*Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexualized Violence, Misogyny*
Toronto boasts a wonderfully diverse population. It is probably one of the most diverse cities in the world. And it is also home to the largest Muslim community in the country. There are different Islamic centres, and incredible organizations like Outburst! that advocate for the rights of Muslim women. Toronto also hosts wonderful food festivals, and huge conferences featuring world class scholars and teachers of Islamic knowledge and culture. These events are of value and provide welcoming spaces to guests and visitors. The various Muslim communities in the Greater Toronto Area support and attend such events.However, there are instances, when there are visitors who come and spew hatred.
One such instance occurred this past week, when a horribly misogynist pick-up artist (PUA) came to town and decided that those opposing him were Islamophobic. As Muslims, is it our job to encourage other Muslims to use platforms to promote their views even if they are marinated in violence against women and promote perverted views of Islamic behaviour? If their presence is challenged and protested, and said presenter claims “Islamophobia”, should the Muslim community rally behind them or refute their claims? Do we allow an opportunist misogynist the pleasure of cloaking his venom with claims of Islamophobia? The answer should be no to all the above questions.
The PUA industry thrives on predators preaching to other men about targeting and exploiting women for sexual purposes. In many cases, they advise and detail plans on how to intimidate women with violence. Yes, there are men willing to pay to sit and listen to these disgusting lectures. They are met with protest and last year, a PUA was denied an entry VISA to speak in Australia (yay Australian activists!) from evidence that his behaviour might be detrimental to society.
Pick-up artist Roosh V, whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, is of Iranian descent and says that his father is an observant Shi’a Muslim. This man advocates for legalizing rape in private. Valizadeh insists that sexually violating and brutalizing a woman in privacy is something society should allow because allowing this will actually help stop rape. This is his theory. He calls his philosophy ‘neomasculinity‘. He is an advocate for the rights and power of men and provides reasoning for aggressive sexual behaviour.
It gets more absurd and frustrating than this. If you haven’t already broken your screen, read on. There was an unsuccessful attempt to have him stopped at the border. He counted this as a victory. (Not linking to his Twitter account because friends don’t let friends read such garbage.)
Valizadeh’s problems began in Montreal. His coordinates were made public, his initial venue was cancelled, he was pelted with curses, had alcohol dumped on him and was unwelcomed by the Mayor. Truthfully, my immediate thought was: “why did those women waste their drinks on him?”
After verbal and online altercations with those he labels “SJW” (pejorative term for advocates and activists of Social Justice) his followers proceeded to harass some women campaigning against him. CBC interviewed Haley Firkser, who organized protests in Montreal and was vocal in pushing against Valizadeh’s presence, and who received hateful sexist and anti-Semitic messages.
Valizadeh held his event and moved onto Toronto. After Toronto’s Mayor John Tory also expressed his disdain at Valizadeh and a protest was held in front of the Provincial legislature, this man decided to unleash his frustration by declaring that the feminists and that “the Canadian establishment is vehemently Islamophobic” because they are discriminating against him since he was raised in a Muslim family.
In this video, he states that he “grew up with Muslims beliefs”. He asks viewers to draw parallels in his thinking and in Islam. Where his ideas about men being strong and women submitting come from? Islam obviously! He credits his strong and honourable father for instilling in him ideals of masculinity and patriarchy.
(Sidenote: my father is a very strong, intelligent, dignified, honourable man and certainly does not advocate for rape.)
Valizadeh pathetically argues that he is “being hunted” because Canadians are Islamophobic. It is unfortunate that he fails to recognize that people dislike him not because he claims his ideas stem from Islam, but because he is a vile misogynist whose views are dangerous. His claim that the Canadian opposition he has been met with is Islamophobic is all the more ironic given that he has hosted racist and Anti-Muslim thought on his site, including this statement: “Islam presents a direct threat to a free, open, prosperous, and advancing human civilization with justice and equal rights for all” and has published a pieced justifying Islamophobia.
