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.

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