muslim women op-ed article


To Be or Not to Be. An argument with the Self.

What does it mean to be partially visible? Or visible in a way you never asked nor wished for? How do you strive for representation and visibility when you’re actually hyper visible and longing for normality?

Being visibly muslim or openly adressing being a muslim always reserves certain spaces and excludes you from other spaces. People have an idea about you. How you are, what you think, how you think and act on gender equality. Because in their minds, the Islam and Muslims are anti-women and anti-equality per se. Well, ever had a look into the bible about that?

There is a wide-spread “knowledge” about you. Or what people think you like. This makes you hyper-visible. You seldom have the privilege of entering a room without any pre-existing biased knowledge about yourself. Your existance is so disturbing that there are heated debates in politics and media about how there are “too many” people like you living in this country. How much of a problem this is for inner peace and social order.

At the same time you seem to not even exist in other contexts. “Can a muslim be a feminist?” “Are Islam and women’s rights even compatible?”.  Not to mention the erasure of queer muslims in mainstream LGBTQI contexts.

People will tell you all sort of things about what you can or can not do. You don’t look at me and see a young woman who went hitchhiking all the way from Germany to Marseille, or did couch-surfing in Marseille, Bangkok, Paris, Portland. A young woman who hitchhiked through Turkey, finding herself on the mountains, close to the Georgian mountain. In god knows how many feet, the closest I’ve ever been to the sunset. And actually, I don’t care. What I do care and have to problematise is how these biased images and the complex dynamic of visibility and invisibility cause existential burdens for stigmatised people. Be it because you’re muslim, black, or Asian.

When the wide-spread racist bias of a muslim woman with a hijab as being “brainwashed”, “backward”, and “suppressed” causes this suppression and exclusion itself by denying that woman deserves a job she is qualified for.

Every time I am asked how Islam and Feminism “can go together” I often find myself stumbling. Arguing with myself because I am an expert on many things, tired of being treated as an exotic fruit in the feminist sphere. It is never me, but other people who have an issue with accepting different parts of my identity as “compatible”. Because of racist, biased knowledge about muslims or the so called “orientals” going way back to mediaeval times, people continuously expect muslims (as well as other racialised communities) to justify their existance, their visibility, their part in world history, their role in revolutions, in movements. This hyper-visibility is exhausting. You just don’t want to have to explain anything to anybody about your personal believes and visions, you do not want to deal with other peoples’ bias just to prove your own humanity and individuality.

And yet again, I am arguing with myself because I am even more tired of people claiming to speak for me. Erasing me by reducing me to the images in their head. The worst thing is that these powerful and ubiquitous discourses create some kind of “normality” that even manifests in policy making processes.

This must be the reason why I find myself talking back. Again and again. There is no existance without language.

I have to speak so that I can be – come.

Can I ever not stand on a pedestal?

Emine Aslan

muslim women op-ed article

… is currently doing her Masters in Sociology. Her activism and academical work is based on postcolonial feminism, anti-racism, and sociological analyses on knowledge production (sociology of knowledge). Besides traveling, good coffee and good literature, she enjoys quality time with quality people as a place of growth and personal as well as collective development.

Photography EYLÜL ASLAN