The Rise of Islamophobia and the Feminist Debate

High school students in Afghanistan. Picture by Graham Crouch/World Bank
High school students in Afghanistan. Picture by Graham Crouch/World Bank

After September 11 and the outbreak of the Arab spring, and as an effect of today’s wars in places like Afghanistan and Syria, the Muslim population migrating to the Western world has increased. With the increase of Muslim refugees we also have witnessed how parties from the political far right are gaining ground in several Western countries. These parties build their politics on hate against Muslims, where they target different human values depending on culture and religion.

I believe these opinions construct racism and segregation in our societies, where the construction of “us” vs. “them” becomes more common.

This increased populism also shapes the debate concerning women’s rights and feminism. Today we can witness how the far right connects Islam (and especially Muslim men) with the global oppression against women. According to the far right, the oppression against Western women would be solved if Western countries did not have any Muslim immigrants.

Syrian Refugees in Jordan. Photo: World Bank
Syrian Refugees in Jordan. Photo: World Bank

This issue is discussed in the academic article, Muslim women’s new defenders: Women’s rights, nationalism and Islamophobia in contemporary Australia, from University of Technology in Sydney. In this article the author Christina Ho (professor in migration studies) writes that in Western countries today, Muslims have become “the enemy”. The global war on terror and the local anxieties around immigrants “refusal” to assimilate have given rise to Islamophobia. Christina Ho argues that the key part of this Islamophobia is Islam’s alleged oppression of women, where the oppression of Muslim women by Muslim men is used to portray Islam as an evil religion and the enemy of the West. At the same time Muslim men are portrayed as the predators of harassing and sexually assaulting non-Muslim women, which has triggered a nationalistic response throughout the Western world.

I believe that Christina Ho’s analysis of the current situation is correct. On a daily basis it is possible to find articles, party platforms and debate statements where far right politicians portray Islam as she explained. Just to come with some few examples:

  • The English defence league’s propaganda video portrays Muslim men and Islam as the core issue for Britain’s and Europe’s safety. In the video they illustrate how Muslim men rape women and children in the name of Islam.
  • In this article, Top Sweden Democrat: Rape is rooted in Islam, Swedish Television writes how Michael Hess, a high-ranking member of the Swedish far right party, the Swedish Democrats, argued that raping and assaulting women is deeply rooted in Muslim culture.

This debate article Only Muslims can change their society, by Asma Barlas (Professor in Political Science) in The Guardian begins with the statement that the oppression of women is a global phenomenon and a global concern.

…countenancing it in the name of religious or cultural differences just evades the responsibility of trying to do something about the problem.

I fully agree with this statement. Women’s rights is one of the most important issues the world face today.

All around the world, in different countries, cultures and religions, women are oppressed and neglected their rights, it is a problem we should not reduce and make small. The lack of women’s rights its a global problem.

The global oppression against women just has different shapes in different countries, cultures and religions. The far right in the Western world tries to neglect this problem and blame the Muslims as the “only” oppressors. I argue that they don’t see the reality.

To solve this issue we have to see the complexity and not just blame one religion and one culture for the global oppression against women.

I want to make clear that I’m totally aware and totally against the vulnerable situation many Muslim women face today. In many Muslim societies women are discriminated against and neglected their rights, but to blame the whole Muslim world as the only oppressors against women is wrong. I believe that the oppression against women does not exist in just one culture or religion. I believe that the oppression against women exists everywhere.

How do you notice the oppression of women in your society? 

Write in the comments below, or tweet us at @GirlsGlobe.

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Category: Politics    Refugees    Rights
Tagged with: Asma Barlas    Christina Ho    Equality    Europe    feminism    humanrights    Islamophobia    racism

Anna Falgén Enqvist

Anna have a strong passion for feminism and women rights and she believes that women rights is one of the most important issues the world face today, the oppression against women is a global problem we can see in all kind of countries, cultures and religions. Anna is therefore happy to be part of Girls Globe.

