Muslim women must not be driven off the net by trolls

My message to these people, if you are reading this, is that you will never silence me.

There are many great things about Twitter. For one, I’ve gotten to interact with people who I would never have been able to otherwise.

The downside, however, is the vile abuse one can be on the receiving end of from trolls. You know the type: nameless, faceless keyboard warriors who resort to name-calling and insults behind the safety of a computer screen.

About a month ago, I experienced my first interaction with trolls. One made a bogus account of me with a bio stating that I like to “drink alcohol, eat pork and sleep around”. I was also described as a “Quilliam stooge”, despite the fact that I don’t work for the Quilliam Foundation. But hey, why allow facts to get in the way?

I did, however, note something sinister and worrying behind the whole thing, aside from the atrocious spelling.

I am the latest in a bunch of women, specifically Muslim women, who have come under attack from a group of misogynist men. Their aim is supposedly to combat Islamophobia yet ironically their appalling behaviour is unIslamic and actually fuels anti-Muslim sentiment.

It’s rather funny how our ‘Muslimness’ is questioned to destroy our credibility. Accuse a Muslim person of drinking alcohol or eating pork and you have instantly ruined their reputation. And if you’re a woman, well, that’s ten times worse. The combination of being an ex-Muslim (which I am not by the way) and a ‘whore’ is lethal.

When Lejla Kuric, a Manchester-based artist, wrote an article on her meeting with Tommy Robinson, she was accused of being ‘Islamophobic‘, despite the fact that she is a Muslim. My theory is because she does not ‘look Muslim’ i.e. she is white and does not wear a headscarf she is an easy target.

Sara Khan, of Inspire, is regularly called a ‘government stooge’ and all the usual stupidity,  including people spreading rumours that she drinks alcohol – she doesn’t, but why should it matter?

She says:

“I’ve been called an ex-Muslim, that I work with or get into bed with zionists and Islamophobes, that I’m creating Islamophobia for addressing gender injustice within Muslim communities etc. None of this surprises me in one sense because I’ve spent 20 years working within Muslim communities and I know the score. I know that if you speak out as a Muslim woman you need a thick skin and you need to be prepared for a big backlash.”

Of course, men, too, come under attack. Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation is constantly hounded, even by moderate Muslims. But when you are a woman, it is easier to be attacked. Men are not labelled as whores who sleep around. That delightful label is reserved for us females alone.

More worrying is if you look through their tweets, they are followed and re-tweeted by even moderate Muslims – they seem to unite against anyone who is ostensibly liberal, even if it means to side with a troll online.

Try and get some support or solidarity from prominent Muslim commentators or writers – forget about it. The only solidarity we seem to receive is from those on the right who ‘hijack’ issues such as the university gender segregation, yet if there was solidarity from those on the left, the right wouldn’t need to ‘hijack’ the debate.

Takes Mohammed Shafique, of the Ramadan Foundation. Despite being told repeatedly of the bogus account, he continues to interact with such troll as they praise him constantly – and they say flattery gets you nowhere.

Iram

Catherine Heseltine of MPAC UK also confronted and began to harass Sara Khan after a troll who goes by the name ‘Barry Winner1’ asked her to intervene . She knew nothing of Sara’s stance on gender segregation at universities, yet felt more inclined to believe the words of a faceless troll on Twitter. Sara resorted to protecting her account for a while, shortly after facing much abuse on her stance against segregation.

Lejla certainly believes that there is a problem with misogyny directed against women online, and it is something that has been highlighted in the media more recently.

She said:

“Muslim women who speak for women rights and against gender inequality within their own community or express political or theological dissent are ‘slut-shamed’ by some Muslim man who do not approve of their opinions. Our sexual morality is questioned and we are deemed ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ as a way of silencing us.”

Like me, she is labelled a “Quilliam whore”, ugly, and other vile insults, especially after she writes an article. Does she receive any assistance or help from anyone or other Muslims? “Sometimes from Muslim women, never from Muslim men, not once,” she says.

