muslim hijab,” and the number of Muslim women in Canada who die every day, it seems like Warmington is really on to something.

Rule #3: In the unlikely event that you are missing any information regarding Muslims, consult a Muslim spokesperson with whom most Muslims will disagree (because Muslims generally have a poor understanding of their own experiences and cannot be trusted to provide reliable information.)

Warmington has made an excellent choice by quoting Tarek Fatah, whose brilliant sociological analysis of Muslim communities has been previously profiled on MMW.  He always hits the nail on the head, especially during the moments of frustration and anger regarding the “hardline, radical Islamist approach,” at which point he can also be seen hitting his own head “against the Islamist wall” (pictured below.)

Image provided by the authors.

"Islamist Wall: No kuffar allowed." Image provided by the authors.

By pointing out that “the Taj Mahal was built to honour a Muslim woman,” Fatah gets at the real way in which Islamists are holding Muslim women back.  The decrease in Taj Mahal-esque monuments to Muslim women is a clear indication of the global rise of Islamism.  After all, as Fatah has pointed out, an unmarked grave is a hallmark of Islamists.

Rule #4: Everything Muslims do has to do with Islam and Islam alone.  Their cultural background and its possible influences in their lives must be ignored.

For example, the fact that many graves in South Asia are unmarked, making this a common practice in South Asian cultures, including the Pakistani culture from which Aqsa Parvez’s family came, was successfully not mentioned in this article.  This was done so smoothly that even Tarek Fatah, who is Pakistani himself, did not let out the secret.

Another secret not revealed was that South Asia is not actually covered in monuments to every Muslim woman who has ever died there.

Rule #4a: If culture is mentioned, ensure that it is clear that it is inherently barbaric and violent (especially toward women.)

Warmington reflects the feelings of so many when he writes that “It hasn’t been proved in court that Parvez was the victim of a heinous, cultural honour killing.”

(Sobia to Krista: Hey, remember that episode of Law and Order where the detectives go to arrest that Muslim guy and Detective Green says, “You are now under arrest for the crime of a heinous cultural honour killing”? Krista to Sobia: Yeah, but the jury decided to convict him for a horrible, atrocious honour killing instead.  That was so disappointing.)

Rule #5: Always remember that Muslims are not real Canadians (or Americans, British, etc.)

For example, when Warmington writes about the need for a “proper gravestone,” he quotes Ms. Geller, who says that this need “appeals to basic humanity” (basic humanity, of course, is a core Canadian and American value, as is the presence of “proper” markers of graves.)  As we know, many Pakistanis don’t have headstones, and as such don’t have much basic humanity, and therefore are not really Canadians.   Same goes for the idea of “normal dignity”; any conceptions of dignity that fall outside of mainstream Canadian conceptions are surely abnormal and un-Canadian.

Earlier, we discussed that the familial conflict regarding the “traditional Muslim hijab” was the reason for Aqsa Parvez’s death.  When Warmington says that “she was allegedly murdered for wanting to be Canadian,” he aptly correlates rejecting the hijab with being Canadian.  We all know that the second someone covers their head, they might as well be throwing their Canadian passport away.

Rule #6: Be as melodramatic as possible.

For example, when describing the grave location, imply that it would be impossible to tell that it was a grave if there weren’t flowers on it.  Ignore that it is, in fact, located in a graveyard.

Cite a conspiratorial plan among all who do not agree with the valiant efforts of our heroes, such as Norm the Firefighter, and instead “suddenly” stop calling him back, as did the University of Guelph.  Blame further silences on most people’s lack of “guts,” and on the “politically correct police,” who can be identified by their secret handshake.

Rule #6a: Enhance the melodrama through your use of provocative language.

Warmington starts with a bang by quoting Geller, who asks, “How could they let her rot in an unmarked grave?”  The use of the word “rot” really displays her compassion.

