Topless Jihad: Why Femen Is Right

This is the first article that I've seen which gave perspective on Femen at odds with the mass media portrayal. I welcome Femen voices.

Since launching its "topless jihad" protests across Europe and elsewhere on April 4, Femen has stirred up a media maelstrom...

The overall message to Femen has been, in fact, nothing less than "Sit down and shut up." Your skin color and European provenance disqualify you from expressing views on Islam and how Muslim women are treated in the Islamic world.

Yet abuse perpetrated against women in Islam's name lies at the heart of the problem. Only occasionally did the critics note that Femen carried out its most recent mass protest in defense of 19-year-old Amina Tyler, a Tunisian aspirant to Femen who posted, on Femen's Facebook Tunisia page topless photos of herself, with the words, in Arabic, scrawled across her chest, "My Body Belongs to Me and Is Not the Source of Anyone's Honor." Among democratically minded folk, this would not be a radical proposition, if the method of delivery -- Femen's trademark method, involving slogans painted on bare breasts -- certainly is. In any case, Amina suffered mightily for her gesture. A Tunisian Muslim official called for her to be "stoned to death." Her family kidnapped her, beat her, and held her in captivity for three weeks, during which time they drugged her, subjected her to an amateur virginity test, forced her to read the Quran, and took her on involuntary visits to imams. Amina's aunt posted a video online in which she called her niece "mentally ill," "unbalanced," and "psychopathic" for her "shameful act," which had injured her father's "pride as a man." On account of such wounded pride, there was good reason to fear for Amina's life. She was in captivity when Femen activists staged their topless jihad; a key slogan, whether chanted or painted on their bodies, was Free Amina!

Femen was both defending one of its own and upholding a right to freedom of expression (to say nothing of life and liberty) flagrantly violated by Amina's own family and by an angry, largely Muslim, community from which threats against Amina and Shevchenko continue to emanate. [emphasis mine]

It's worth pointing out that Femen's critics, several of whom professed concern for Amina's well-being, did not speak out in Amina's defense before the jihad, but only post-factum and in passing, all the while pummeling the group standing up for her...

... the attempts to disqualify, on the basis of race and origin, Femen activists from expressing their outrage at what Amina suffered -- and against injustices meted out to other Muslim women -- deserve rebuttal. They aim to stifle a debate about human rights we, as people, regardless of race or creed or nationality, sorely need,...

... the prevailing cultural rectitude that puts faith beyond the pale of commonsense review, and (in Amina's case), characterizes as "Islamophobic" criticism of the criminal mistreatment of a young woman for daring to buck her society's norms, or of Femen for attacking the forced wearing of the hijab.

By now it should be clear that with Femen, we are dealing with something new. Femen originated in Ukraine, born of young women who grew up without exposure to the West's culture of political correctness and who have scant respect for it; from their country's Soviet past, they know how deleterious the stifling of free speech can be. Now that they have moved to the West, Femen has courageously broken rules and enlivened the debate over religion's role in our world. Its activists are charting a new route for public discourse about women and religion, and making it an unabashedly universal discourse, venturing into realms where they may be hated, and they may yet pay a high price for this. [emphasis mine]

Tags: Femen

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