Hot Shots: Complex Magazine Ranks Hot Muslim Women

“Sara, I could never get with a Muslim girl, how do they make you guys so unattainable?” a womanizing co-worker once asked me in all seriousness.

The image of Laila Ali from Complex's "The 10 Hottest Muslim Women" list.

The image of Laila Ali from Complex's "The 10 Hottest Muslim Women" list.

There is nothing that I love more than a man that sees “ethnic” women as another check mark on an international bingo card.  I’ve heard a number of men whine about their inability to woo a Muslim woman. Such failed efforts were swimming in my mind as I read a most fascinating article on Complex Magazine’s online blog. They decided to list “The 10 Hottest Muslim Women” in a crude effort to celebrate Ramadan, and probably remind men to check a religious minority off of their list. Great. As if I don’t have enough to deal with while I am fasting! The article celebrates a wide range of women, which on the plus side probably taught readers about the diversity of the Islamic world.

The article opens by describing the plight of “Muslim models”, citing the story of a Malaysian model caned for her alleged drinking of beer in a nightclub.  Complex adds punishment and rebellion to the representation Muslim women as oppressed damsels with daddy issues–obviously an effort to tantalize the reader.

I wondered if the author simply searched for “hot famous Muslim chicks” in order to compile the list. I was surprised that the article did not feature helpful hints for readers to pick up Muslim girls or how to save them from their oppressive fathers and husbands. The snarky commentary focused upon clever ways to draw upon stereotypes of these women: the caption for Wafah Dufour reads:

Osama bin Laden’s niece posed semi-nude for GQ back in 2006 in a bizarre attempt to capitalize on her family name. Her uncle would probably be pissed if he didn’t have over 300 other nephews and nieces to keep track of.

The effort to stir controversy was not only pathetic: the writing was hardly even entertaining or funny, at that. Listing women such as Laila Ali, Eve, Iman, and Queen Rania did not even highlight the contributions of these women or their ability to break stereotypes, but rather created a way to crudely objectify women who have made significant changes within their respective fields. Furthermore, to highlight the fact that they come from Muslim backgrounds or may follow the Muslim faith in order to sexualize them is not only offensive to their accomplishments, but is ultimately offensive to the faith itself. Obviously, Islam has not hindered these women, and the article does not feature any commentary on the role of faith in their lives.

These women did pose rather provocatively in these photos, I think that it is no different than what I see when I flip through a magazine at the supermarket. What makes this article so offensive to me in particular, is the fact that they are fetishizing these women based upon a stereotype of Muslim women being seen and not heard. Thus, the article makes wide assumptions about not only the backgrounds of these women, but about Muslim women in general. I think the beauty of Muslim women is our diversity in thought, expression, and backgrounds, and this list merely reduces us to one sexualized image.

While such lists are a general feature of many publications, focusing on the religious backgrounds of these women only reinforced negative stereotypes of Islam. In most of these cases, the commentary involved women being trapped, or under some type of male control (specifically in the case of Osama Bin Laden’s niece Wafah). The article laughs in the face of one of the most significant features of my faith, which is a certain amount of respect of women and their capabilities. To hyper-sexualize women based upon faith not only does them a disservice, but mocks the core tenets of one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Complex blog is a supplement to a lifestyle magazine for urban young men, and I would expect more from such a widely circulated publication.

For now, I am going to ponder my relationship with clothing and my daddy.

  • http://cycads.wordpress.com/ Cycads

    ““Sara, I could never get with a Muslim girl, how do they make you guys so unattainable?” a womanizing co-worker once asked me in all seriousness.”

    What a creepo.

    Aside from checking “Muslim chick” off the conquest list, there’s also the issue of the ‘thrill of the chase’. Supposedly men love this, because they’re the ‘active’ half of the sexual equation. The woman, passive. The fact that Muslim women are viewed as the ultimate example of passiveness and surrender, but still so unattainable adds challenge and intrigue.

    I recommend reading bell hook’s essay Eating the Other on why sleeping with “exotic” women is considered an adventure.

  • http://www.thesq2.com Salman Suhail

    Okay,

    First and foremost you need to realize one thing – this is obviously a DISTINCTLY “mens” magazine – which means they are not interested in positive stereotyping, in promoting the effects of religion and faith to the masses, or anything of that sort. In fact – as a mens magazine they are closer to the exact opposite – they are interested in promoting hot women for the consumption of the average depraved male.