Valizadeh calls for “Operation Fornication” in order to fight against his opponents. This is a grand scheme to “Identify, Infiltrate and Inseminate” those women speaking against him. He insists that those women who are protesting his talks are white feminists who need to check their non-Muslim privilege. This is not a case where “white saviours” are coming to speak over and decide what is best of all women. They are personally enraged by his comments. And rightfully so. All women have the right to oppose these ideas without being accused of Islamophobia.
I am not white. I am a Muslim woman. And I loathe his presence in my city. I hate his ideas and I deplore him for hiding behind Islam as a means to justify his hateful and violent opinions.
We write about it a lot at MMW: Islamophobia in media, in sports, in parenting, in social relations, in academia. We also speak to media about it. For Valizadeh to use this tool politically to attempt to rally support is horrible and insulting, furthering the pervasive idea that Islamophobia is just a way for Muslims to suppress all criticism of themselves and their faith. This man clearly doesn’t realize that among the feminists out there, there are women of colour and Muslimahs. Would he declare Muslim women targets as well? Would he call for our rapes because we are protesting his presentations? That’s not terribly brotherly or Islamically appropriate of him, is it?
Let me be clear about this: I am not questioning Valizadeh’s level as faith. As repulsive as I find this man, I have no idea about his sincerity towards God Almighty. I can, however, call him out on his methods and vile language, and the treatment of women from the community of which he includes himself.
For him to claim to be associated with any Muslim community is enraging. However, then he claimed that he would be hosted by an unnamed Islamic community center somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, overtly re-emphasizing his connection to Islam. *RAGE STATUS ELEVATED*
Truth be told, anyone can rent a space at an Islamic center for a fee. It really isn’t that complicated. But how could a Muslim center be complicit in assisting this man with his heinous commentary? Do they know who he is? A simple Google search would have answered any queries. Certainly, a rental commission is not worth the price of Valizadeh or any grossly misogynist PUA spreading their hatred and lies from Muslim venues.
Because the location of his speech was not made public, I can not confirm whether it was indeed at a Islamic centre. However, despite the Mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie, speaking out against him, his event took place at an undisclosed location in Mississauga. Valizadeh declared it a victory. Quelle surprise. And I am sure that he will reflect on this experience as having beaten the hoards of ‘SJW’s working against him and his truths.
I reached out to contacts in the GTA at various centers and Masjids to see if the event had taken place at their location. The only replies I received were from men advising me in brotherly tones to not write about this. It might “look bad for the community”.
What does look bad for the community is that we are constantly apologizing for all sorts of issues and crimes to which we are not connected. There is a culture of speaking out when we choose. Why would Imams and community leaders NOT speak out against this man and simply point out that his behaviour and comments are offensive and NOT from the Sunnah. Or even simpler, make it crystal clear that Islam does not condone rape, violence or abuse against women or girls. Furthermore, Toronto has a Muslim branch of the White Ribbon Campaign who are committed to working with allies to eliminate violence against women and girls. Wouldn’t a statement against Valizadeh be part of that mandate? Speaking out and standing against someone who is using the umbrella of faith to deflect criticism and justify his disgusting opinions?
I understand the tactic of not amplifying his voice. I respect that. But when he is clearly defiling the name of Islam by associating it with opinions often held by Islamophobes or ISIS, then it might be a wise move to clarify. This did not happen. And perhaps Valizadeh gambled on this as he went along his merry way vilifying women who speaking out against his disgusting and offensive comments.
There is a new petition circulating to prevent the sale of Valizadeh’s book on Amazon. The petition (which I signed) has amassed over 66,000 signatures. I am wondering whether Valizadeh will command his minions to attack all the people who signed a petition to silence his violent and unnecessary noise.
I am not certain that Valizadeh will maintain his status of “practising Muslim” and utilize the Islamophobia claim for his agenda, but as long as he does, I would appreciate and support Muslims refuting his claims and challenging him.