Why I, As a Muslim Woman, Don't Support FEMEN

The FEMEN movement has been gaining momentum all across the globe, with April 4 being declared the official “International Topless Jihad Day.” In response, however, Muslim women — both, those who wear hijabs and those who do not — launched an online campaign called “Muslimah Pride Day” to show that contrary to what many non-Muslim women are claiming, they aren’t being oppressed by Islam but instead, are offended by FEMEN using them to propel their own Western-liberal agenda. And as a young Muslim woman growing up in the United States, I fully agree with latter group. By making it seem like the hijab is a symbol of oppression, FEMEN isn’t giving the millions of Muslim women around the globe who choose to cover their heads and their body’s freedom. Instead, it is stigmatizing them for making their own choice and their own decision regarding what to wear.

While FEMEN’s intentions are good and admirable — granting the freedom of choice to all women — the way they have gone about it has been completely wrong and misconstrued. In an effort to afford women choice, they’ve made it seem like all women who wear the hijab are oppressed and that simply is not the case. Rather than singling out governments who wrongfully enforce modest dress codes and hijabs as they should have, they have made it seem like this is a global problem and any woman who chooses to cover her head or her body isn’t actually doing it by choice, but is being forced to. Moreover, in many ways, they have ridiculed the millions of women who do wear hijabs and cover their bodies out of choice by making it seem like they’re too naïve to know any better.

I am not too naïve to know any better. But I also don’t wear a hijab. I do, however, cover my arms to my wrists and my legs to my ankles — and yes, I dress this way in the summer too and when I go down the shore. I don’t do this because I am oppressed or because my family or my religion forces me too — in fact, wearing full sleeves and pants puts me in the minority in my family. Not everyone follows the same dress code, and they shouldn’t have to unless they feel that they want to. I do it because it is what I feel comfortable in and what I feel most in my element in. Similarly, I have cousins who wear the hijab solely out of their own choice. Their mother’s don’t cover their head, nor does my grandmother. But upon reading the Quran and other religious texts, they made the decision to wear the hijab on their own. And neither my cousins nor I need FEMEN to fuel their savior complex by “liberating” us.

A group of student activists in Birmingham, UK made this abundantly clear as well on Friday, saying that "Femen does not represent a large number of Muslim women although they claim they want to 'free' us from our religion. They argue for liberation and speak for us but do it in the wrong way … For them, the more you strip the more of a feminist you are — that's Western feminist ideology. That's not liberation for us, but that doesn't make us anti-feminist."

"Femen is essentially saying that Western feminism knows best for women all over the world … We see Islam as a form of empowerment and a sense of freedom, so we don't need Femen to speak for us. They have stolen our voice,” she added.

Muslim women also took to Twitter to further voice their opinion — and the message was clear. Femen does not represent us. 


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Areej Elahi-Siddiqui

A Pakistani-American undergraduate student at the Seton Hall's School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She enjoys watching inordinate amounts of television, reading far too many books and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

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