    Does it suck for us (as muslims) that they chose the muslim faith? kinda – but not really – how many websites are dedicated to “christian girls gone wrong” and any spinoff of that nature – how many websites talk about hot women of some faith or the other – im sure you will find one for every faith thats out there.

    The truth of the matter is that once again – they are all catering to men – and men somewhere in the earth are appreciating this content.

    So when you discuss how you were “surprised that the article did not feature helpful hints for readers to pick up Muslim girls” or that they are “focusing on the religious backgrounds of these women only reinforced negative stereotypes of Islam” just makes me think that you havent realized the medium that you are trying to critique i.e. a MENS MAGAZINE specifically promoting sex and sexy and that simply isnt interested in these things.

    Is your critique valid? Definitely – when you make the statement “I think the beauty of Muslim women is our diversity in thought, expression, and backgrounds, and this list merely reduces us to one sexualized image” I ABSOLUTELY agree with that – except that i would say that the beauty of ALL women cannot be reduced to a sexualized image but lies in so much more.

    Which makes me wonder – articles like this are a dime a dozen and appear daily on the internet – as a woman – why did you take offense when they singled YOUR religion out (when every other religion gets singled out regularly as well and you don’t seem to take offense to that?)

  • Broomstick

    So unbelievably racist, sexist, offensive, and pathetic. I threw up in my mouth.

  • Wafa

    “Complex blog is a supplement to a lifestyle magazine for urban young men, and I would expect more from such a widely circulated publication.”

    Bah, this is what they do. Deal in pictures of scantily clad women, I mean. As far as stereotyping goes, I agree that the undertone is offensive, but I’ve seen so much worse I guess I am desensitized…

    It’s true that they mocked the tenets of Islam, but all religions expect women to dress modestly. So every time they carry pictures of attractive underdressed women, someone’s religious tenets are being violated. None of the women in the pictures were doing something they didn’t want to — they are all adults who chose to wear those clothes & pose for those pictures, knowing full well that the sole purpose was to exploit their sex appeal. And at least the picture of Queen Rania was elegant & tasteful…

  • RCHOUDH

    These AskMen type lists of top ten beauties really serve no purpose other than to sexually objectify women, so no surprise there with them sexualizing these Muslim women rather than focusing on their accomplishments. And of course they’re going to play up these women’s religion as the defining factor of their existence! The one thing Islam is best known for is its women and their “oppression” and how this contrasts with the West’s “enlightened” stance on women/sarcasm! Rather than focus on other aspects of these women’s identity (their race, nationality, ethnicity, etc). let’s just lump them and their diverse experiences together under the monolithic “Muslim” label!

  • navya

    I have been following MMW for the last few weeks. I think that you folks are doing a great job at highlighting the pros and cons of media involvement and reporting on critical matters related to Muslim women. As a non-muslim reader myself, I find all your posts very helpful in breaking the stereotype and providing fascinating perspectives on some very complex issues. Keep up the good work!

  • RCHOUDH

    Oh yeah and up until I read this post, I was blissfully unaware of the existence of yet another pig headed chauvinistic men’s mag…thanks alot MMW!/j/k :)

  • SakuraPassion

    A co-worker actually said that to you!? Ugh!

    And this article? Uggghhh! I hate those “The top ten most hot women of such and such” or something stupid like that.

    But there’s no need for me to add anything, you said everything pretty well.

  • Zahra

    The article itself is disgusting and oh-so-typical–but your commentary on it made me crack up. Thanks for making me laugh in the face of this monstrosity.

  • Nissa

    They can have their hot Muslim chicks, like the Muslim part adds something extra naughty and alluring but what I don’t get is the need to mention Ramadan or the Shukarno case…
    its a nice little ‘they are barbarians lets mock their beliefs and sexualise their women who go against their barbarianism and we will accept with open arms as long as they are hot’ type thing…

    Them being Muslim is neither her nor there except in Queen Rania’s case…and can I just say, stuff like this just makes me love my hijab even more…I don’t think it makes me a better Muslim than anyone else but it is my way of saying loud and proud that I am Muslim and I will not be it on your terms….to Muslims and non-Muslims.

  • http://hijabchique.blogspot.com celeritas

    How disgusting, but how normal.

