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The Feminist Mosaic: The Naked Blogger, the Burka, and the Boys in Hijab

28 November 2011 Loonwatch.com 19 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

The Feminist Mosaic: The Naked Blogger, the Burka, and the Boys in Hijab

Aliaa al-Mahdy sparked a firestorm of controversy last month when she posted a sensationalist nude photo of herself on her blog, ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary.’ Praised almost universally in the West for her “courage,” the 20-year-old art student sent “shock waves” through Egypt’s conservative society. (It is interesting to note that when women attempt to attain their rights to wear the hijab or the niqab in lets say France it is not met with the same enthusiastic praise but rather derision.)

After decades of resurgent Islam, public nudity is frowned upon in Egypt, even in art. Mahdy defended her act, writing in her blog:

Put on trial the artists’ models who posed nude for art schools until the early 70s, hide the art books and destroy the nude statues of antiquity, then undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups before you direct your humiliation and chauvinism and dare to try to deny me my freedom of expression.

Mahdy also launched a Facebook campaign, “Wearing Hijab in Solidarity with Women,” which called on men to support women’s rights by uploading photos of themselves wearing headscarves. The idea of men wearing hijab to make a political statement is not new.

In 2009, Iranian authorities tried to humiliate jailed activist Majid Tavakoli by publishing photos of him wearing hijab as punishment for his role in protests following a disputed election. Iranian men responded by launching the online “Be a Man” campaign, and hundreds of men expressed their solidarity with Travakoli by uploading photos of themselves wearing hijab.

Be a Man Campaign[/caption]

The “Be a Man” campaign also advocates women’s rights. Mahdy featured many participants’ photos on her Facebook page before it was shut down in response to thousands of complaints. She has vowed to relaunch it within days.

Egypt’s Attorney General has received a legal complaint accusing Mahdi and her boyfriend, Kareem Amer, of “inciting immorality, debauchery, and defamation of religion.”

This legal complaint is bound not to help the situation and will likely have the opposite effect. We know whenever the state interferes to repress freedom of conscious it only brings more attention to the issue and entices copycats.

Secular liberals and religious conservatives are vying for support in Egypt’s increasingly polarized society. Mahdy’s liberal critics fear her radical tactics could prompt a conservative backlash and strengthen ultra-Conservative Islamists in upcoming elections.

Egyptian journalist Mohammad Abdelfattah, whose role in exposing the deadly beating of Khaled Said helped spark the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, expressed his support for women’s rights, but advocated a different approach, saying:

I don’t think that’s how I would like to show my support for women. Both of us respect our differences, but that’s not something I would do … I think that it’s a funny tactic, it’s not serious stuff…

You know, we can mobilize for women’s rights in a more serious manner that can achieve real things on the ground, not just some superficial type of tactics that would make the already conservative population [of Egypt more] alienated … to the idea of women’s rights.

Mona Eltahawy, a freelance Egyptian-American journalist based in New York, who ironically supports bans on the burqa dismissed liberal critics who accused Mahdy of hurting their cause. Eltahawy, who describes herself as a liberal, secular Muslim, said conservative opponents should not be allowed to set the agenda. In an article expressing lavish praise for Mahdy’s campaign, she wrote:

When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what’s on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance…

[Mahdy] is the Molotov cocktail thrown at the Mubaraks in our heads – the dictators of our mind – which insists that revolutions cannot succeed without a tidal wave of cultural changes that upend misogyny and sexual hypocrisy.

Eltahawy’s views are prevalent among feminists who interpret public nudity as the ultimate rebellion against the burqa, considered a notorious symbol of oppression in the West. Many who subscribe to this view believe Islam and feminism are mutually exclusive, and that religion should be tossed in the trash bin, along with the hijab.

Muslim feminists have challenged this orthodoxy, forwarding the argument that Islam and feminism are compatible, and that modest dress actually liberates women from the confines of superficial beauty. Many Muslim feminists have introduced a competing contemporary narrative that challenges the notion that women’s liberation is a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Maybe Mahdy’s campaign will contribute to a new feminist mosaic that is inclusive and focused on choices, not mandates. Rather than becoming a lightning rod issue, pitting one side against another, why can’t we make room for naked bloggers, and burqas, and boys in hijab?

