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. 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’.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

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