Friday Links | May 27, 2011

If you see any news stories about Muslim women from this week that we’ve missed, feel free to include links in the comments!

  • Duff

    Yalda Hakim is a muslim? Did you actually read that SMH article? How did you come to that conclusion? The writer does not even mention religion, Islam or the ubiquitous ‘as a muslim woman,’ so I fail to see how the SMH is portraying her as a muslim or implying this is the case.

    I have raised this issue time and time again (see the Sila Sahin article previously), on how quick Muslimah Media Watch is to portray and perpetuate the idea that ‘being a muslimah’ is an ethnicity (rather than a religious choice), which is inherently racialised and a possibly racist point of view. Why else would you conflate being of Afghan descent to being muslim? Do you know Hakim’s religious beliefs? How do you know she is not a catholic or an atheist?

    Before someone mentions that she/every other Afghan or Turkish woman is a ‘cultural muslim’ by default and thus it is perfectly ok to write of her as a muslimah; once again please refer to the actual article (that is, the media representation of her). The article implies that she feels disconnected from Afghanistan and its culture to a certain extent, and she only visited as an adult.

    The reason why this is such a sensitive issue for me and others, is because the idea that religion is arbitrarily dictated by your race/ethnicity/family background, how you look and are perceived rather than actually what your beliefs are- completely undermines a woman’s AGENCY in defining for herself her religious identity; great going for a supposedly feminist site!

    Secondly, whilst the writers/readers of this blog naively make the assumption that Afghan = automatically muslim; they are privileged enough to not have to deal with the horrific implications that this same basic idea (being a muslim automatically by birth/ethnicity rather than belief/choice) has in many ‘muslim-majority’ countries. The huge social censure if not persecution of ‘apostates’ for leaving ‘their’ religion, the lack of religious freedom (to apostate, convert to another religion, declare oneself non-religious/agnostic/atheist; i.e. basically to define ones’s own religious identity on one’s OWN TERMS). The Islam-inspired ‘Personal Law’ that forms the law code of many countries governing the lives of muslim-born women is inescapable in many of these countries (e.g just try being an Afghan atheist woman of muslim family trying to get married to a Hindu man in Afghanistan!). The idea that one must abide by a religious law (‘from God’!)in which they do not not believe (see WLUML’s work). So yes great for you, oh privileged writer of this blog that you are able to define your own religious identity for yourself as a muslimah, but please try not to deny that essential right to other less privileged women by your idea that being of ‘muslim-majority’ country/ethnicity/family/birth = MUSLIMAH.

    Sorry for the rant, but this makes me so so angry and these issues never seem to be resolved on your blog. You want to so desperately write about how Sila Sahin is perceived? Fine, call yourself Turkish (Women) Media Watch. About Yalda Hakim…Afghani Media Watch. Egyptian protesters? Ditto Arab Media Watch, Pakistani Media Watch etc etc focussing on famous/topical women from these ethnic/national backgrounds. With so many SELF-DECLARED openly muslim women in the world, one would think you would have enough material to write about on this blog about muslimahs, rather than the very confused nexus between race and religion (and media critique) you have going on.

    Write about muslim women, don’t resort to making them up.

  • Fatemeh

    @ Duff: Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. You’re completely right: I didn’t read the article at all. This website is my passion, but it’s also a part-time thing for all of us, and so I often cut corners, especially when doing the Friday links. The tip about Hakim was sent in by a reader, and because I literally do the Friday Links on a Thursday night, I often rely on reader tips and don’t have as much time as I’d like to fact-check. This isn’t an excuse–I need to do better–but an explanation of my process.

    I’d appreciate your help in this–please keep raising the issue when we fuck up (and because the relationship between race, religion, and identity for women from predominantly-Muslim cultures is very confused, like you mentioned, we’ll probably fuck up often). And I’d also appreciate if you’d send in tips for the Friday links (or even for stuff to cover) to editor@muslimahmediawatch.org.

    Thanks, Duff!

  • Sara

    @Duff:

    I understand your point, and I agree with a lot of what you are saying. However, in the case of Sahin’s story, she was being constructed as a Muslim woman by the media, and I think that is still something that we can and SHOULD cover. Her decision to pose nude was being used as an opportunity to recycle stereotypes about Muslim women even though she is not a Muslim. I tried to make that distinction in my piece, and I think I even posted a link to article about how Playboy had to release a statement saying that she wasn’t a Muslim.

    Also, I’d like to point out that being a Muslim is just as much of a cultural identity as much as it is a faith or religious choice. Especially in diaspora communities.


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