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Amina & Femen’s “Topless Jihad” vs. Shazida Khatun & the Muslimah

with 3 comments

As a Muslim I know what she did and what its (sic) punishment is and she should know better than to do what she is done. we keep these values and you dont (sic) we are proud of who we are and what we believe in, at least we have something to believe in. she has been condemned and punish by stoning. she deserves what she gets.” – Shazida Khatun, commenter and verb-slayer on Amina Tyler: Tunisian Girl Outrages Islamic Authority

What she did:  Amina Tyler, a Tunisian woman, published now iconic topless photos of herself on Facebook with Arabic and English written on her naked torso. Her message challenges the male dominated ideology of her society. Femen, a Ukranian activist group that has targeted European Nationalists and the Pope, launched a Topless Jihad in Amina’s support. There’s more on this at The Atlantic, The New Yorker and The Huffington Post. Tunisian clerics have called for her death.

Femen, in some ways, represents a common sentiment within the West, the rejection of fundamentalist misogyny that hurls stones literally and figuratively at women in religiously oppressed societies. Here’s what Amina wrote (translation):

“I own my body; it’s not the source of anyone’s honor.” – Amina Tyler

Missing the point:  On the other side we have the Muslimah at Al Jazeera, self-described “moderate” Shazid Khatun, and cultural and religious apologists such as Glenn Greenwald (more horrified by Sam Harris than by the Taliban), who seem to think misogyny is wrong only in the West, but when certain cultures oppress women, that is moral relativism and a right. Observe the Muslimah:

“FEMEN can’t tell me what I can and can’t wear!” Muslimah Pride

“Nudity does not liberate me and I DO NOT need saving!” Muslimah Pride

Muslimah Pride,  c’mon, no one is telling you how to dress. Amina’s message implies, “Don’t tell me what to wear, don’t condemn women for their choices.” You choose to dress as society compels you to, fine, but do you really have a choice to dress otherwise? Amina questions this compulsion, that’s all.

Muslimah – Amina has now been threatened by death. I ask the Muslimah, Al Jazeera, and the educated Muslims of the world, where do you stand? Are you with the clerics and the Shazidas who call for her death? Or do you support her right to free speech? Her act may be offensive, and FEMEN’s use of nudity may be offensive, but those are different arguments. What about peaceful expression? You protest her message, but remain silent as clerics demand that she be killed. Is that how you want to be perceived?

You see the girls on the left? In Afghanistan and Pakistan women risk their lives for education. The attempted assasination of Malala Yousafzai evidence. Muslimah, if you have education, use it. The rights Amina Tyler and Femen demand apply to you. If you wish to don hijabis or nikaabis, go for it. But instead of protesting Amina, why not protest forcing rape victims to marry their rapists (Amina Filali), honor killings, and education for women? I think you do incredible harm to your religion when, by your silence and the battles you choose, you prioritize the trivial over the serious. Islam is about peace, ladies, so why not speak for peace by supporting it?

And you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day but don’t deny millions of your sisters who have fear behind their scarves, don’t deny that there are million of your sisters who have been raped and killed because they are not following the wish of Allah! We are here to scream about that.” – Inna Shevchenko, Leader of women’s movement FEMEN

Taliban UPDATE: “We lost Afghanistan in 2001 because of 9/11 at a time when we almost controlled 100 percent of Afghanistan,” a Taliban intelligence officer says. “We don’t want these incidents to upset our plans again.” – Comment made after Boston Marathon bombing, confirming how terrorism reflects on Islam.

Update:  “How can you wear your scarf with so much proudness . . . like it’s the hat of Che Guevara? It symbolizes blood and all the crimes that are based on your religion, even if you don’t support them . . . . If you’re a feminist, if you’re for liberation, then be brave [enough] to say that we are against that and take off your scarf until the moment that your scarf will not be a symbol of crime.” Inna Shevchenko from Topless Jihad: Why Femen Is Right – The Atlantic May, 1 2013

Amina Quits Femen – Huff Post


Written by Caleb Powell

April 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for your post here. First of all, I’m a Muslim. Second, I I don’t wear hijab. Third most important is that I’m an Asian Muslim therefore I do-not really abide by Arab-Islam and in many cases, don’t relate to many Arabic Islamic issues and stances. So from here starts my discourse.

    Overall, Islamic clerics feel that Islam protects it’s women through the use of hijab. I always felt and still feel very disturbed with that degrading analogy as does this mean non-hijabi Muslim women are dirty, bad? Till date no logical answers have been provided by majority male Muslim scholars, clerics and men clearly infected with the virus of “I’m more Muslim than you” syndrome..”

    Also it’s clear to me that Islam like other religions of the Heaven is largely dominated by men, so they invent things including the hijab drama to exert control over the women. Also the hijab use has been part of Arabic culture spread over Saudia, Middle East,some areas of Africa and it was forced upon the other parts of world where Islam flourished by force, for instance sub-continent (present Pakistan and India) were instructed and initiated into this Arabic custom when the Muslim generals fought the crusades. No more.

    I, find myself at logger-heads with Muslims and non-Muslims both on my choices of not wearing hijab and when I ask this question “how does a black piece of heavy cloth determine my chasteness, my virtue, my purity or honor”, I am at the receiving end of not one logical response. Here-by let me also clarify that I am totally against the fact that society has to determine, force and acknowledge me as a human or woman through measures on my chasteness, my virtue, my purity or honor. Who are they to do so? So for me the answer is pretty simple, she is free to express her views, anger or whatever she wants to communicate through this message. And we are nobodies to judge her. The judgement is between the human and their Gods. Don’t take up God’s job and mess up things.


    April 18, 2013 at 2:59 am

    • Salam hqas,

      I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind I interview you about a piece I am currently working on for a Magazine Writing class I’m taking at Harvard Extension School. The piece is about how more Muslim women are covering up despite the rise in hostility against the hijab globally. It would be interesting to hear your point of view to balance the article out.

      If you’re interested please contact me via my e-mail:


      Janan Zaitoun

      April 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

  2. Hi Saadia,

    Thanks for stopping by. You’ve made some very good points. I’ve been to Karachi, lived in the UAE, and am Persian on my father’s side (despite my name, long story). I think the biggest battle in the world now could be the battle of women in Islamic societies to attain full rights. As this happens the world will be far more peaceful.

    Keep writing and blogging!


    Caleb Powell

    April 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

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