What I would have said, had I not been disinvited to the Women’s March event ‘Global sisterhood’
Today, March 8th is international women’s day, celebrated across the globe as one of the most profound feminist moments of our times.
On 17th February 2021, I received an email from a humanist group where the sender was wondering if I would be interested in being part of the speakers in a Women’s March event dubbed “global sisterhood” – to tell my perspective on leaving Islam and how I support other women, and what this possibly means for women who come from backgrounds like mine.
I was ecstatic. What a great and unique opportunity this is, given how often voices coming from Exmuslim feminists, like myself, are unheard and seldom given a platform in such events.
I also joked to my inviter if they were sure they got the right person because I had previously made clear what I think about the Hijab and my humanist views. In the back of my mind based on past experiences, events like such that are used to ‘empower women, endorsing the Hijab’ – were denied to me because I held an opposing view.
Your voice is important
My inviter thought that my voice was important, but decided to see if the main organizers – would have any problems with who I am, and what I wanted to talk about.
“I think it is very important not just to hear my story, but your story is way more important. ”she wrote They also want to discuss the question: what can we do in the Netherlands for people like you worldwide?”
After phone calls and emails back and forth, it became very clear unfortunately that it was indeed the case as I had initially thought. I am no longer welcome.
I can only assume this is because the main organizers in charge of the event were uncomfortable with who I am and what I would be talking about. In the end, I was specifically told I was no longer of interest as a panel participant/speaker.
So, because this did not materialize, I decided to write about what I would have said and what I was preparing… since I could no longer say these things at the event.
I would have made these points:
1. My own Hijab story – experiences.
I would have wished to begin sharing a story of my struggles with the Hijab published for the first time in Sisterhood magazine.
After that I wanted to make a few more points to argue that the hijab is not a choice at all, and that hijab is definitely a patriarchal modesty control over women’s bodies.
2. Hijab is misogynistic and it has been used to control women and curb their personal liberty – it is still being used that way.
In the fight for liberation and self-determination, I think it is disingenuous to ignore the lived experiences and first-hand accounts of women who’ve experienced violence, coercion, and even jail for simply exercising their agency to not wear the hijab. For simply wanting to wear something else!
I wanted to use this second point to give examples of women in Iran, the white Wednesday movement, and my stealthy freedom Masih Alinejad who started a revolution for women in Iran to revolt against the Iranian regime’s enforced veiling.
I wanted to use this second point to talk about the brave feminist Women in Saudi Arabia who dared to refuse to wear the ‘abaya’ – a baggy black garb – and who ended up being charged with criminal offenses under Saudi law. I wanted to list examples of women who have dissented against religious misogyny and paid heavy prices for it.
I wanted to share my own pain of trying to rebel against Hijab in a society I was not allowed to. In this second point, I really wanted to share snippets of stories outside the comfort of the Netherlands, outside the comforts of Amsterdam. But I also wanted to juxtapose this next to women right here in my new city still experiencing enforced Hijab – from family, from neighborhoods, from the community, from wider ‘tribe’. I wanted to show that the feminist narrative is not about endorsing misogynistic tools like the hijab.
3. Western feminism
“Free the nipple”
“Smash the patriarchy”
“Crash the glass ceiling”
“Fight the Pink tax”
All of these are great causes, but I wanted to share what I notice with western feminists these days. In my opinion, I would have said that western feminists have actually lost the plot. They seem to give these very liberating causes focused the only* to western native women, not women who are living outside their shores and within, and who oppose religious misogyny. It almost seems like the message is: “feminism for me, yes, but shut up it is not really for you”
Apparently, they are not interested in women emancipating themselves especially when those women come from non-western backgrounds!
In Fact, they tend to give more space, and more often to women who pander to the patriarchal narrative! Otherwise, they would not be donning burqas, now would they? Intersectional feminism has lost its path. Its initial intended path may have been awesome for a while until it is not these days. Now what we see in the name of intersectionality, is feminism dancing to the patriarchy. Why?
In this third point, I wanted to pose serious questions to the panelists and audience why the theme of feminism has regressed – if I may dare say – to this level of literally taking us back to the dark ages? Apparently, where women belong in the kitchen, observe modesty dictated men, and hide away from the rest of society? How can feminism endorse religious misogyny in the 21st century like this?
Because, where my invitation was being withdrawn, the same event venue cheered on last yearś speakers about “the effects of the un-feminist burqa-ban” and about “Islam as the most feminist religion”.
I wanted to make everyone really think about women’s rights with what I was preparing. And I could have, except there was no space for me. It is all a waste of ideas now, isn’t it?
Even in the 21st century, in a country like the Netherlands, dissenters like myself are still silenced, when our voice matters as well. This is perhaps what prompted me to write about this because the truth of the matter is, I was asked then disinvited to this year’s Women’s March event “global sisterhood” – So the question is: is there no sisterhood for me then?
*Article first published on 8th March at Vrijlinks – https://www.vrij-links.nl/h-s-barre/ik-werd-geweigerd-bij-global-sisterhood-van-womens-march/
By HS Barre.
HS Barre is a Kenyan-Somali living in the Netherlands. She is a journalist, poet, feminist, pro-LGBT, and one of the new voices in the ExMuslim activism community. She is the founder of the online community “Ex-Muslim Somali Voices” – which focuses on the specific peculiar problems apostates from Somali communities face worldwide. As a member of the International Coalition of Exmuslims, she is also involved with ExMuslims of the Netherlands.