(NSFW) FEMEN Activists Go Topless at Muslim Events

femen-protest

FEMEN is a feminist activist group internationally known for organizing topless protests.  Recently they have protested at an Islamic event in Denmark where Tariq Ramadan, a renowned Islamic scholar was speaking on stage.

Picture this: Tariq Ramadan is on stage speaking with conservative Muslims about Islam and women in niqab jump on stage and strip.

Here’s the video:

Last year, they did similar in another Muslim conference:

 

The Scriptures

The Quran

Islamic scriptures are very strict about attracting sexual attention to women and their bodies.  The following are Quran verses that speak of women’s dress code.  Each verse is given a link to a compilation of Tafsir (exegesis/interpretation)

  • O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.  (Quran 33:59)  (Tafsirs)
  • And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment. And turn to Allah in repentance, all of you, O believers, that you might succeed.  (Quran 24:31)  (Tafsir)

 

The Hadith

Here’s what Prophet Muhammad said on the matter:

  • Narrated Ibn Abbas:  That he heard the Prophet saying, “It is not permissible for a man to be alone with a woman, and no lady should travel except with a Muhram (i.e. her husband or a person whom she cannot marry in any case for ever; e.g. her father, brother, etc.).” Then a man got up and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have enlisted in the army for such-and-such Ghazwa and my wife is proceeding for Hajj.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Go, and perform the Hajj with your wife.”  (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 6, Number 321)
  • Narrated Safiya bint Shaiba:  ‘Aisha used to say: “When (the Verse 24:31): “They should draw their veils over their necks and bosoms,” was revealed, (the ladies) cut their waist sheets at the edges and covered their faces with the cut pieces.”  (Sahih al-Bukhari Book 60 Hadith 282)
  • Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:  Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands.  (Abu Dawud Book 32, Number 4092)
  • Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Allah does not accept the prayer of a woman who has reached puberty unless she wears a veil.  (Abu Dawud Book 2, Number 0641)
  • Narrated Ibn Abbas: That he heard the Prophet saying, “It is not permissible for a man to be alone with a woman, and no lady should travel except with a Muhram (i.e. her husband or a person whom she cannot marry in any case for ever; e.g. her father, brother, etc.).” Then a man got up and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I have enlisted in the army for such-and-such Ghazwa and my wife is proceeding for Hajj.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Go, and perform the Hajj with your wife.”  (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 250)

As you can see there is a great emphasis on attracting less attention and being reserved when it comes to women’s expression in Islam.  They call this “modesty.”

Thoughts

Having grown up as a Muslim, I certainly understand the shock factor in these FEMEN protests.  In your typical Muslim environment, even in the west; there is a degree of gender segregation.  Men and women speak to each other tactfully and taboo topics like sexuality are awkward to discuss openly.

Most women are typically covered.  In some environments a woman who doesn’t wear a headscarf; shows off a little more skin than the others; or wears tighter fitted clothing are frowned upon.  Preachers like Omar Suleiman even address this issue of judging Muslim women while subtly hinting that he shares the same opinion.

The average young Muslim in a western society lives double lives where they date and explore their sexuality in secret because of this intense social taboo enforced by faith.

With all this in mind, can you imagine being a Muslim in these sexually conservative environments and observing topless women jumping on stage?

I found the awkward and shocking reactions of the audience and organizers hilarious.  I have a hard time imagining how shocked and disturbed I would be in a space where a woman showing her hair and arms is taboo and seeing women’s breasts.

For the young Muslims that compartmentalize their lives of dating/watching porn and their Muslim lives, this must have been quite the experience.  Many of these young Muslims may have been sitting near their parents and this happened!

Oh my God can you imagine first generation parents?  Often times first generation Muslim parents don’t provide their children sex education or discuss things like women’s body parts (unless it’s woman and girls speaking.)

The sheer awkwardness of this video is hilarious.  Ask any Muslim/ex-Muslim person you know and they can also discuss how awkward this is from a nuanced perspective.  (Some may not find it funny and plain offensive while others may laugh.)

However….

While I find the confusion hilarious, I don’t condone this behavior.  FEMEN activists have noble intentions of exposing misogyny with no cultural boundaries but their methods lack tact.

Putting an end to the misogyny in the Muslim world requires Muslims to rethink their relationship with Islamic and cultural values.  Those who want liberal and secular reform in the Muslim world needs Muslims on their side.  This requires dialogue with our Muslim friends.  From a Muslim point of view, I think this incident makes them look aggressively disrespectful.  This may also  undermine undermine other feminist movements attempting to reform the values of the Muslim world.  Preachers will now point to this incident and say “this is feminism.  Feminism is Haram.  It’s from Shaytan.”

That’s just my take.

 

 

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