Warmington provides another great example of Geller’s use of language with the inscription chosen for the headstone: “Loved. Remembered. Free.”  This wording successfully suggests that the lives of Muslim women are not free, and it is only in death that they can achieve this freedom.  Conversely, non-Muslim women have zero constraints in their lives and are always, always free.  Hey, 16-year-old girls in Canada can even drink legally and freely…  oh, wait, no they can’t.

Rule # 7: Make  a few jabs at feminists

Point out how useless feminists are when it comes to Muslim women. They should know that they are supposed to speak for all women, and that all women have exactly the same needs. Any desires to repect and honour women of diverse cultural backgrounds should be seen as incompetence.

Bonus marks: Sneak in a reference to Israel, especially when it is completely irrelevant.

Geller notes that the only places on this planet to honour Aqsa Parvez would be at her grave, or in Israel.  Um…  Yeah, even we don’t know what to say about this one.

Before commenting on this post, please read the Disclaimer above one more time.

  • Jenny D

    Thank you for this lovely deconstruction of the common-or-garden journalistic approach to Muslim women. I’m a Swedish non-muslimah and I often feel that much of the media reporting is from a very condescending perspective. A Muslim woman can never be portrayed as a person – she has to be either a symbol of oppression or a symbol of a fight against oppression – and “oppression” can be defined as “any choice of dress or behaviour that doesn’t match the current European/American fashion”. There can never be any admitting that there are a great variety of cultures among Muslims, they are always seen as one singular mass, whereas everyone knows that a Swedish state-church Christian is a far cry from a South-American Catholic or a US born-again evangelist. (And whenever honour killings are discussed in Sweden, it’s conveniently forgotten that the first killing described as such was by a Christian parent…)

  • http://www.tasmiya.com Tasmiya

    Brilliant.

  • Broomstick

    wow. That article is unbelievable. Yeah, we need a white Western woman to “save” us all… *rolls eyes*

  • Sobia

    Thank you for the support everyone :) This article was just so over the top offensive we thought this would be the best way to show its ridiculousness.

    @Broomstick: Just to be clear, we are not taking about White Western women but rather non-Muslim women. Because a Muslim woman can also be a White, Western woman. This has specifically to do with non-Muslim women’s desire to save Muslim women thus making the assumption that we are either incompetent ourselves or lazy.

  • http://www.brokenmystic.wordpress.com brokenmystic

    My God, this is brilliant!!! It’s so hilarious too, haha! This definitely has to be one of the best pieces I’ve read in a while now :D

    The original post is insulting and you couldn’t have exposed the ignorance and Islamophobia of Warmington et al. in a more effective way! This was PERFECT! It’s so clear in the article that the author is very antagonistic and unapologetic about his ignorance of Islam and South Asian culture. Throwing a quote by Tarek Fateh into the mix was just a pathetic attempt at trying to cover up their Islamophobia.

    And I LOVE the Islamist wall picture, haha! GENIUS!!

    Amazing job, Sobia and Krista :) Insha’Allah I hope more people read this, and may Allah bless Aqsa Parvez with peace. Ameen.

  • http://www.islamicate.com islamoyankee

    In the sentiment of the post, I propose. That’s right, I propose. To all the women of MMW, the problem is that you are clearly unmarried with no man to guide you to Sirat al-Mustaqeem. God Almighty has endowed me with the ability to take two and three and four wives, plus one, makes 10 wives. I will make you all fetishized sexual objects by having you belly-dance in chadors. Then you will know true freedom. You will be saved.

  • http://fakirnihindi.wordpress.com Mango Girl

    Here’s another one that made my blood boil – note the slippage from violent domestic abuse to “we should call Muslim communities out on their bad habits and not be multiculturalist” – because of course someone who kills his wife would only do so because he’s Muslim.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2009/02/17/beheading-in-buffalo.aspx

  • Ruchama

    Wow. I was cracking up at most of this post — those same sorts of sentiments show up in so many articles. Then I got to the part about a monument in Israel, and thought, “Huh? That’s so entirely random, there must be some more context for it.” And I went and read the actual article, and my reaction is still “Huh?” Even in the context of the article, that makes no sense at all.