My message to these people, if you are reading this, is that you will never silence me. I have an opinion, a mind and a voice and I will be damned if I am going to let cowards hiding behind their computer screens scare and bully me into silence and submission.

As long as there are issues in this country that we need to tackle, I will be there, ready to speak out. And if that means being labelled a whore or stooge, then so be it.

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52 Responses to “Muslim women must not be driven off the net by trolls”

  1. SarahAB

    Excellent article – and that parody account must be the feeblest I have ever seen (in addition to being malicious).

  2. HulaguKhan

    What’s your explanation for this kind of behavior? Surly, those Muslims who harass women believe that they are islamically justified to do so.

  3. swatnan

    As you’ve pointed out, the people giving you most stick are Muslims; and you’ll get no support from them. Change your religion, or become an atheist. I think most people in Britain have lost all patience with Islam, which has set race relations back 30 years. Its gone beyond being a joke. I’ve never known a more tense period in community relations than now.

  4. Imrandma

    It’s disgusting how Muslims are now wrenching democracy away from the Muslim communities right to express themselves. This is a deeply depressing and sad affair. There is no open minded ness amongst them, closed off to science and new thoughts.

  5. Imrandma

    You can’t change your religion. If you do the charge of Apostasy in Islam is death. At the very least your friends and family as well as your community will ostracise you most definitely.

  6. ExMuslim

    While I wouldn’t proselytize, I do like to point out that a size-able number of (esp, young) people in Pakistan have lost all patience with Islam too, and their numbers are increasing. There’s just the small inconvenience of getting killed that prevents most of us from coming out with it openly. I’ve been taken aback by how many of my acquaintances, friends, and even family were either closet atheists or extremely skeptic muslims (and I come from a highly Islamist family). Amongst the elders there is a growing realization that they have lost the argument and it’s only Allah that can now keep their children on the ‘right path’.

  7. Razi

    I commend your bravery in speaking out against the blatant misogyny in the Muslim community. However, you may already know this but it’s worth mentioning. You are facing a battle against the basis of the Islamic creed, What you see is subtly encouraged in conservative Islam, When I say conservative I mean the main branches of sunni Islam, be they salaf/brelvi/deoband these three are the biggest amongst the Muslim community in the UK and I’m sure you are aware.

    I say this even as a former Muslim, sadly, your version of Islam will never be accepted as anything other than bidah/heresy e.g the compulsory wearing of veils, the ability to be present before non-mahrams, wearing what you want etc, you are fighting centuries of traditions, the doors of ijtihad have closed, you can’t fight that, as you will be fighting what could be your core belief, I’m assuming you follow either of the branches I mentioned.

    I know that what I wrote above can be misconstrued as calling you (and other muslim women with similar views to your own) out as ‘not a proper muslim’. That is not my intention and I apologise if it has.

    Keep up the fight though, maybe you can water down Islam to that which is similar to western/modern Christianity. Or better yet discard it completely.

  8. swatnan

    Any Religion that threatens and charges its devotees with ‘apostasy’ is simply not worthy of the name of a religion; it is a disgrace and deserves to be condemned.

  9. Timmy2much

    Well thats a welcome, and unexpected, bit of information.
    If only we could drop the stupid and malicious label of ‘islamaphobia’, which has been used to shut down real debate about islam in the west, we might actually get somewhere.

    I do find it ironic though that ‘islamaphobia’ is being thrown at the moderate mulsims – maybe if this information was made more public people would start to see that those using the term are, and have always been, the problem and not the people it has been thrown at (with few exceptions).

  10. Suada

    The ‘parody’ account made a tweet celebrating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and calling Malala a ‘stooge’ of the United States. Further comment on the character of this circle is unnecessary I think.

    Another fact that makes this a highly distasteful issue, is the degree of personal smearing and ad hominem attacks which these people use. As well as the smears of ‘Islamophobe’ and the misogynistic abuse detailed above, and more (attacks on Lejla’s personal appearance from these people are common), you also have this ‘parody’ account claiming, with no evidence, that Iram Ramzan profits financially from her political views. The nastiness of their manner of debate is, I think, a good indication of the nastiness of the causes they champion.