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  • echodeuxtrois

    I am a Muslim living in the states, and many not know that I am one because I do not wear hijab, in fact the country where im from majority women do not wear hijab, are well educated and many hold higher position than men. But once asked I will never deny, even it results in insults or physical maim.

    rape is deeply rooted in Islam? that’s a whole lotta bull. what about the craziness of rape in India? Are they Muslims? What about what happened to Amanda Berry, and countless of other women who were kidnapped and bore the children of rapists, were they kidnapped by Muslims?

    Just like other religions, there are villages and places that twists faith for their own good. We hear it time and again on how the one in power, the one in position refuses education especially to women, because they know once the women population is educated, theres no stopping them. they heard of educated Muslim population in other countries, and they are afraid that they will lose power. uneducated women are strong, enduring and faithful servant. time and again they are reminded if they leave, they will have no where to go, and men will feast on their flesh like wolves.
    but educated women is far more stronger, far more enduring and even more faithful Servant, not blindly, not how her society, community taught her to serve, and chose who to serve, even if its herself.

    • Hey @echodeuxtrois! Thank you for your comment! I fully agree with you! I believe that the issue concerning women rights are very complex and men’s violence against women exist in all countries, cultures and religions, it is impossible to just blame one culture and religion.

    • Mariaga G.

      Yes, rape is deeply rooted in Islam. Having slaves is rooted in Islam (Muhammed said it would be better if no one had slaves once… but didn’t make it illegal and had many slaves himself, buying and selling them). Sex slaves were common and desirable. Muhammed had concubines and said men could do whatever they wanted – sexually – to the women that were under their control, like their slaves. Slaves can’t consent by default. Misogyny is also rooted in Islam, saying women have mental/intelectual deficiency.
      That doesn’t mean other ideologies don’t see rape as something “legal”, too; no one said is is “only rooted in Islam”. That also doesn’t mean most Muslims would rape, or that non-Muslims don’t rape. Don’t mix things up.

  • echodeuxtrois

    Reblogged this on The Tension Diaries.

  • Islam has never condoned rape. This is a myth spread by Islamophobes to degrade, smear Muslims/Islam. I have written an article on this


    • Hey Kaleef! Thank you for you comment! And I totally agree with you! The far right spread myths about Islam which is not true!

    • Mariaga G.

      It is in the Quran – you can have sex slaves and do whatever you want to them. Raping females after (or during) wars was something Allah didn’t prohibit.
      Having sex with children is also considered rape right now.

    • Hey hqas! Thank you for your comment! Yes we will never be able to build a future together if we forgot to see the human value in every single on of us! We are all humans with the right to live on this planet, free and with same rights! It doesn’t matter which religion we identify ourself with or from which country we coming from.

  • So true and its very motivating to find aspiring voices and know there are many more of us that think human rights are above all!
    I will follow your work with much interest 🙂

    • Hey hqas! Thank you so much! And it give me so much of energi to continue when I receive this kind of positive respond! You are more then welcome to continue to read my posts here on girls globe! I will write a new post every second week! Do not forget to check out the other bloggers as well! You will for sure find a lot of interesting reading!

      • Yay! Sure, sure. And your also welcome to review my blog postings, whenever you have time and are interested these topics!

  • Is Sweden suffering fro amnesia, it has the highest reported rape cases? And that was the brutal reality even before Muslim started migrating here? Now Europe has started crying out “Islamophbia” at every internal existing problem?I can quote some embarrassing factual cases of so called educated Swedish that were involved in sexual harassment cases in Pakistan too.

  • Pingback: The Oppression of Women Exists Everywhere | Girls' Globe()

  • Zahra

    I am a muslim woman. I cover head to toe. I am not forced to cover, rather i chose covering myself because i want to please god. I am not forced by anyone and it is my choice to wear what i wish. People think we are oppressed and forced to cover ourselves. In fact, covering makes me feel free.That I have a right to be who I am. That I can follow my religon. Please try to understand and remember, Not all terrorists are muslims, but not all muslims are terrorists