Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda: Islam as Rehab for Women

British novelist Martin Amis has expressed regret that his late sister did not embrace Islam to save herself from self-destruction. Everyone is understandably confused.To begin with, Amis is not a neutral figure on Islam and women: he thinks that Muslims should be masterminded into becoming “more like human beings.” He likes the idea of being a “gynocrat,” a feminist self-styling so unconvincing even the most naïve will feel cynical about his political predilections. In an interview with Abu Dh … [Read more...]

Malaysia’s Newest Cane Campaign

In Malaysia, where we are swamped with mixed messages from religious authorities and pop song lyrics, those of us lucky enough to find love are bound to run into trouble. Just a week short of Valentine's day, three women and three men were caned under Shariah law for committing “illicit sex.” This marks the materialization of a long threat to punish Muslim Malaysians for moral crimes – prior to this, no one had been caned for unlawful sexual behavior. Curiously, the public was informed more than … [Read more...]

The Boy Who Cried “Witch!”: Saudis Investigate Domestic Workers for Witchcraft

Something decidedly medieval is in the air in Saudi Arabia. Fears of black magic and curses cast by Indonesian domestic helpers have spread across the country, and  Saudi employers increasingly feel the need to hire private investigators to check their domestic workers for suspicious behavior and evidence for witchcraft.Investigators, mostly foreign women from neighboring countries, are paid to search for photographs, hair, or clothes belonging to the employers before the domestic helpers are … [Read more...]

Do Muslim Feminists Have Too Much to Worry About Already to Think About Homophobia?

This was originally published at Cycads.Once a week, I meet with people studying gender in the Middle East and we talk about the assigned articles we've read during the week. Last week, it was about sexuality and homophobia. Emerging from our discussion on LGBT rights in the Middle East (particularly in Lebanon and Palestine) is the question why many Muslim feminists have failed to include sexuality rights on their agenda. Not one, but two people answered by saying that Muslim feminists have … [Read more...]

Marketing Muslim Lifestyles and Rethinking Modesty

If a hijab in Pucci-designed print could speak, what would it say? I attended a seminar presented by Professor Reina Lewis on Muslim women's lifestyle magazines last night and was faced with this bizarre question. It all started with the actual seminar itself, which showcased the latest research adventures of the fashion and design professor. Weaving together previous work that included alternative Orientalist narratives in the 19th century and queer lifestyle magazines, Lewis' paper focused on … [Read more...]

Whose Revolution? Critiquing Seyran Ates and her Islamic Sexual Revolution

The calls of lawyer, activist, and writer Seyran Ates for a sexual revolution in the heterogeneous Muslim world may surprise many, particularly when the movement is commonly associated with free love, hippies, and public nudity. In a recent interview with German magazine Spiegel, Ates begins with discussing what she means by this and her experiences that inspired her new book, Islam Needs a Sexual Revolution.Things went downhill immediately, when Ates said that she based the term "sexual … [Read more...]

Questioning the Veil, Questioning the Questioner

Today we witness postcolonial Orientalism coming to grips with its obsession with the hijab. While the white French elite seem fixed on debating its symbols, the British media are asking why women choose to wear it. Once, the obsession was an obvious desire to unveil Muslim women (think postcards of semi-naked North African women during the colonial period of the turn of the 20th century).Such pictorial colonial fantasies are now a thing of the past. Now, French men have now moved from openly … [Read more...]


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