  11. Richard Sanderson

    Yeah, and that is the problem. That is why religions which have punishments for leaving are simply cults under another name.

  12. Richard Sanderson

    Ring, ring.

    Laurie Penny just called.

    She says this article is Islamophobic and is a Far Right attack from white people on poor, beleaguered Muslims.

    /snark

  13. Noorul

    Iram Ramzen, could you post here your real Twitter link? I’d just like to know what the genuine one is.

  14. Fatima

    I think many people’s comments on this article are a bit pessimistic. You will find there are MANY Muslims who do not agree with backwards thinking just don’t publicly express their views. The problem is the Saudi petro-dollar is propagating the most extreme interpretation of Islam while insisting that all other interpretations are heretical.

  15. SarahAB

    Yes, here is another example of this group’s style of debate.

    https://twitter.com/Bobby35623616/status/416997795275362305

    It seems ironic that they criticise others for falling short of what they see as ideal Muslim conduct and even takfir Muslims, while their own abusive behaviour is itself clearly open to charges of being unislamic.

  16. Atiff Ghafar

    Whilst i agree the blatant name calling and accusation of apostasy are uncalled for and have no basis in debate and people from both sides of the argument should dis-engage from this rather petty and low form of discussion and debate.

    However trying to champion the discourse of “Progressive Islam/Muslim’s” which calls for the changing and re-form of the foundations of the religion be it Shariah Law,,Fiqh, Hadith, Quran etc its a very dangerous and slippery road. Especially after all when one has no sound knowledge of the religion nor has studied the Islamic Sciences. And then to write blogs on such deep rooted issues? It’s like a car mechanic trying to do brain surgery.

    My message to you is no one silencing you out .. But when you begin to speak out align yourselves with likes of Quilliam (who have no grass roots support) and Tommy Robinson, Don’t expect everyone to clap with you. The worrying thing is these people and organisation champion “thought crime”. You just need to look the history and background of these two people to realize from what platforms they are speaking on.

    Your supporters are calling you to change your religion or become an atheist. Water down Islam..a diluted version or better yet leave the religion..

    Also i apologies for anything i have said to you which may have been construed as rude or defamatory. You felt the need to block me on basis of the people i follow.

  17. swatnan

    Surely they are in breach of basic Human Rights and should be taken to Court. Perhaps legal address is the one solution to make them change. 2014 is going to be a decisive crunch year for Islam. I feel the tide is definitely turning against that Religion even amongst us liberal minded observers. Things can definitely not go on as they are.

  18. Dave Roberts

    I think that you are reading too much into this. Like the far right and the far left there are people who have nothing better to do than insult others, you will just have to live with it I am afraid. The real danger is a person like Laurie Penny who is now a spokesperson for the liberal left on Islam.

    Like so many of her kind she has never had a proper job in her life, graduated from somewhere with a useless degree and landed a job writing to a script for outlets like the Guardian. Her latest offering, I’ll dig it out later and give the link, is the worst piece of self aggrandizement and promotion that I have seen for a long time, she is a female Owen Jones in her disconnection with the real world but I suppose that will prove no obstacle to being parachuted into a safe Labour seat sometime in the not too distant distant future.

    Actually the situation isn’t as bad as some think, as with the latest claims from Tell MAMA about the spike in Islamophobic incidents most of it is anonymous and on line. The vast majority of Muslims are not extremists but the problem is as has been pointed out that while very few Muslims are terrorists most terrorists in the world today cite Islam as their authority for their actions.

    Remember tte old Latin motto “Nil Carberundum Illigitimi” which roughly translates as don’t let the bastards grind you down!

  19. Caadfael

    I find it interesting that all this extremism emanates from down south, here in Scotland it seems we have a different “brand” of Muslim …mainly modern and progressive in outlook.

