Femen is a Western feminist organization whose agenda is to liberate Muslim women from patriarchy. They provocatively parade around naked with their breasts showing tattooed pseudo-Islamic phrases, like ‘Topless Jihad,’ on their bodies in mockery of Muslim principles. When Muslim women took a stand against their claim that Islam oppresses them, femen insisted that Muslim women are actually oppressed and that slaves have a long history of denying their enslavement. Many have attempted to say Femen is simply a fringe organization among feminist; unfortunately Western feminism has a long and shameful history of racist and orientalist behavior.
While many modern feminists consider ‘Femen’ to be a fringe organization, many mainstream feminist organization – although not displaying the bizzare antics of Femen – share the beliefs that Abrahamic religion in general, including Islam, is patriarchal and oppressive to women.
Yet, Yvonne Ridley, a white female journalist who was captured by the Taliban, decided to study the Qu’ran to look for motivation behind Taliban actions. She converted to Islam and has referred to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and the Qu’ran as a manga carta for women.
Despite never actually reading the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, Femen continues to criticize Islam as a source for oppressing women:
“Sisters, we don’t care how many times your men are praying, but we care a lot what do they do in between. We care a lot about violence and aggression, we care a lot when your fathers, brothers and husbands are raping and killing, when they call to stone your sisters, we care a lot when they burn embassies etc., and all that for Allah!”
It is clear that Inna Shevchenko has done very little to no research on Islam when reaching out to “muslim sisters,” something that could perhaps help her in her ‘cause.’ In Pre-Islamic Arabia, when rape went completely unpunished as Muhammad took control of Mecca, he instituted capitol punishment for such an offense. Killing outside of self-defense is also forbidden in the Qu’ran. Yet, this is the sort of Islamophobia that permeates the secular feminist movement. When a man who claims to be Muslim rapes a woman, for some strange reason Islam is to blame – despite the fact that rape is not allowed in Islam. But when a man who claims to be Christian rapes a woman, hardly any blame is placed on his religion.
It is also unclear why Muslim opposition to U.S embassies in their land is tied to oppressing women. Unfortunately, due to America’s foreign policy, many Muslim nations are hostile to signs of Western or U.S dominance. This has absolutely nothing to do with sexism on the part of the Muslim world. Is Inna’s argument somehow that these embassies are needed to liberate “Muslim Women?”
In all honesty, Inna Sohevchenko, the leader of Femen, does not seem to be well-read or intelligent at all with regards to Islam. If Inna’s claim is that Islam oppresses, it would benefit her greatly to actually study the religion and not get her perception of Islam based upon Fox News narratives. Also, if Islam does indeed oppress women, it should be relatively easy for Femen to meet the following challenge:
Name a single historical figure that has effectively elevated the social status of women in their respective society as Muhammad did for the women of Arabia.
Concerning Muhammad’s devotion to Women’s Rights one author states:
“The right to vote, to inheritance, education, a role in politics and civic society were controversial and groundbreaking ideas that Muhammad promoted for women in a seventh century society that regarded them as mere possessions. Considering women in Britain received the right to vote, inherit and own property thirteen centuries later, Muhammad’s campaigns were both radical and revolutionary.”
Muhammad’s devotion to women’s rights is something that is acknowledged even by secular historians. This is a basic fact of history, but the idea that Muhammad was an emancipator of women may come as a shock to many feminist like Inna. We live in a world where slander and misinformation about the Prophet Muhammad runs rampant throughout the media.
When we look at the truly oppressive condition of women in Pre-Islamic Arabia, and look at the timeframe at which Muhammad successfully overturned these various rituals and customs and secured various rights for women, we can conclusively say that no one accomplished what this man accomplished. No one has effectively waged a revolution to emancipate women as Muhammad did for the women of Arabia. Not bell hooks, not Susan B. Anthony, and certainly not Inna Shevchenko.
