Written by Benjamin David and Terri Murray
This week a Muslim girl was captured on camera dancing in Birmingham. Viewed over 1 million times on social media, the Muslim girl, who is seen wearing a hijab during her ‘twerking’, received a barrage of criticism for allegedly “disrespecting” Islam and and dishonouring the Muslim community.
After receiving thousands of negative comments, including death threats, the unnamed Muslim girl apologised for her supposedly defamatory act. One person, so galled by the Muslim girl’s carnal display, commented by saying, “F*****g s**t someone give me her address I will kill her”. Another man seconded: “Stupid b****h needs to be killed”.
Interviewed by the Conservative and always-perfervid Islamic YouTuber Ali Dawah, the Muslim girl’s actions were deemed “really bad” and “inappropriate” – actions which, she was reminded repeatedly, is being gauged by her community, particularly when her actions connote sexuality.
In the “interview”, which at times feels more like an inquisition, Ali Dawah presses the Muslim girl to explain why she would resort to such a salacious dance in public. Acknowledging that she’s an ostensibly legitimate figure of opprobrium in her community, the Muslim girl explains in the interview that, “I was out with my friends, we were going shopping and there were these people playing music, there was one song that a girl wanted to dance with me,” and later adding that her mental health problems often hinder her ability to “think straight”.
Dawah goes on to remind the sobbing girl that Muslims are judging her behaviour and petitions the Muslim girl to apologise for her defamatory behaviour. The Muslim girl accedes, stating: “To all the girls that wear hijab and wear abayah, I’m sorry for disrespecting it,” and “I’ve learnt from my mistake, …. I’m just hurt, I just want everybody to leave it alone and keep everything away. I don’t want it to be how it was and I’m not gonna do anything like again and I’m sorry for disrespecting it and thank you to all of you that helped.”
As the video goes on, and he continues to eyeball the situation, Dawah claims that music was to blame for the girl’s actions. Dawah’s co-host, Musa, in a similarly unctuous posture, responds by claiming, “this is why music is haram [forbidden in Islam]”.
Following her public character assassination, others defended the Muslim girl’s actions. Iranian critic of Sharia Law and proponent of secularism, Maryam Namazie, lambasted those who insisted that the Muslim girl apologise. Maryam said, “Why the hell does she need to say sorry?”.
Indeed, why does the Muslim girl need to apologise? This incident not only shows the extent to which Wahhabism is monopolising Islam, it exemplifies the strength of the Islamic taboo on womens’ public expression of sexuality. Arguably, the whole response to the incident implies the opposite: hyper-sexuality. Lurking underneath the suppression of female sexual agency is the notion that the male sexual appetite is so powerfully huge that nothing short of female “modesty”, public taboos, witch-hunts and confessionals like this one, can remedy the danger it poses to women. The taboo is not on female sexuality as such, but on women’s assumption of sexual agency — the preserve of men.
With the exception of Maryam Namazie and a few other Liberals, the political Right appear to be the loudest voice reproaching those in the Muslim community who deem it necessary to slander and threaten a Muslim girl for her “lewd” dancing in Birmingham. One only need inspect the modest assortment of counter-videos on Youtube and the stream of fervid Facebook and Twitter commentary to see that the loudest bloc vying against the Wahabbists’ Puritanism are those peremptory, political Right commentators who tend to lump all Muslims together under the umbrella of ‘miscreants’ (perhaps forgetting that the girl they mean to defend was herself a British Muslim).
We should not really be surprised that the political right are virtually alone in protesting Salafi-Islamism’s monopoly of public spaces. So enamoured have the Left become of the multicultural “underdog” and so readily do they pander to moral relativists, that those who would have once defended a Muslim woman’s right to dance in public have gone AWOL, even forsaking persecuted individuals threatened with death. Though the victim of this authoritarian Puritanism was herself a Muslim, the Left seem to think that “protecting Muslims” entails embracing Salafi-Wahhabism’s most sexist community standards. The result is that self-described ‘Liberal’ Europeans are not defending the right of Muslims to choose how to live unless that ‘choice’ is consistent with “their own” culture (and a particularly conservative version of it). Rather, the Left are defending a tyranny of the Muslim majority that has allowed Salafi-Wahhabism to grow unchecked, resulting in the extra-judicial enforcement, in allegedly modern Britain, of patriarchal religious laws virtually equivalent to those found in Muslim theocracies.
