Hundred of thousands of women in America and other countries are protesting against Donald Trump’s presidency. It is refreshing to see women from all walks of life, including many celebrities, standing up against Trump’s abhorrent misogyny and sexism; it is frustrating, however, to see how these actions for women rights is limited to Trump. Women activists have systematically ignored the misogyny against women by Islamists and their supporters around the globe. As a liberal Muslim, I see today’s outrage as selective and biased. Women’s rights are universal values that face threats from many directions, not just from Trump.
For decades, headlines of discrimination against women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have flooded media outlets. The abhorrent news of honor killings, child rape, underage marriage, torture of female prisoners, and forced veiling, even for children, are not unknown to the world. None of these events have triggered global marches.
As a matter of fact, there have been no global marches against non-Western leaders’ misogyny: There were no marches against the Turkish president Erdogan when he said childless women are “deficient and incomplete”, nor against Iran when the chess governing body awarded the world championship to the Islamic republic, forcing non-Muslim female players to wear the veil. When American chess player Nazi Paikidze announced her decision to boycott the competition, a stream of articles published criticism about her decision and her launch of an online petition to challenge the chess federation’s action. Silence was also the response when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, while still in power, has rejected a UN declaration calling for an end to violence against women, claiming that it will lead to the “complete disintegration of society.”
While turning a blind and cowardly eye against the systematic discrimination against Muslim women, Western activists [rightly] went wild when a region in France banned the Islamic swimsuit, the Burkini, and are now protesting against Trump.
It is important to understand that both “Trumpism” and Islamism are regressive political movements that are mutually feeding upon each other. Trump is taking advantage of the rise of militant Islamism to spread fear, hatred and prejudice, while Islamists are using the rise of Trump to justify terrorism and lack of integration. Needless to say, both are equally misogynistic. In fact, many smart suit Western-based Islamists are using Trump’s misogyny as a distraction from their own communities’ discrimination against women.
Liberal Muslim women have had to endure not just discrimination by Islamists, but also the silence on the part of some Western women’s rights advocates regarding their ordeal. When Obama was inaugurated, liberal Muslims assumed (wrongly) that he would stand by them, only to be disappointed later by his reluctance to confront Islamism and his underestimation of its dangerous impacts. Again, with the same distress, liberal Muslims have followed the rise of Trump and his blanket characterizations of all Muslims as terrorists.
Now, liberal Muslims feel alienated again. Those who are marching against Trump are selective liberals. They remember liberalism when a white man like Trump is the culprit, but happily defend the illiberalism of non-white authoritarian regimes and ideologies.
My message to all social activists marching in America is simple: Feel our pain, and stand with our common values. One cannot stand against Trump’s misogyny while condoning or ignoring others’ misogyny as ‘cultural” or “religious.” Such selectivity is what led to the rise of Trump in the first place. Women’s rights are for all, not just for American and other Western women.