I argue that likewise, feminism has been hijacked by middle class muslims. If my white privileges make me unable to understand the struggle, and show solidarity with the struggle, of muslim women of colour, the same is true in the opposite direction. If white feminists look down on muslim women who try to become equal within their own cultural setting and belief frame, the same is true of muslim women who claim that their struggle for equality within the belief frame is of higher value, as here. Every woman who claims that gender segregation is her right, not a means of oppression, fights for a world where women are considered as OTHERS, a world where my right to walk side by side with men, pray side by side with men is trampled. Every woman who claims her RIGHT to be secluded in her husband’s home and says this is equality, is hijacking the concept and arming patriarchal men who want to say I am an unnatural woman for wanting to work. Every woman who claims the veil is her right and a means to be equal, is giving weapons to men who claim that women are the OTHERS and must assume responsibility towards the sexuality and morals of men and must behave and dress differently because she is the OTHER. Every woman who claims that a difference in biology should also mean a difference in society is claiming that racism and apartheid is intrinsically right. So the sisters in the global south who are claiming women’s OTHERNESS is a right are contributing to the on going subjugation of all women. In this article, white women are called to respect the cultural frame works of the global south. We are asked to respect people and not come and project. So why not call for muslim middle class women to respect our cultural frame work and not come and project? There are plenty of well educated, middle class muslimahs who are not individually oppressed, but have a choice. Why should not they, when they come to my space, show solidarity with my struggle within my cultural sphere but in stead scorn the struggle for equality that I have to endure? No – to all muslimahs in the West: If you come to my space, respect me, do not come and project!
This is the transcript of a speech given by Myriam Francois-Cerrah in an Oxford Union debate on 12 Feburary. She was speaking in favour of the successful motion “This House believes that feminism has been hijacked by white middle class women”, alongside Ava Vidal and Linda Bellos OBE. In opposition: Inna Schevchenko from FEMEN, Michael Kaufman and Natalie Bennett (Green Party).
Ladies and Gentleman, it is a pleasure to be here with you this evening.
I know, I know – the apparent irony of my being a white middle class woman who believes feminism has been hijacked by white middle class women will, I’m certain, not be lost on you.
But – it is in many ways a vindication of my case.
After all, I am a minority within my own community – unrepresentative of Muslim women either here or in the global south, in terms of my either socio-economic profile…
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