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Over 30,000 Muslim women school Cameron on submissiveness

26th Feb 2016
Over 30,000 Muslim women school Cameron on submissiveness

Over 30,000 Muslim women of all ages and from all walks of life took to slam PM, David Cameron, for suggesting that they are “traditionally submissive”

(Photo: Twitter)

Nadine Osman

Over 30,000 Muslim women of all ages and from all walks of life took to Twitter last month to slam Prime Minister, David Cameron, for suggesting that they are “traditionally submissive”. They did so in the most imaginable British way, sarcasm.

Cameron is said to have argued in private that Muslim men succumb to radicalisation because their mothers have a subordinate role within their communities to counter the influence of the extremists.

And then along came Dr Sukaina Hirji, a GP, who on January 23, used her Facebook page to call for a “twitter storm”. The mum of three said it was her “hurt and offence” to Cameron’s comments regarding Muslim women that led her to start a social media campaign.

“He suggested that up to 22% of Muslim women are unable to speak English, a figure which I believe to be not entirely accurate”, she told The Muslim News.

She added the Prime Minister astonishingly linked “very complex issues including Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage and radicalisation are challenges that are not exclusive to Muslims, and certainly not Islamic practices. Unfortunately, in a climate of increasing Islamophobia his comments have done little to challenge the negative stereotypes and discrimination faced by Muslims, particularly Muslim women.”

The campaign picked momentum when author and activist Shelina Janmohamed urged her followers use the hashtag #traditionallysubmissive to counter the idea that Muslim women are passive.

As twitter became inundated with images of Muslim women engaged in archery, martial arts, TV and radio presenting, or publicizing academic and professional achievements from multiple degrees to being teachers of English, the hashtag quickly started to trend in Canada and the US.

Janmohamed tweeted a photo of her presenting on radio which she captioned, “Hey look! Here’s me on @BBCRadio4 voicing my own opinion. By myself. On my own. In English #TraditionallySubmissive”.
Janmohamed said she was frustrated with Cameron’s “clumsy and lazy characterisation of the ‘Muslim women problem’ stitched together ideas of Muslim women as segregated from society and responsible for extremism, and led to the all-too-familiar headlines casting Muslim women as isolated, illiterate and oppressed.”

She added that although Cameron “admitted that there was no causal connection between not speaking English and extremism, the damage is done. The misleading portrayal of Muslim women undoubtedly exacerbates an increasingly hostile environment.”

The focus for many who took part in promoting the hashtag was languages, with many speaking five or more. Fiza Aslam, a mother-of-three and grandmother of ten who has worked in the NHS for 22 years, tweeted: “Muslim women are not a problem that need solving” adding that she’s fluent in “five languages and English.”

While blogger Aasiya Versi was among those posting her riposte: “I speak four languages, how many do you speak?” she asked Cameron above an image of herself holding a piece of paper that listed her achievements as speaking Gujrati, Urdu, Kiswahili and English, scuba diving and re-reading the Harry Potter books every year.

English teacher @zay_nab110, wrote: “Submissive is most definitely not the word I’d choose @David_Cameron” before saying that she has taught “hundreds” of British schoolchildren and asking “Should I learn English too?”

Pharmacist Fatima Ali pointed out her husband said she could “talk for England” while Ensan Layaat listed her achievements as learning six languages and working on her second masters degree.

A group of young women posted by @sundaycircles was accompanied by the caption: “Our youth group hiked 20km along the Jurassic Coast to raise over 10k for charity. #traditionallysubmissive.”

Ruwayda Mustafah, who described herself as a British and Kurdish blogger, posted a picture of herself graduating “as a traditionally submissive Muslim woman.”

Some Muslim men also took to twitter to support the campaign. Sadiq Damani posted his mother was “fluent in three languages’ including English and is a finance manager for a global firm.”

And @Madz_Raza posted photos of her scuba diving and bungee jumping with the caption: “Do I look submissive to you?”

Dr Hirji praised the “phenomena” feedback which included support from one of the bestselling authors of all time, JK Rowling, politicians Humza Yousaf MSP, Naz Shah MP, as well as journalists Mehdi Hasan and Yvonne Ridley.

She also highlighted the positive “response from a lot of non-Muslims”.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of work that needs to be done to unravel the negativity associated with Islam, Muslims and Muslim women. This will only happen when the Government is ready to engage the mainstream Muslim community and the organisations that represent us with a sincere, respectful and dignified outlook.”

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