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19 Comments »

  1. I like the hijab part but the nudity- you dont need that

  2. go Mahdy! boys in hijab are hot!

  3. We have to come to the total degradation of women in Islam, by this women posing naked. Political statement, none what so ever. What is wrong with the burqa, hijab, veil dressing modest, according to what our Lord dictated. Is absurd and sad that our young Muslimahs have to look up to a women like this. The best of the examples for our young Muslimahs are the Mothers of the Believers, each and everyone of them were women were intelligent, modest, rich, poor, fighters and martyrs. What have you or any so call feminist has done for Islam but make a mockery out of it?
    Is a shame we have to still call you sister.

  4. Islamophobia Today could have done without this topic. These bloggers accomplish nothing with their antics. The nudity isn’t going to change any minds. It debases the participants, robs them of legitimacy. There have always been reactionary, anti-modesty, anti-Islam forces in the middle-east. It’s not a surprise that a revolution would dredge some of them up. They aren’t going to make a positive contribution.

  5. ^^ i have to agree here sean. I couldve gone abt my day without knowing abt the girl butchering the idea of covering your oura ( parts no one should see this includes neck down to knees for women and men also in most cases).

  6. Shameful act irrespective of religion. Sad to see this girl exposé herself. Leave aside Islam, nudity is not accepted by any religion. Shows the animal behavior of humans.

  7. Reminds me of that young woman in Oregon riding a bicycle down the street while stark naked. People called in to report her only to be told that the law against public nudity in that town had been abolished.

  8. Guess that burst their bubble huh anon lol

  9. The cartoon was the best part of this article.

  10. If god gave us the ability to fight against oppression that we experience via our actions, and we experience oppression which the mandatory wearing of Hijab corroborates with, then god will understand a woman’s choice to choose to remove herself from Hijab. Any system which demands a woman hide herself from the gaze of men, whether to avoid tempting them or to encourage their own modesty is simply totalitarian; the choice ought to be a woman’s. It’s sexism and it’s antiquated, men should submit to the same rules. Nudity is fully encouraged, the human form shall be celebrated; human choice be celebrated as god gave us the power to choose, the power to make a choice with nothing but virtue in your heart, (even if that is to remain in Hijab.) “most of us are atheists about 99% of the gods in all of human history, some of us just go one god further” -Richard Dawkins.

  11. Its not political resistance but resistance against Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala

  12. If god gave us the ability to fight against oppression that we experience via our actions, and we experience oppression which the mandatory wearing of Hijab corroborates with, then god will understand a woman’s choice to choose to remove herself from Hijab. Any system which demands a woman hide herself from the gaze of men, whether to avoid tempting them or to encourage their own modesty is simply totalitarian; the choice ought to be a woman’s. It’s sexism and it’s antiquated, men should submit to the same rules. Nudity is fully encouraged, the human form shall be celebrated; human choice be celebrated as god gave us the power to choose, the power to make a choice with nothing but virtue in your heart, (even if that is to remain in Hijab.) “most of us are atheists about 99% of the gods in all of human history, some of us just go one god further” -Richard Dawkins.

    Oh, that silly biologist’s “we are all atheists” argument has already been responded to. All monotheistic religions worship the same god: They simply differ as to the characteristics of this god. For example suppose you and I had the same employer. Just because we think different things about him, doesn’t mean we work for different bosses, right?

    Also, women in Islam have the freedom to wear hijab or not to. The Qur’an simply says that women should cover their hair and bodies, but don’t have to cover their face and hands. They are also not to be forced to do so. “There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right path has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” – Qur’an 2:256.

    Sincerely,

    S.A. Muhammad Khan

    P.S. What credentials does a biologist have discussing religion? I don’t deny natural selection, but come on? Dawkins has no credentials in the field of philosophy. Bringing him into a debate about religion makes as much sense as having a bishop teach a high school biology class.

  13. Theocracy will make compulsory that which should be voluntary.

    I wonder if they got the law reinstated in that Oregon town.

    I still say the nikabi is doing something she knows is a provocation, a cultural negative. She is trying to show that she has turned her back on her culture in order to curry favor with the members of her new religion.

