FEMEN Topless Jihad: Who's Got Feminism Right, FEMEN Or Muslim Women?

Muslim women are speaking out in retaliation to an international "Topless Jihad Day" staged by feminist protest Ukranian group FEMEN. Members of FEMEN held topless demonstrations near Tunisian embassies and mosques around the world on April 4.  "We’re free, we’re naked, it’s our right, it’s our body, it’s our rules, and nobody can use religion, and some other holy things, to abuse women, to oppress them," a FEMEN protester said. "And we’ll fight against them. And our boobs will be stronger than their stones."

The cause for protest was a direct result of Tunisian student and FEMEN member Amina Tyler getting in trouble with extremist forces in the country for posting topless photos on Facebook in mid-March. 

In Arabic, Tyler had written across her chest, "My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor." In another photo, she had written "F*ck your morals." Islamic preacher and extremist Adel Ami said that Tyler should be given between 80 and 100 lashes as well as stoned to death. FEMEN’s Tunisia website was hacked by extremists and replaced with messages from the Qur’an. Tyler was admitted to a psychiatric ward as a result of her actions.

However, a Facebook group started by Muslim women are viewing the actions taken by FEMEN to defend Tyler as an attack to Muslim women as a whole — #MUSLIMAHPRIDE is their hashtag and their purpose is to disenfranchise what they describe as Western imperialism. It's a downright battle of feminist sensibilities. 


Their argument suggests that some feminists are utilizing Western thinking to enforce their idea of "freedom" for Muslim women as well as inadvertently framing the religion of Islam in poor lighting. Taking phrasing from the quote used earlier "nobody can use religion, and some other holy things, to abuse women, to oppress them" also suggests that it is Islam, the religion, in charge or abuse and oppression. In reality, it is the individuals who practice the religion and use it as a sphere of influence to wield dictator-like power that play the role of problematic element. As far as freedom is concerned, some Muslim women clearly did not appreciate FEMEN's take on liberation, considering that modesty for men and women is a moral pillar in Islamic modesty. 

Protests for those who participated on Muslimah Pride Day on social media were varied, from both veiled and un-veiled women alike, but there was solidarity to be found in their central message it's possible to be both feminist and clothed.


By the same token, there has been commentary circulating on social media that nudity somehow devalues a woman.



What needs to happen here is a recognition that FEMEN's approach to protest amounted to criticizing an entire religion and culture, and it was not the best platform to utilize. Case in point, to protest half nude outside a mosque a religious institution is highly disrespectful. At the same token, to claim that feminists who choose to speak for themselves through bodily expression as "doing feminism wrong" denounces the ability of feminists to express their beliefs through the medium they feel is best applicable.

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Zainab Akande

Born and raised in New York City, Zainab is a University of Delaware alum, currently working on obtaining her M.A. in journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York. http://zainabakande.com/

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