  20. Lejla Kurić

    Yes Atiff, we know, misogynist abuse, threats of violence, smears, false rumours & blatant lies in attempt to destroy someone’s reputation are wrong — unless they are against women you disagree with, in which case you are quite happy to join such circles.
    I have news for you, this is free and democratic country, there are no blasphemy laws here, we are free to write and speak on whatever topic we wish and express any opinions we wish. You do not get to curtail that!

  21. Atiff Ghafar

    Once again i refer you back to my timeline..your always jumping to conclusions ..its not very healthy to have such premeditated thoughts about me…You always seem to think you know what i’m thinking..

    Since when did i become to curtail free speech?? i am suggesting a bit more responsibility and maturity be taken….. .As reminder to you we as humans have a right to think for ourselves..However its sad that the likes of Quilliam, Tommy boy and others have been the champions of “thought crime” and still do to this day

  22. Razi

    You’ve basically confirmed what I wrote in my other comment. As you say reform is not possible and any attempt constitutes to bidah.

    But your comment saying “one has no sound knowledge of the religion nor has studied the Islamic Sciences”, is rather disappointing. Any Muslim or otherwise who comes to a conclusion different from the favourite brand of Islam is accused of what you wrote.

    I’ve had the above levelled against me online, as an apostate. What is the true Islam?, Is it the ahla sunnah wal jammah movement of brelvi/deoband persuasion. If you think so, then the lady who posted this article is pretty much fighting a losing battle.

    “Your supporters are calling you to change your religion or become an atheist. Water down Islam..a diluted version or better yet leave the religion”.

    If one tries to reject or discredit Hadith/Sunnah the Quran transmission itself comes in to disrepute,This reason makes it virtually incapable of being changed, therefore the issues surrounding it become extremely difficult to reform. which come with the large scale practise of any conservative brand of Islam.

  23. Razi

    Forgot to add to last part. In light of what I wrote at the end, she should just go full in and accept it’s rulings or just leave it completely. An agnostic/Atheist approach been the position I’d recommend.

  24. SarahAB

    I don’t think your comment is rude, but it is potentially problematic – it depends what you mean by authentic Islam. If you mean that, in an ideal state, apostates should be killed (for example) then I think such a religion would have to change – or be deemed unacceptable.

  25. TommyO

    Iram, you start with an appreciation for twitter allowing you to communicate, with those who would otherwise be out of reach. Likewise for me, the very act of communicating with a Muslim woman on line, is one I wouldn’t attempt due to cultural ignorance on my part, believing Muslim women are out of bounds to any males let alone a nonbeliever like myself. In other words it would cause trouble for the woman. I support your voice and look forward to hearing more of it.
    When Western women broke down the barriers you now face they said it could never be done. Yet, done it is being, and we are the all better for it.
    Make your mark; One Love :~)) Peace be upon you!

  26. ExMuslimPK

    We could have a lengthy discussion on Islamophobia in the west – what it means, where does it apply, how it’s applied, and when it’s used to stave off any criticism of Islam.

    But as a result of stifling debate on Islam within muslim communities (and other factors, Maajid Nawaz makes SO many good points) we’re seeing an increase in both these [goo.gl/z2H6Ui] and atheists. This is what observers are saying about the Middle East, and it’s equally true of Pakistan.

    Islam desperately needs reform, more for the sake of muslim societies themselves than any ‘imperialistic interests’ of the west. And while feminist muslims and gay muslims (which some would argue are oxymorons) have their own place in that transformation, I believe it is the Ex-Muslims that would really be the catalyst. Yes we are seeing increasing polarization amongst muslims and yes ‘Mo was a pedo’ types don’t exactly help the cause, but the trend is of Islam (as orthodox mullahs interpret it) becoming irrelevant in the public lives of many muslims.

  27. Timmy2much

    The only point I would disagree with is – “But as a result of stifling debate on Islam within muslim communities we’re seeing an increase in both… ”

    Its the ‘within muslim communities’ bit- non muslims are very much part of this conversation too as it is non muslims that have to live with muslims!
    This is especially true when we are talking about muslims in non muslim countries where the muslim community needs to assimilate to the host culture. The host culture has every right to dictate to muslims what is and is not acceptable within the host cultures country.

