Monday, July 16, 2012

Naked Niqabi

Asalamu Alaykom,



This niqabi is all over the boards of pinterest. 

Why?  Have pinners suddenly found the niqab fashion forward?

No.  They are enjoying the irony. 

This is a cropped photo.  The rest of the photo shows a bare breast and a baby nursing; a nursing niqabi.  So, basically, the most modest of women is shown bare on computer screens all over the world.  It isn't right.

This isn't the first time I've posted about the rights of covered women on the 'net. I wrote about it here when an American tourist posted trip photos of the Middle East including many of covered women.

I also had words with Sarah Joseph when she posted the stripped down picture of the "blue bra girl" to her followers on Facebook.  Do you remember that startling moment in the Tahrir revolution?  My point was that by showing everyone the Egyptian hijabi as an exposed woman we were re-victimizing her.  Yes, we should know about brutality but we don't need to be shown her awrah as we discuss it.

We need to protect our sisters like ourselves. 

I comment every time on pinterest I see this naked niqabi:

Asalamu Alaykom, I applaud your board of activists and have repinned many women onto my board, "Strong Women".  However, as a covered Muslim woman (who breastfed three children), I want you to rethink including this photo. This Muslim woman covers for modesty and uncovers to feed her baby. She in no way would want this picture seen all over the world. Every time I see it on pinterest I ask for the pinner to consider her rights to her body. She did not pose for a photographer knowing she would be captured and shown on the 'net. If she was a white woman captured this way, I believe her rights would be respected more. Knowledge and consent should be for all women---even covered Muslim women. Thank you for reading my comment.

and

Asalamu Alaykom, the Holy Quran proscribes breastfeeding for two years.  And if the mother is unable (deceased or ill), then animal's milk is not allowed.  It is the duty of another woman to feed the child.  Infact, the milk relationship is identified as strong as the blood relationship.  A boy and girl nursed from the same woman are considered siblings and not allowed to marry later.  Your board is full of women and I'm going to ask you to consider taking down this one photo.  As a covered Muslim woman myself (who breastfed three children) I know she wants her modesty.  She was not posing knowingly for this photo.  There is NO WAY her family would endorse her being uncovered on the 'net.  Each woman deserves the right to her own body.  Her name is unknown to me but as her sister in Islam, I ask you to listen to me on her behalf.

and

Asalamu Alaykom,  I'm glad that you think Muslim moms are awesome.  We are also modest.  This picture of a mom was not taken with her understanding that it was going to be shown all over the internet.  No covered woman or her family would ever agree to this.  While breastfeeding is worth promoting (I breastfed three children) please consider that you're doing it at the expensive of her rights on her own body.  She goes to great lengths to cover up and then was snapped in a moment of being bare.  We need to respect her rights.  Though she has no knowledge that her image is being used, I do and as her sister in Islam I'm asking you to take it down.  Thank you for reading my comment.

If you are on pinterest, consider commenting too.

Why? 

This is our sister in Islam.  She makes extraordinary efforts each day not to be seen immodestly.  She covers from head to toe---even in this extreme summer heat.  She lowers her gaze.  She avoids the eyes and touch of men.  Yet, here she is caught in a moment when her body needed to be bared for her baby.  She was not uncovering to prove a point about breastfeeding!  She was nuturing her child.

Yes, this is a beautiful photo.  I've got a lot of beautiful photos of me and my friends without hijab.  We don't show them to men.  We don't post them on the internet.  We are Muslim.  We put that before any desire for beauty, art, or activism.

It's interesting to me that these same women who are posting this picture have probably never spoken to a Muslimah in their life---let alone a niqabi.  They view her as a visual to be admired and not as a real person to respect.  Those champions of women's rights need to realize that her right to her body should come first.  They don't know how that woman thinks and feels about her body being shown on the 'net because it is too far removed from their life experiences.  They will never know unless they break the barriers ---and not on pinterest----in their real lives and reach out to the covered women in their community.

I'm finding a lot of racism on pinterest.  If you search for "Muslim" you'll see it.

There's some strange poster of all the UK headlines which feature Muslims.  With things like that, I click to enlarge the pin and then click "report" because it's "hateful speech or symbols".

An animal being called a "Muslim cat" got this response from me:

Asalamu Alaykom. This is looks like a chihauhau wrapped up in black. As a Muslim, I'm going to ask that you take down the description of it being "Muslim". There's no need to equate a person who follow a religion different from you with an animal. Can you see how that is offensive? In the Middle East, calling someone a "dog" is considered very bad. I'm sure you didn't think all this through when you posted. Now that you have more information, I hope you will reconsider whether or not its a good pin.

There's the baby fresh out of the bath with a towel covering his head.  The description reads, "Muslim Baby??"

No, it isn't funny and hardly makes sense.

Asalamu Alaykom. This is a baby covered with a towel. One of the disrespectul names Muslims get called is, "towel head". Maybe you made the joke without realizing. Now that you know, you you please consider renaming this baby pic? He's very cute and deserves something better than something offensive.

Inshahallah, there will be a time when people realize more, empathize more and interact better.  Until that time, we as conscientious human beings need to educate.  We need to explain Islam in ways which reach and teach.  And each one of us needs to do it as a burden shared is easier to handle.

Find a way to advocate.  Be the person to help the helpless; the voiceless.  Be the voice of reason and decency.  Yes, I know you're worried you won't say and do the right thing but certainly not doing anything at all is wrong.

May Allah grant us the right words when we need to speak up. 

July, 23, 2012

It has been a week since I wrote this and I have good news to report.  Alhumdulillah through all of us speaking up, this niqabi sister of ours is no longer on wide display.  No longer can you type, "Muslim" into the search engine of pinterest and see her uncovered.  Alhumdulillah she has been protected by us even if she never knew. 

I believe that Muslim pinterest users will need to keep vigilant (without becoming vigilantes) on the site.  Since the content is user generated, we will continue to see strange pins.  We'll need to either comment or report.  Images are powerful things and we need to be careful what others use to represent Islam. We need to be protective of how images of our Muslim sisters and brothers are being shown.  Inshahallah, we will continue to fight the good fight---yes, it's a kind of jihad---and the words are more powerful than the sword.

Alhumdulillah.

7 comments:

Salma @ Chasing Rainbow said...

Salam sis. It's obvious that I don't get out much. Aside from blogging I do little Twitter, don't do FB, or Pinterest.

I do read and watch the news, however, realizing that I am often offended by what I read or watch, I cannot imagine all the things that I am missing, like this story.

Kudos for sharing it, and making ME aware of this. I have written about and experienced the gaze in ways that I wanted to disappear. I cannot imagine what it feels like for a covered woman to be humiliated in such a way.

For me it's not about reclaiming modesty, it's about humanity. I think if we all looked at each other as human...nothing else, just as another human being who deserves respect that would be enough.

Thanks for sharing Yosra.

Neeberz said...

Alhumdulillah, may Allah (swt) grant you many blessings for spreading your knowledge and nicely defending Islam and other Muslim brothers/sisters! Thanks for sharing. I also go on pinterest, but was not aware of this racism plastered everywhere.

Vajiha said...

Asalaam-ualaikum ukhti. I am also on Pinterest (follow me @Vajiha), and have never come across racism or islamism, so this came as a shock to me. Jazaki-illahu khayr for pointing it out. Do consider pressing the "report pin" button, which I have done on these pictures now, as I would hope that my fellow sisters would do for me if I was in this sister's position. InshaAllah together by commenting politely and reporting the pictures, we can get these ridiculing photos taken down.

muslimahinreverie.blogspot.com

Umm Imaan said...

Assalaamu alaikum ukhti :)

I agree with you, that sister needs to be defended. I am glad you blogged about it I will also comment insha Allah. I have not come across that pic, although I do "report pin" when I see dodgy pins.

Jazzakillahu khair for sharing
Fee Amaanillah
Umm Imaan

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam to All My Sisters,

Thanks for voicing support for this niqabi sister of ours. Alhumdulillah, as I updated the post, it seems to be less prevalent on the site.

I added this comment to a picture:

Asalamu Alaykom, I'm glad that you think Muslim moms are awesome. We are also modest. This picture of a mom was not taken with her understanding that it was going to be shown all over the internet. No covered woman or her family would ever agree to this. While breastfeeding is worth promoting (I breastfed three children) please consider that you're doing it at the expensive of her rights on her own body. She goes to great lengths to cover up and then was snapped in a moment of being bare. We need to respect her rights. Though she has no knowledge that her image is being used, I do and as her sister in Islam I'm asking you to take it down. Thank you for reading my comment.

Jaime then added this comment:

I totally agree with Yosra. This photo is grainy and it looks like it was taken with a long zoom or even telephoto lens. I think anyone with even a slight amount of intelligence would know that she was caught in mid-drape of her fabric because CLEARLY she would not sit in public like that. If she doesn't show her forearms, she obviously would not expose her breasts. To anyone that says she shouldn't breastfeed in public, I won't even address that issue. She was caught in the midst of covering her son and her breast...perhaps this is even a still frame from a cell phone video.

UmmTimo said...

Salam Yosra,

A bit late...but as a niqabi and Muslim...Thank you. Most people (muslim women included) just let stuff like this go.

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam UmTimo,

You're welcome. I let very few unfair fights go. I do reason that my knowledge about right and wrong means that I'm mandated to help those who are wronged. The "Naked Niqabi" definately was being wronged. God bless her. And God bless you for feeling the solidarity.

Love and Light!