Compare “Man arrested on charges of murdering and decapitating his wife,” to “The founder of an upstate New York TV station aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes has been arrested on suspicion of killing his wife, who was beheaded, authorities said,” which was the way CNN put it.

I admit, it’s ironic that the man who wanted to counter stereotypes of Muslims himself was a perpetrator of domestic violence. But then again, he’s not representative of Muslim men any more than George Bush is of white men. We don’t call white men idiots because of George Bush…but I digress.

Second note of interest is the use of the word “beheading” instead of “decapitation.” This is after quite some time that I saw the word “beheading.” The last time I saw it was about the beheading of an American contractor by a violent insurgent group in Iraq. Is it “beheading” when a Muslim does it and “decapitation” when anyone else does it? The use of the word beheading almost implies that it was some ritualistic murder rather than a murder where the method was decapitation.

The mainstream media isn’t very sensitive to many issues, and often sensationalizes stories based on what will sell to the public. But what bothered me is the discussion of this story on a feminist blog, where commenters who claim to be “feminists” say things like “Islam could be a cause for this domestic violence case,” or “shouldn’t be ruled out as a cause.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Even if this guy himself said Islam is the cause for murder, Islam is not the cause of the murder, anymore than Christianity is the reason the Santa shooter killed people. One person’s misogynistic interpretation of Islam does not make Islam misogynistic! Feminist Muslims have different interpretations of some of the same verses that other people cite for misogyny and feminist Muslims use Islam as an example of progress where patriarchal Muslims will use it to stop progress. Now we could use this story to highlight how domestic violence isn’t taken seriously until someone ends up murdered, and even then not taken seriously sometimes. We could use this story to stress the need for DV shelters and the need for law enforcement to be more serious about it. Instead some of us having to defend Islam because some other ignorant people are arguing that Islam could have something to do with the murder. It’s not that Islam has nothing to do with the murder; the problem is that what is the point in saying that? Christianity could have something to do with a murder by a Christian person. Heck, Christians had a lot to do with colonization and exploitation of third world countries. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with Christianity, there’s just something wrong with some Christians.

The final point I want to make is that feminists (presumably white) who think they’re being knowledgeable and critical in examining the “role” of Islam in this case are actually being very counterproductive. This is the issue many minority feminists have with white feminists. I think they forget that when they’re criticizing Islam or South Asian cultures as if they have something inherently wrong with them, they’re insulting and alienating the very feminists who could build solidarity with them. Such ignorant criticism forces minority feminists to defend their cultures (because there are many good things about the cultures) and be less vocal about the problems in their communities. There is a big difference between criticizing something from within and criticizing something from outside. When you’re criticizing from within, you have a stake in improving the community. When you’re criticizing from outside, you don’t even understand the community. That doesn’t mean American white feminists can’t criticize domestic violence in minority communities from within; it means that in order to be effective, they have to listen to the minority feminists on what they actually need.

P.S. Since I already made my final point, this is an afterthought. Mostly I’ve talked about American white feminists and Islamophobia. But I know from experience that non-Muslim South Asians can also be Islamophobic. Here’s my two cents on why that’s detrimental. You might think it’s ok now to agree with Western Islamophobes, but remember, ignorant people don’t understand the other South Asian religions either, so good luck explaining why Hinduism is not an inherently misogynistic religion. – vidyarthi

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