  14. Can some one explain to me how you can be a secular Muslim

    Eltahawy, who describes herself as a liberal, secular Muslim,

    sec·u·lar   /ˈsɛkyələr/ Show Spelled[sek-yuh-ler] adjective
    1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
    2. not pertaining to or connected with religion ( opposed to sacred): secular music.
    3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects.
    4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows ( opposed to regular).
    5. occurring or celebrated once in an age or century: the secular games of Rome.

    Muslim 1. a follower of the religion of Islam

    2. of or relating to Islam, its doctrines, culture, etc

    from Arabic, literally: one who surrenders]

  15. @anon:

    Or maybe…she just wants to dress modestly?

  16. Skhan, since the nikab is not a requirement, it is her own choice, as she says. I think it is just convert freak out.

    I think cultural muslim is a better term than secular muslim.

  17. skhan,

    i think you misread that. “most of us are atheists about 99% of the gods in all of human history”. i think he is saying that a monotheist is an atheist towards all the polytheist gods. from the greek pantheon to the aztecs. throught history there have been hundreds of gods. if you only believe in one then you don’t believe in the rest. he’s saying he agrees with you on the 99% and then just adds the one.

    “All monotheistic religions worship the same god:” so you believe sikh are people of the book? is it a revealed religion to muslims? never heard that before? do you consider ahmadiyya to be muslims? how about the bahai’? shouldn’t they all be included in the list of people who can slaughter halal food then? what about mormons. they belive joeseph smith to be a prophet, that he received divine revealation and the book of mormon.

    so only theologians can discuss religion, and only philosiphers philosiphy? that sucks. especially considering, from what my uneducated eyes see, is that the learned muslims, the grand muftis’ and grand ayathollahs’ seem to come out with much more brutal fiqh then the average western muslim without their credentials. even mr bennet is against stoning apostates, yet the four major schools of islamic jurisprudence are for it. malik, hannibal…i forget the other two, i tire of google today. anyways i like your ““There shall be no compulsion in the religion..” i just don’t think most of 3 billion (i think there are only 2 billion at most, but we’ll use salims number so i don’t get called a liar again, lol). i think they listen to the men with credentials in their perspective nations.

  18. but at least we all agree to stone adulterers. even jesus appearently.

    Book 017, Number 4214:

    Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported: There happened to pass by Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) a Jew blackened and lashed. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) called them (the Jews) and said: Is this the punishment that you find in your Book (Torah) as a prescribed punishment for adultery? They said: Yes. He (the Holy Prophet) called one of the scholars amongst them and said: I ask you in the name of Allah Who sent down the Torah on Moses if that is the prescribed punishment for adultery that you find in your Book. He said: No. Had you not asked me in the name of Allah, I would not have given you this information. We find stoning to death (as punishment prescribed in the Torah). But this (crime) became quite common amongst our aristocratic class. So when we caught hold of any rich person (indulging in this offence) we spared him, but when we caught hold of a helpless person we imposed the prescribed punishment upon him. We then said: Let us argree (on a punishment) which we can inflict both upon the rich and the poor. So We decided to blacken the face with coal and flog as a substitute punishment for stoning. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: O Allah, I am the first to revive Thy command when they had made it dead. He then commanded and he (the offender) was stoned to death. Allah, the Majestic and Glorious, sent down (this verse):” O Messenger, (the behaviour of) those who vie with one another in denying the truth should not grieve you…” up to” is vouchsafed unto you, accept it” (v. 41) 2176 It was said (by the Jews): Go to Muhammad; it he commands you to blacken the face and award flogging (as punishment for adultery), then accept it, but it he gives verdict for stoning, then avoid it. It was (then) that Allah, the Majestic and Great, sent down (these verses):” And they who do not judge in accordance with what Allah has revealed are, indeed, deniers of the truth” (v. 44) ;” And they who do not judge in accordance with what Allah has revealed-they, they indeed are the wrongdoers” (v. 45) ;” And they who do not judge in accordance with what God has revealed-they are the iniquitous (v. 47). (All these verses) were revealed in connection with the non-believers.

  19. catt,

    http://www.faithinallah.org/

    check out the sunnah. book of punishment, book dealing with apostates.

    may reason and logic guide you.

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