The Left, kowtowing to a communitarian form of cultural hegemony, have stripped this “Muslim” woman of any individuality, viewing her only as an adjunct of one singular group (among many) to which she belongs – in this case, “her” Muslim community. Not only that, the Left homogeneously conceptualise their own identities as inescapably rooted in a power dynamic that pictures all white Europeans as permanently guilty of historical colonial plunder and privilege, irrespective of their current life histories or complex cultural positioning. The Left will readily brownnose almost any ostensibly persecuted group (minority or otherwise) to assuage their craving for penance.
One would think that even if the Left aren’t able to safeguard the Muslim girl, feminists might. Well, yes and no. New forms of feminism, which increasingly fawn over ‘intersectionality’, have also turned a deaf ear to this victim of slut-shaming and sexual disempowerment. Of course, as Catharine MacKinnon’s own observations attest, what feminism should always be about (and what it should never cut loose) is, amongst other things, the attempt to stand in solidarity with others (both victims and non-victims alike) to overturn the institutions that afford women little control over their own bodies, given that female sexuality is largely controlled and defined by men in patriarchal societies. However, the fashionable re-branded version of pseudo-feminist, “intersectional”-servitude has demoted its original standards to such a degree – pluralism at the expense of principle – that even barefaced examples of female oppression such as the hijab are now paraded as feminist tokens for the sake of “inclusiveness”.
Islam’s overt patriarchal infrastructure, like that of most religions, aims, as Yvonne Aburrow succinctly put it, “to regulate and control the body – especially women’s bodies – because women are constructed as the Other, . . . our bodies and our hair (traditionally hair is a source of magical power) must be controlled, groomed, reduced, covered, suppressed.” So-called “intersectional” pseudo-feminism, or perhaps what can most succinctly be called nu-feminism, in accord with communitarianism, shuns individual victims of community-based sexual inequality. Any critique of this situation is championed by, for the most part, the galling cries of the nationalist-Right who look for validation of their simplistic generalisations about “the Muslim community”. Yet the Left, who are wont to say that no such (homogeneous) “Muslim community” exists, are appallingly inconsistent. They are the first to defend the “community standards” imposed on individual dissidents, having aligned themselves with Salafi-Islamists in the mistaken belief that the latter represent true Islam. While Islamism (a socio-political system which advocates an expansionist Islamic state governed by sharia law) is not definitive of Islam (the faith), the pro-Islamist Left has been credulous in accepting the Islamist conflation of the two. Embracing multiculturalism and moral relativism, the pro-Islamist regressive-Left now regularly bolsters religious conservatism.
The breaking point for the Left and nu-feminism (feminism à la mode) occurred when they abandoned liberalism, a political philosophy or worldview that, as Terri Murray rightly points out, “Is above all concerned with protecting the freedom of individuals from the tyranny of the majority, and avoiding coercion in spheres of activity and thought which are the preserve of the private individual.” Only when the Left and nu-feminism reinstate a commitment to the individual above the majority will we see they resume their place as the appropriate defenders of a Muslim girl who has been unfairly vilified, rather than abettors in her subjugation. Giving primacy to individuals over majorities (and thus protecting individuals against mob rule) is the beauty of liberalism. It functions on the basis of competitive elections and representation, and a set of laws (usually embodied in a constitution or bill of rights) that simultaneously protect individuals’ basic rights.
This innocent Birmingham girl’s tormentors represent fascism with an Islamic face. They abhor ‘the West,’ as Wahhabist ideologues profess. Wahabbist-Salafits revile the very things that many Liberals in the West still like about Liberal Democracies: emancipated women, scientific inquiry, separation of religion from the state, and the right of individuals to pursue their own vision of “the good life”. The Left and nu-feminismare not only servile to Salafi-Islamists, but are aiding and abetting their attenuation of liberalism. As long as they continue reducing individuals to abstractions (in this case “Muslims”), the Left and nu-feminists will, once again, continue to fail to prevent the iniquities that befall the innocent.