Muhammad & Female Infanticide
Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam, was born into an oppressive patriarchal environment and decided to combat non-imaginary patriarchal practices in his society unlike Inna. One of these patriarchal practices was female infanticide; in his society it was common practice to bury some female offspring alive in the ground to kill them. This was because females were not valued at all in society and people desired to have a son. Even in India and China today, female infanticide that Muhammad ridded in his society is quite common. Instead of running around naked seeking to challenge the imaginary oppression of women under Islam, perhaps Inna Shevchenko could challenge female infanticide in India and China like Muhammad did in Arabia.
But, of course, she won’t do this. Inna Shevchenko’s point of attention continues to be the white woman’s burden of saving Muslim women from their “patriarchal religion.” However, the holy-book of this “patriarchal religion” explicitly outlawed this patriarchal practice 1400 years ago. Not only did the holy book that Muhammad brought outlaw this practice, but he went from being a persecuted member of his society to conquering this patriarchal society and outlawing female infanticide within a span of 20 years. 
The fact is Muhammad secured basic property, inheritance, and social rights for women long before the secular west.Muhammad Qutb, writes:
“She wants economic independence and the right to participate in social life directly. Well, Islam was the first religion that gave her this right:
She wants the right to education? Islam not only recognizes it but makes the acquisition of it obligatory on her as well.
Does she want the right not to be given in marriage without her permission? Islam has given her this right as well as the right to arrange her own marriage….
Also does she want the right-to go and work outside? Islam recognizes this right of her too.
Or does she seek the freedom to indulge in base, degrading and humiliating sybaritic? Well Islam cannot grant this to her as it does not also allow men to degrade themselves by indulging in such depravities.”
So Muslim women were the first to have the right to property, education, and inheritance but what Muslim women do not have the right to do is behave in a degrading manner like the women of Femen.
The Prophet Muhammad, once said “The best of you are those who behave well with their wives and I am best of you in behaving well with my wives.”
Of course, to Femen the fact that Muhammad established ethical codes to treat their wives is of no significance. Indeed, according to them the entire sacred institution of marriage is patriarchal. The idea of “adultery’ is silly and marriage is an unnecessary restriction- women should have the right to sleep with as many people as they please.
Muhammad’s securing of Female Education
“Seeking knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim, male and female.”—The Prophet Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad openly encouraged that males and females pursue education. Ayesha became a renowned scholar in early Islamic society. Due to the Prophet Muhammad’s emphasis on education for women—a remarkable Muslim woman named Nana Asma rose to power in the Sokoto Caliphate in modern day Nigeria. She emphasized the education of women and leadership positions for women, drawing upon the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad. She oversaw universities dedicated to teaching women at a time women in the secular worlds were barred from this opportunity, and she was herself a scholar who spoke and wrote prolifically in multiple languages. She implemented so many reforms that elevated the social status of women that many feminists have attempted to co-opt her legacy and label her a ‘feminist.’ Yet Nana Asma’s work drew upon the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, not feminism, and her story indicates conclusively that Islam encouraged and welcomed education for women.
Muhammad’s securing of Divorce Rights and Marriage Rights for Women
Muhammad was born into a 7th century Arabian environment where women had no say so in divorce or marriage. When a woman’s husband died, she was forced to marry a son that the man obtained through another marriage. If she refused, then she was exiled and forced to go out into the desert to fend for herself. After a year, she could return – but only after a barbaric practice wherein camel feces was splattered on her. After obtaining control of Medina and Mecca, Muhammad put an end to such bizarre rituals and gave women a full say so in marriage and divorce. In fact, one of the unique feats of Islamic marriages in comparison to secular Western marriages is that women keep their last name and are not obligated to take the last name of their husband. Also, Muhammad was known to encourage divorces for women who were victims of domestic abuse and discouraged women from marrying men who were known to be physically abusive towards women. Although this may seem normal in today’s society, and one may know many people who have spoken out against abusive relationships—Muhammad of 1400 years ago was born in a society when violence against women was the norm—and yet he was able to reverse this mindset.