  28. ExMuslimPK

    Of course you have every right to participate in the debate, after all I’m a non-muslim too.

    What I meant to convey was that the need for such conversations is much more dire in muslim-majority societies. Islamic terrorism, for example, has ended up killing many more muslims than non-muslims.

  29. Timmy2much

    I see – yes I can agree the need being more dire in muslim countries, but I dont think the west is helping the issue by not tackling their own muslim communities.
    We had a great opportunity to create a feedback loop which was positive to change but what we have done is create a feedback loop that is negative.
    We are literaly reinforcing some of the problems in these countries.

  30. ExMuslimPK

    Frankly, I don’t know much about what the west is doing with its muslim communities and how that’s reinforcing problems. But the subtext of your comment that what happens there influences events here is absolutely correct in our highly interconnected world. One can see educated religious kids in Pakistan more inclined to listen to US/UK preachers than our native orthodox mullahs.

    It’s a wonderful thing you have there, freedom of expression and religion. I’m glad voices like these [http://goo.gl/Q94FvT] are being heard. We have similar things going on here too 🙂

  31. OrtegaSeason

    “If one tries to reject or discredit Hadith/Sunnah the Quran transmission itself comes in to disrepute”

    Sunnis have been critisizing hadeeth for centuries. It’s not something modern. Infact you could argue that hadeeth criticism has become less acceptable in modern times. This is because of the financing that Saudi Salafism has received, which is very hadeeth centric.

  32. OrtegaSeason

    “Muslim women must not be driven off the net by trolls”-I don’t know if Iram chose the title but this is slightly ridiculous. I don’t think there’s any prospect of muslim women or even just specifically progressive muslim women being driven off the internet. If you mean that they should be able to express themselves without experiencing bullying, then you’re asking for something that no group gets. Internet bullying is ubiquitous. Even among the online atheist community there’s all kinds of sexist and racist bullying towards its own members. This isn’t something new or unique to “muslim women”.

  33. Suada

    Wow, trying to look tough over twitter. that’s even lower than I thought.

    It’s their typical behavior, to smear Muslims like Lejla Kurić, or Iram Ramzan, or myself, who do not fit into their model of an ‘ideal’ Muslim are not ‘true’ Muslims, or as apostates (which is, as you say, unislamic), or as government stooges, and claim that that dislike of them amounts to dislike of Muslims in general. A similarity is with those German nationalists in the 1920s and 30s, who tried to discredit their left-wing domestic opponents by accusing them of being Jewish, therefore ‘un-German’, or as ‘anti-German’.

  34. Atiff Ghafar

    Hi razi thanks for you comment by the way i am no scholar but from my understanding and what i have learnt from my teachers.

    From my understanding reform is possible just like building a house with bricks and mortar Re-form in Islam has to be within the boundaries of the religion which are set by several factors as mentioned above.

    The Quran to Muslim’s is the final book of Allah delivered to his prophet Muhammad no one can remain Muslim if they don’t believe this or believe the Holy Quran is need of reform..the Hadith holds equal importance..

    So in conclusion and i don’t want to get into a keyboard war with you …reform like as you like but some things cant be changed

  35. Atiff Ghafar

    I wasnt referring to you but anyway … i think in today’s day and age no one has an Islamic Shariah per se so the implementation of such law is not possible and we not under a khalifite.. I believe Muslims should stop the hard power and concentrate on the soft power.

  36. SarahAB

    OK – that answers my question. Very clearly.

  37. Lejla Kurić

    Patronising and hypocritical nonsense:

    “a bit more responsibility and maturity”

    Who are you kidding? I have seen your timeline, you approvingly engage with trolls behind misogynist abuse, threats of violence, smears, false rumours & blatant lies in attempt to destroy Iram’s reputation. Well Atiff I hope that makes you feel ‘manly’ and ‘righteous.’

