Muslim women inhabit a uniquely marginalised space in a world where the existence of rampant Islamophobia both disregards their voices in the wider world and is also used to justify silencing their voices within Muslim communities – by prioritising the issue of anti-Muslim racism over the struggle against patriarchal oppressions.
This reaction is familiar to many Muslim women who speak out, write, or activate in public spaces against the patriarchal oppressions and violence they face. The active policing of women’s voices inside Muslim communities and the prejudice and racism faced by us outside of our communities contributes to creating exceptionally testing conditions for Muslim women survivors of violence, activists, and allies.
The prevalent patriarchal order dictates which forms of violence against Muslims are more urgent and demand activism on our part. Under this order, anti-Muslim racism wins many times over before patriarchal oppressions are even discussed. The system that protects male privilege and gender hierarchies goes into overdrive when the reputation at stake is that of prominent Muslim men, such as clerics.
When Muslim women speak up about this, we are accused of creating theatre. Some people add the helpful reminder that “not all Muslim men” behave like this. I grew up in a majority Muslim country; I know not all Muslim men are sexual predators but I also know that many, many men are – in cultures, communities and countries around the world. So I choose to believe women.