Being a Muslim woman is a fun experience. People are quick to pass judgement on my character. Just one look at the scarf I wrap around my head is enough to convince them that I am an oppressed and docile creature who must be saved. Everyone loves advocating on my behalf, often without my consent.
As a Muslim, I often find myself excluded from most activist circles. I have been told I can’t be a socialist if I follow an organised religion. I am frequently ignored or harassed by most LGBTQ activists, who assume my religious beliefs automatically make me a bigot. Even feminists have told me that my decision to wear a hijab is akin to supporting misogyny.
I have gotten used to this. I have gotten used to being shunned away, even by those who claim to champion the rights of the oppressed and fight against intolerance.
I remember the day I learned the difference between “white” feminism and intersectional feminism. Relieved to finally find a movement where I was accepted, I quickly began calling myself an intersectional feminist…but a part of me knew that a united movement against the white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy sounded too good to be true, especially in our hostile Islamophobic society.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that I was unwelcome, even in spaces where people’s multiple marginalized identities were supposedly acknowledged and respected. I have watched the rise of several Islamophobic activists. They always use the same excuses to justify their hatred. According to them, the Islamic faith is a threat to women and the LGBTQ community. For this reason, they reserve the right to spew anti-Islamic rhetoric, even if it means ignoring the voices of hundreds of Muslim activists such as myself.
By speaking out for us, these activists cause more harm than good.
When Muslims are the only religious group who’ve seen a rise in hate crimes in Canada, when the New York Times portrays us more negatively than cancer, when countless Islamophobic books, movies, TV series and songs are released, when anti-Muslim bias has been around since before 9/11 and has taken countless lives, and when it has helped many people become billionaires, Islamophobia is neither radical nor revolutionary. It promotes a system that exists and thrives on our oppression. It only helps uphold white supremacy.
If people are legitimately concerned with the safety of female and LGBTQ Muslims, they must understand the only way they can support us is by hearing us out. No one understands our unique beliefs and struggles better than us. We are the only ones who have the power and the expertise to make a real change in our community, so stop excluding us from your activism. It’s meaningless without us.