    Pathetic attempt to draw some sort moral equivalence:

    “people from both sides of the argument should dis-engage from this rather petty and low form of discussion”

    It is NOT debate when one of your twitter pals threatens to “improve” my face, because he didn’t like my article — It is one sided threat of violence. Your comments are dishonest and shameful.

  38. Atiff Ghafar

    Like i mentioned i condemn all sorts of abuse and no one should do that to you. Rather you rant on about it here go and complain to the Police. In case you don’t know we have reasonably fair Police force who will take action.

    As for the people i follow or engage with i have no control over what they tweet and say just like you dont have on your timeline and there nastiness on both sides. Garmon tweet is just one example im sure you know which one i refer to. And there is probably countless others too. And you too engage with trolls so SNAP!!!

    This nastiness like i mentioned must stop on both sides. I think i have made my point and if you feel we need to continue this i suggest more appropriate setting like over a coffee. After all if your happy to sit and talk to criminals like Tommy then I will be no problem. — (Don’t want to get into a keyboard war).

  39. Lejla Kurić

    No I do not engage with with trolls behind misogynist abuse, threats of violence, smears, false rumours & blatant lies in attempt to damage someone reputation — you do that. In fact you befriended them after the abuse started. SNAP

    I met Robinson to hear his reasons for leaving EDL. In my book leaving extremist organisations is positive thing and people should be encouraged to do so.

    I have absolutly no intention of meeting you since you are friendly with people who threaten me.

  40. Abu Faris

    Having had myself, my wife and disabled child “outed” (via photographs culled from Facebook and malicious and threatening commentary) by interweb trolls, it is important to note that the sort of evil twunts who go in for this sort of thing are “equal-opportunity” scum.

  41. Atiff Ghafar

    Like I said if you feel a threat of violence you should contact the police.
    I am friendly with a lot of people and I did befriend them they befriended me by blocking me like yourself.

    The fact that you would rather not engage with a criminal who now thinks he is squeaky clean and not me says alot. He still spits out his hate for Muslims just now he is in a suit rather than stone Island tops.

  42. ThisIsTheEnd

    Online abuse isn’t just confined to muslim women but that doesn’t mean its not worthy subject to be talking about. Unless you’ve got a better subject in mind?

  43. OrtegaSeason

    “Online abuse isn’t just confined to muslim women but that doesn’t mean its not a worthy subject to be talking about.”- If a fuss isn’t made about online abuse of other groups on the website, then that would suggest that it isn’t a worthy subject within the parameters of the content provided here.

  44. ThisIsTheEnd

    I’m sorry I don’t understand what you mean. Could you clarify?

  45. OrtegaSeason

    Looking around this website it doesn’t appear that internet bullying against specific groups is a big concern in terms of the articles posted. What I mean is, why should this be the exception?

  46. ThisIsTheEnd

    Why shouldn’t it be the exception?

  47. tamimisledus

    Double standards from you then! I don’t see any sign of you leaving islam, the most evil extremist ideology that came from the mind of man.

  48. tamimisledus

    Here is another answer of which you may be entirely ignorant, from the 57 OIC countries. All human rights (that is society) must be subject to sharia as revealed in the koran.

  49. Suada

    Haha fuck off back to the Commentator where you belong.

  50. tamimisledus

    We should give moral support for the very brave people in Pakistan who are apostasing from islam, showing courage which I suspect very few of us possess. But you really should care about what the west is doing with its muslim communities. The simple reason which, as an ex-muslim you would know, is that islam encourages all muslims to use any method in order spread its ideology throughout the world. That is an ideology which finds significant expression in Pakistan, an expression which could so readily be imposed on the west.
    You may think that we have freedom of expression, but islam throughout the world, and in the UK, is making significant inroads in suppressing that freedom of expression. Did you know that in some countries in the west the expression of the “true” beliefs of islam is a criminal offence if that expression, even though accurate, brings islam into disrepute.
    And one final point, we must not take too much comfort from a very small number of ex-muslims (hard won though that may be). We need to be on constant guard against the huge majority of muslims who are succeeding in having enforced on us more and more of the practices of islam.

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