By Shahed Ezaydi

White feminism has long treated Muslim women as both invisible - by actively excluding them from women’s liberation movements, and visible - with the near-obsession of liberating or ‘saving’ Muslim women. We are both invisible and hyper-visible at the same time. The Othered Woman: How White Feminism Harms Muslim Women takes a deep dive into the relationship that white feminism has with Muslim women and gendered Islamophobia, looking at the many ways Islamophobia is intertwined with white feminist thinking, and the lasting effects that this then has on Muslim women.

Growing up as both a Muslim and a woman has meant battling between these two areas from a very young age. It’s only now looking back at my time at school that I can see just how widespread Islamophobic views and attitudes were, even amongst people I had called good friends. And the vast majority of the things that were said against me and my religion were all comments based in ‘feminist’ ideals. With guaranteed looks of pity, of course. I was asked things like if my dad was controlling, if my parents would force me into marriage or wearing the hijab, and if I was effectively locked away in my home. So, this is what I came to accept and believe my religion and feminism to be, a ‘backwards’ and ‘woman hating’ religion. And this was further compounded by the fact that studying feminism in my sociology classes meant just studying white feminism. Muslim women were nowhere to be seen in my classes or in my books. I found myself lost and disillusioned, and more so than your typical teenage girl.

...what I found missing from this field is a specific and focused investigation into gendered Islamophobia, and how it's entrenched and maintained through white supremacy and feminism.

Islamophobia may have begun to be written about and analysed more closely over the last decade, but what I found missing from this field is a specific and focused investigation into gendered Islamophobia, and how it's entrenched and maintained through white supremacy and feminism. A relationship that tends to be overlooked time and time again but plays a key role in how Islamophobia is dispersed and justified throughout our society, especially when the first criticism that tends to be thrown out to Muslim women and are our ‘backwards’ ways.

This book takes a magnifying lens to white feminism, to pick apart the various myths and beliefs that it holds regarding Muslim women. Myths and beliefs that focus on both our invisibility and hyper-visibility, and includes areas such as single-issue oppression, liberation politics, the unique misogyny of Muslim men, state violence, and much more. And we’re not short on examples of white feminism upholding these myths and completely disregarding the experiences of Muslim women. In the last month or so, we’ve seen French actors cutting their hair as part of the wider protests happening in Iran regarding women’s rights. Their solidarity can extend to women fighting for their freedoms in Iran but then doesn’t seem to apply to the women in France who are fighting for the very same thing in wanting to wear the hijab.

The Othered Woman is a book that I wish I had access to when I was growing up and first learning about feminism as it might have helped me to understand why I just didn't see myself or felt like I belonged in feminist movements. And so, my hope is that Muslim women can feel a sense of relatability and community whilst reading this book and that all feminists understand the need to centre intersectionality in the fight for equality and justice.

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