After the most recent statements about the protests by Iranian women, who are protesting on the streets against the headscarf measures and the Mullah regime’s image of women in Tehran, the “Islamophobia” debate is being heated up again in Europe. It is about the basic position towards the protests and what it could have to do with Islam.
Only recently, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock argued that the murder of a young woman who is not wearing her headscarf correctly has nothing “to do with religion or culture”. In doing so, she fails to recognize the difference between a political system in which there is free exercise of religion and a dictatorship such as that in Iran, in which state and society are built on the basis of a fundamentalist understanding of religion. Leading European Greens politicians are now complaining about “Islamophobia” when campaigning for Iranian women. Such positions not only play down the Islamic-based oppression of women. They delegitimize the criticism of it – and let down the brave Iranian women in particular, but also Muslim women in Europe who are fighting for their rights.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been fighting women for 44 years, it is an essential basis of the Islamic theocracy. The mullahs control women’s lives and sexuality to maintain male rule. It is a system of gender apartheid: women are excluded in many areas of education, justice and culture and are massively disadvantaged in marriage, divorce, custody, witness and inheritance law. They are forced under the headscarf and punished with whippings and imprisonment if they resist.
Leading EU Greens support the protest movement in Iran, but are sceptical about solidarity in Europe. The Iranian women’s fight for freedom is “often misused to stir up anti-Muslim and anti-feminist resentment”. Anyone who only discovers his or her passion for equal rights when it comes to the headscarf is “just living out Islamophobia – and, yes, also patriarchal fantasies,” says an MEP from the Greens. “A world view is being jerked into place in which evil Muslim men oppress powerless women who the white man then has to free.”
The term “Islamophobia” is particularly striking here. This is a combat term intended to ward off any criticism of oppressive conditions based on Islam. All negative statements about Islam are thus interpreted as hatred of Muslim socialized people – regardless of whether it is actual resentment or criticism of ideology and religion based on enlightenment and human rights. The term is also often used by Islamists. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Iranian mullahs used the term to defame women who opposed the veil.
„Of course there is specific anti-Muslim resentment that also requires appropriate criticism“, writes a believing Muslim woman living in Europe. But there is a key difference between living in a civil society with individual freedoms and living in a theocracy like Iran, where conservative, orthodox everyday Islam often determines life down to the most intimate areas and people are subjected directly to religiously based morality and rule.
The fact that the opposite phenomenon is widespread is also ignored. Those who suddenly hide their passion for equality when it comes to Islam and Islamism are also worthy of criticism. Which – rightly – continue to scandalize existing sexism, misogyny and domestic violence in the West, but on the compulsory headscarf and gender segregation in Iran, the ban on girls going to school in Afghanistan, the madness about virgins in many conservative Muslim families or forced marriages, murders in the name of the ” Honour” and genital mutilation suddenly have nothing to say in Europe. This is precisely what is anti-Muslim and anti-feminist, because girls and women who are affected by such violence, which is often based on Islam, are let down by this silence.
It is pointed out that “some Islamic families put pressure on women to wear the headscarf”. Otherwise, women’s oppression in Islam only occurs in a prepared world view and is therefore hardly a widespread phenomenon. In doing so, they ultimately downplay or even apologize. So it is of course correct that many women wear the headscarf voluntarily and that any violence against women wearing the headscarf must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. However, this realization should not go hand in hand with denying the patriarchal content of the veil.
Green parliamentarians are defending EU funding for a campaign that includes the slogan “Beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab”. The campaign aimed to criticize discrimination, a worthy aim. Nevertheless, one should not simply overlook the fact that such strictly tied headscarves, as shown in the campaign, are often legitimized as deeply misogynistic. It is true that women give completely different reasons for wearing their headscarves. But when the female body is declared a sin, that has nothing to do with freedom.
The Iranian women who went out on the streets en masse on March 8, 1979 to demonstrate against the then threatening compulsory headscarf had one slogan: “Freedom is neither Eastern nor Western, but universal!”. It was their answer to the slogan of the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini – “Neither East nor West – Islamic Republic!”.
The most important works of Western cultural relativism had not yet been written at that time. And yet the women’s slogan can also be understood as a judgment on this cultural relativism. This judgment still applies today. The daughters and granddaughters of the 1979 demonstrators no longer want to be ignored by feminists in the West and their comrades-in-arms, they want to be supported.
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