  • http://musicalchef.wordpress.com musicalchef

    Gag!

  • Em

    OK, so I only managed to get through half the pictures and their crass taglines before I started to feel slightly queasy. I don’t know if I should dismiss this as just another tedious example of the kind of lists some men make (who’s the hottest chick with a prosthetic limb?) or another tawdry ‘ethnic’ fetish item. Whatever it is, it is frankly repellant. ‘Poor Muslims can’t have sex during daylight hours’ – seriously, that’s the best you can do?

  • http://jamericanmuslimah.wordpress.com Jamerican Muslimah

    This was in celebration of Ramadan? Wow. I can only guess that this kind of article appeals to the Western anti-feminist type of men who long for the return of the “passive”, “demure”, “voiceless” woman. You know, “the good ole days.” I always think about not only the sexist angle of articles like this but the way in which men who feel they have lost control (vis-à-vis women) can restore male dominance by imagining the Muslim woman as the controllable ideal. (If that makes any sense).

    One sidebar: Is Laila Ali Muslim? As far as I know (from reading her own book) she chose not to embrace her father’s way of life…

  • Naima

    “Which makes me wonder – articles like this are a dime a dozen and appear daily on the internet – as a woman – why did you take offense when they singled YOUR religion out (when every other religion gets singled out regularly as well and you don’t seem to take offense to that?)”

    Perhaps, Salman, this is because we’re on a forum for MUSLIM women, and how Muslim women are portrayed in media publication.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org Rochelle

    gonna have to agree with Salman here. On the same page there is “9 hottest Vietnamese women” and “10 hottest celebrity feet.” Seems like they are equal opportunity offenders.

  • reem

    Also, that’s not even Iman in that photo (the 8th “hottest Muslim whatever”)! It’s Naomi Campbell, right?

  • fouzia

    definately naomi, not Iman

  • a

    You’re hilarious – I love your writing.

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  • http://emilyhanhan.tumblr.com Emily

    I just wanted to add that it bothers me that people are “okay” with lists like this because it’s in a “men’s magazine.” Does that make it better? Are we just so desensitized to men’s mags portraying ALL women in a horribly sexist manner?

    Obviously, not everyone is fine with it (from the comments), but it’s a bit sad to see the general disregard for common decency.

  • Sobia

    I think what Rochelle and Salman may be getting at is that this is something that is done to all women. For instance, this sentence:

    “What makes this article so offensive to me in particular, is the fact that they are fetishizing these women based upon a stereotype of Muslim women being seen and not heard.”

    This is not unique to Muslim women. This is the premise of sexualizing all women, Muslim and non-Muslim. All women, when sexualized, are to be seen and not heard. I don’t see the pictures as being based on this stereotype of Muslim women. Rather, that is the nature of the beast of sexualizing and dehumanizing women everywhere.

    Now, some of those comments definitely are based on stereotypes.

  • http://www.stop-stoning.org rochelle

    Sobia — agreed. thanks for articulating better than i could.

  • Ayeshter

    I think the problem here is this article is just re-enforcing the long held streo-types of Muslim Women, and let’s face it, ethnic women in general as being sexually willing a docile. Although Muslim women have been the long held targets (look at all the classical paintings depicting “harem” life…need I saw more), this is not unique to them. Asian women and black women, for example, have long had to contend with these expectations as well.

  • Person

    Wait, Iman and Campell mix up?

    Oh wait, I keep forgetting that all Muslim women are interchangeable, all black women, women of color, and women in general interchangeable which akes it okay because Iman and Campbell are like triple interchangeable or something.

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  • Melinda

    I think Nissa pretty much sums it up with “its a nice little ‘they are barbarians lets mock their beliefs and sexualise their women who go against their barbarianism and we will accept with open arms as long as they are hot’ type thing…”

    And seconding Sobia’s comment about the sexualization of all women. You only need to spend ten minutes on any men’s website to see that there are ALL kinds of lists, and that a category like “Muslim women” (or “Vietnamese women” or “women in boxing” or “female investors” or whatever it may be) is only an excuse to post objectifying photos with snarky, misogynistic commentary. It’s definitely not about Muslim women as it is about just plain objectifying women. The Muslim angle does, however, provide the opportunity to sneak in some stereotypes and Islamophobic jabs passed off as humor.

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