On 4 April 2013, FEMEN, the secular “sextremist” Ukranian feminist group known for staging topless protests, declared an “International Topless Jihad Day” in support of Amina Tyler, the Tunisian Femen Activist who sparked controversy when she posted online topless pictures of herself with the words “F*** your morals” and “My body belongs to me and is not the source of anyone’s honour”, written on her body.
F*** your morals
Why exactly should our morals be trashed? Do Femen believe that it is bad to follow morals, or do they believe that it is bad to follow our morals? If they believe that it is only bad to follow our morals, then what criteria did they use to decide what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’? And if Femen do have a particular criteria to decide what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’, by what right do they impose this upon others who do not subscribe to their criteria? Is this not bigotry, or a form of fascism? Yet Femen impose their criteria with confidence – not because they are a radical fringe group, but because their worldview and method is commonly shared in the West, even if their style is not.
It is individualism that forms the backbone of feminism – the idea that a human being (in this case women) should be delivered from any encumbrance on their autonomy. Feminists imagine that women should reach a state of maximum autonomy (and minimum accountability), so that they might realise their “true identity” – an identity that was previously hampered by the influence of men and the cultures imposed by men. According to feminists, the only acceptable influence is a woman’s own influence; the only relevant interest is her own interest.
“Feminism’s agenda is basic: … It asks that women be free to define themselves — instead of having their identity defined for them, time and again, by their culture and their men.” (Susan Faludi, Feminist Journalist)
At the belly of the beast, feminists are committing precisely the same crimes that they complain of. Whilst claiming to “free” women from having their identity defined for them by their culture and their men, feminists are simply filling the gap and demanding that women have their identity defined for them by other women instead – specifically, by feminists.
Ignoring the injustice that their gender sectarianism has perpetuated within their own cultures, feminists insist, with straight faces, on exporting their failed ideology to other cultures to “free” yet more women. And on 4 April, FEMEN tried to do just that. Rather than engage with the group they wanted to “free” by using intellectual critique and challenge, Femen put the stark into stark raving mad when they declared an “International Topless Jihad Day” and decided to alienate and offend the group instead.
In a manner befitting the far-right, and in lieu of intelligent conversation, Femen deployed racist caricatures of Muslim men, confirming their extreme secular belief that visible Muslims (apparently identifiable by beards and turbans) should by default be considered as dangerous people; a visible Muslim is a bad Muslim, even when confined to the private act of prayer. This campaign of bigotry serves only to perpetuate the Islamophobic pastime of pushing Muslim-looking people onto train tracks, burning mosques and tearing headscarves off of Muslim women in the streets.
Femen even made patronising retorts to Muslim women, making them out to be either too weak or too blind to see the ‘good’ lie that Femen can offer.
“through all history of humanity, all slaves deny that they are slaves. … They say they [Muslim women] are against Femen, but we still say we are here for them. They write on their posters that they don’t need liberation but in their eyes it’s written ‘help me.’” (Inna Shevchenko, Leader of Femen)
Femen are not an aberration of the Western mindset, they are merely another iteration of it. There is a long history of Westerners arrogantly condemning other cultures as being “savage” and worthy of destruction, and there is a shameful record of Westerners imposing their views onto these others, to serious detriment, even if their victims possessed more noble ideals and practices. For example, take Lord Cromer, a British leader in Egypt, who accused the Egyptians of degrading women through veiling and seclusion, whilst he simultaneously worked to end the pre-existing Egyptian practice of training women to be doctors.
To the regret of their comrade Amina Tyler, Femen also set flames to the most sacred statement to Muslim men and women, the testimony of faith. One may ask why the belief in one God is even relevant, let alone offensive, to gender politics? For feminists, it is that if humans are God’s servants, then women, too, are God’s servants – and if women are God’s servants, then there can be no ultimate “liberation” for women.
Femen fully embodies the main thrust of feminist ideology: that all knowledge is subjective, biased, and constructed (except feminist knowledge, of course); that a belief in God will only be tolerated as long as it does not impinge on the idea of individual autonomy, or otherwise interfere with feminist discourse. For feminists, knowledge must be secular, therefore liberation must be secular. This is why Femen openly claim that religion is one of the principle oppressions of women. For Femen, Muslim women should not have their freedom impinged upon by God (whose knowledge, according to feminists, must also be gender-biased!). Rather, their “freedom” should be defined by secular atheist feminists who are not just protesting against alleged “patriarchal” aspects of Islam, but against Islam itself.
Attacking religious-based morals is not exclusive to feminism. Feminism’s intolerance and methodology is intrinsic to its parent ideology of liberalism (i.e. political individualism). Secularists, together with feminists, tirelessly advocate materialistic morals instead.
“It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been “hijacked” by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran …” (Sam Harris, The End of Faith)
Unlike feminism, the vision of life prescribed by Islam is not one of selfish individualism. There is a wise man’s tale which says that heaven and hell are identical – people are sat around a table facing each other, with bowls of delicious food – but their elbows do not bend. In hell, people are always hungry but in heaven people are happy and content. Why? It is because, in heaven, people feed each other. Whereas in hell, they are so selfish, they only want to feed themselves. Similarly, Islam recognises that an individual is born as a dependant – he neither creates himself, nor names himself, nor weans himself, nor raises himself, nor educates himself. However, it also observes that whilst an individual might be a product of the society he lives in, he also has the ability to reform the society he lives in. Unlike feminism, where there is no duty owed to anybody but yourself, Muslims know that they have rights and duties to one another; they are accountable for all of their choices – and they are accountable to God.
Intellectual challenge or intimidation and harassment?
“There is no such thing as “Islamophobia”. This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia.” – Sam Harris
Was the protest by Femen about intellectually challenging the Islamic way of life, or was it about the intimidation and harassment of a community that dares to live differently to a secularised society? If Femen were protesting as part of an intellectual challenge, it is a shame that Femen were too busy getting (un)dressed for their protest to actually study Islam and come up with any intellectual criticisms worth engaging with (click here for Femen leader, Inna Shevchenko’s clumsy retort to Muslim women, including why five wives is bad). The reality is that Femen cannot pose serious contention because they know as much about Islam as the English Defence League, or Richard Dawkins (who recently admitted that he has never even read the Qur’an).
Contrary to popular belief, Islam actually invites intellectual challenge, but rejects abject insults and harassment. Had Femen produced a list of intellectual grievances to attempt to engage with the Muslim community, rather than dictate to Muslim women that they are oppressed and in denial, it might have led to greater understanding. However, Femen chose the “mature” approach of staging racist parodies of Muslim men, in lieu of intelligent conversation. Given that Femen openly cite “religion” as a general enemy, and in the absence of even a modicum of intellectual dialogue, Femen’s protest can only be classed as Islamophobic, their type of protest befitting of far-right bigots.
It seems that Muslims, specifically Muslim women, should “liberate” themselves by forgoing their own choices to submit to God, and submit to the diktats of feminists instead. Otherwise, they should expect to be harassed, insulted and intimidated until they pay obeisance to the values of Western culture and society. In the end Muslim women should realise that, if they do not choose the feminist understanding of freedom, they will be compelled to be free.
“To the end, therefore, that the social compact should not prove an empty form, it tacitly includes this engagement, which only can enforce the rest, viz. that whosoever refuses to pay obedience to the general will, shall be liable to be compelled to it by the force of the whole body. And this is in effect nothing more, than that they may be compelled to be free …” – Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract