A women’s rights activist in Iran says her heart broke when she saw New Zealanders wearing the hijab in an attempt at solidarity following the Christchurch mosque attacks.
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist and journalist who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos without headscarves, admired Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s compassion, but was conflicted about the national display.
“…I call on them to show their sisterhood and solidarity with us, who are being beaten up, imprisoned and punished for fighting against compulsory hijab as well.”
Alinejad has also founded White Wednesdays, a movement which saw many women take off their headscarves in protest of the “discriminatory law”.
“Iranian women, they fight against the compulsory hijab and they are alone, they are on their own. There were three female politicians from the Netherlands – they went to Iran the same day when one of the women of the White Wednesdays movement put her headscarf on a stick and waved it in public, she got arrested. The same day there were three female politicians from the Netherlands in Iran obeying compulsory hijab law without challenging it. So the female politicians who go and visit Iran, the tourists, athletes, actresses – all of them, when they go to my beautiful country they say that this is a cultural issue, we wear it out of respect to the culture of Iran. Let me be clear with you: calling a discriminatory law a part of our culture – this is an insult to a nation”
Meanwhile in the Guardian Muslim woman Mariam Khan thinks the infidel woman Mrs Ardern is getting too much attention.
I have seen more pictures of Ardern’s grief and mourning than of the Muslim community in New Zealand, the victims or those who acted bravely on the day to save lives and fight against the terrorist.
To give an example, as I opened the pages of a prominent London magazine, I saw the face of Ardern, eyes closed, hugging a hijab-wearing Muslim woman whose back was to the camera. I thought about the positioning, about whose grief we were seeing. I thought about why our grief seemingly wasn’t palatable. Was that the reason the media had decided to use a white woman – someone more familiar, someone who isn’t an “other” – to sell their papers and fuel online clicks? In this Islamophobic world, is it the case that even Muslim grief doesn’t sell and it needs to come repackaged with a graceful and mourning white face donning a dupatta?
I’ve been told to fuck off by a white man and seen the same white man tell another Muslim woman he was off to join Ukip because she disagreed with him. I’ve been condemned for voicing discomfort at the lionisation of Ardern doing her job properly.
Performative solidarity isn’t enough. Those standing in solidarity need to understand that they should use their everyday privilege to truly tackle Islamophobia in the long term..
More than 130 Muslims were killed in Mali just over a week ago. Where is the coverage? Internment camps in China continue to hold Uighur Muslims; the war in Yemen shows no sign of ending; the Rohingya crisis had its five minutes of fame in the media and isn’t making headlines any more.
I trust very much that Ardern is unbothered about the online world demanding she receive the Nobel peace prize – she is getting on with her job…Let’s redirect the focus of this tragedy. Ardern doesn’t need the attention but Muslims across the globe need more than performative solidarity.