    Then I googled Geller’s blog and realized that she was one of the people a few months ago in an uproar over the Dunkin Donuts ad in which Rachael Ray wears a black and white scarf which obviously meant that she and Dunkin Donuts support murdering Jews, since Yassir Arafat wore a black and white scarf. So I kind of give up on trying to find sense in anything she’s saying. http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/05/rachel-ray-dunk.html

  • http://digitalniqabi.wordpress.com/ Digital Nomad

    The Israel thing was snuck in because, of course, only Israel would know how to properly honor a Muslim life lost senselessly. After all, Israel has so much experience in this!

  • http://www.progressiveislam.info Salaam

    Response to the original article – vomit, vomit, vomit. Especially the reference to dropping a memorial in Israel. Perhaps they will put the memorial in that Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem right before they pave it over to build the Museum of Tolerance. Bleh…

  • http://blogofstench.livejournal.com MW

    Thanks for this takedown of the insidious prejudices in the mainstream media when reporting on Muslim women. Your points are important to keep in mind, especially since the murder of Aasiya Hassan is bringing up many of the tactics that you decried in the coverage of this case.

    You have an awesome blog, by the way. Along with Racialicious and Shakesville, it’s one of my most frequently visited for news and commentary on current events.

  • Krista

    Thanks everyone for the comments.

    @ islamoyankee: May God bless you for coming along to save us poor oppressed Muslim women. You’re right, we sure do need some strong male heroes to come along and help put us back on track.

    @ Mango Girl: Thanks for that link. I think “slippage” is a good word for what’s going on in a lot of the coverage of that story – domestic abuse by a Muslim means honour killing, which means terrorist, which means un-American, etc. We’ll be talking about it here on MMW in more detail pretty soon.

    @ Ruchama (and everyone else confused over the Israel reference): Yeah, “Huh?” pretty much sums up our reaction too.

  • http://rahma.hadithuna.com rahma

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Ah, fabulous. I read AS (closet masochistic that I am) and I cringe and sigh whenever she trots out her list of dead muslim women who suffered at the hands of Islam.

  • Sheza

    Great job guys! you’ve done an awesome job de-coding the ever prevailing, racist and islamophobic way the article and TF depict muslims. The irony of it all is that although we are expected to live a homogenous (“canadian”) way of life, we are not judged by the same “canadian” standard – instead taken on as poor, vulnerable, opressed women!

  • http://govvs.blogspot.com/ Lex

    ROFLMAO…..how hilarious! Oh, I’m so happy that I’m not alone in writing about this topic! I’ve been following Pamela Geller’s exploits but only today learned about the Warmington article. Actually, it was Geller’s outrageous outrage over being called “an anti-Muslim maniac” (HEEHEEHEEHEE!!!) in another yet another article that really brought all this out to the light of day. If you thought she had not been exactly “subtle” in her disgust of all things Muslim–all things except for seemingly Aqsa Parvez–then her subtlety hit new record highs today in a post which I covered at my blog (where myself and my cohort The Sphinx, who actually is Muslim, unlike me, I’m merely accused of being a “crypto-Muslim”) http://govvs.blogspot.com/.

    Geller hit new lows in this post, the title of which she took from the comment left at The National Post by Robert Spencer (fellow anti-Muslim maniac) stating that Geller in fact is NOT an “anti-Muslim maniac”. We then mocked the hell out of it here and then followed the even funnier coverage of the outrages over at Little Green Footballs, another bastion of definitely not “anti-Muslim maniacs”. These folks actually started plans to take over from Geller the responsibility of honoring Aqsa Parvez, while none of them can figure out at all why any Muslim would not like their websites or be offended by their ‘coverage’ of “Muslim issues” in the world.

    Oh, bless your hearts that you actually do care about this poor girl and that you also have good senses of humor! Pamela Geller deserves all she can get with this nonsense of a publicity stunt she’s pulling at the expense of the memory of a dead teenager. Sheesh. You guys did good and you’re definitely making my blogroll!

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