Muhammad & the First Intersectional Approach in History
The early feminist movement has been criticized for their racism and exclusive focus on the needs of white women while ignoring black women. Because of this, this gave rise to “Black Feminism” which puts emphasis on race, class, and sex based analysis.
Muhammad’s revolution against the misogyny of Meccan society had no such problems with racism and constituted arguably “the first intersectional approach” in history. Muhammad has a good relationship with his foster mother Umm Ayman – the black woman who raised him and who Muhammad guaranteed paradise. Bilal, a black former slave owned by Arab Pagans, was freed by Muhammad and appointed to the position of Muezzin. Usama Zayd was a former black slave who Muhammad adopted as his son and eventually appointed to the position of general. As stated earlier, Nana Asma was an example of a black female scholar who drew upon the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad to advocate women’s rights in Nigeria. The point is that Islam ensured racial justice unlike the early feminist movement; also, Muhammad was a champion for poor people in his society because he implemented Zakat which took a percentage of the money of the rich and redistributed it to the poor. Additionally, he guaranteed every citizen in Medina the basics of food, clothing and shelter. Concerning this intersectional approach, one author writes:
“From his earliest days he [Muhammad] had a deep sympathy for widows and orphans, the poor and the helpless. He would ever stand by the oppressed. He vindicated the rights of women over men, of slaves over their masters, of the ruled over the rulers, and of the subjects over the king. Negro slaves were accorded the same position of honour as the Quraish leaders.”
To Meet the Challenge
To begin with, the aforementioned accomplishments of Muhammad are by no means exhaustive but give a general sense of how Muhammad reversed patriarchal practices and ensured social justice.
- Muhammad, within a span of 20 years, was able to outlaw female infanticide and other barbaric patriarchal practices of Meccan society.
- Muhammad, 1400 years ago, secured marriage, property, inheritance, and divorce rights for women.
- Muhammad’s society was far more oppressive and consisted of many more barbaric practices than even 19th century Western society. The way he was able to end such rituals and implement social justice for women in such a short time span is truly unprecedented in human history.
- While many feminist movements worked within the state, Muhammad operated outside his society and within 20 years conquered it.
To Femen: can you name a single historical figure that has effectively elevated the social status in their respective society as Muhammad did for the women of Arabia? Someone who advocated property, inheritance, marriage, and divorce rights for women that either was around before Muhammad or in the same era? Can you name a single historical figure who was able to secure such rights for women as early as Muhammad did in Arabia? Can you name a single historical figure who waged such a successful revolution for women’s rights in their society as Muhammad did in Arabia?
Please, attempt to meet the challenge based upon sound research – not a Fox News narrative of Islam or false information from anti-Islam websites. If you cannot what Anita Rai has written will remain;
“For me it is enough that Muhammad is the greatest feminist the world has so far had but has so little come to know of… Personally I am infinitely grateful to Muhammad, who has not only empathized with the crying voice of the despairing and exploited woman but has taken momentous measures blustering all opposition, to alleviate her lot and strengthen her in realistic terms. For ages and ages, a woman had found herself begging and groveling in front of her male master, with her heart-wrenching pleas for justice remaining unheard and unaddressed. Muhammad had changed this forever.”
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1) Muslim In the Family, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/3663771.stm
2) Topless in the country of Hijab, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/inna-shevchenko/femen-topless-in-the-country-of-hijab_b_3034211.html
3) Women’s Rights, Inspired By Muhammad, http://www.inspiredbymuhammad.com/womens_rights.php
4)In the Footsteps of the Prophet – Tariq Ramadan–Lessons from the Life of Muhammad
5)Islam, the Misunderstood Religion.
7))n the Footsteps of the Prophet – Tariq Ramadan–Lessons from the Life of Muhammad
9) What unbiased Think about te Prophet, http://www.paklink.biz/articles/islam4.html