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Published on April 11th, 2013 | by Usman Butt
Image © Joseph.Paris


Why Femen are the Feminist Version of Al-Qaeda

In Tunisia, a 19-year old Femen activist is currently in the midst of death-threats as she posed nude in photo’s with anti-Islamist messages written across her body. Amina Tyler has been attacked online by Salafists and Islamists who have threadened to ‘stone her to death’.  The pictures were posted on Femen-Tunisia’s Facebook page. In the topless photos, Amina has written on her body “F**k your morals” and “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour”. In response to this Tunisian Salafist preacher Almi Adel called on her to be ‘punished’. Ms Tyler is not the first Arab Femen activist to cause a stir, last year Aliaa Elmahdy, an Egyptian activist, posted similar pictures of herself to ‘protest the Islamization of Egypt’. She left Egypt and shortly after she met up with Femen activists in Europe and posed nude publicly with them carrying a fake copy of the Qu’ran and with ‘No Sharia’ written across her body. Femen held an international topless protest called ‘the topless jihad’ on April 4 to show solidarity with Ms Tyler.

Femen are a Ukrainian-based feminist protest group. They were formed in 2008 in Kiev, by Anna Hutsol a University student- the organisation claims to have 40 members in the Ukraine and 100 abroad. Topless protests are their speciality and they use it against sex tourism, religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social, national and international topics. They hold racist, xenophobic and Eurocentric views. They once stated “As a society we haven’t eradicated our Arab mentality towards women”. They are colonial feminists, who see the Arab world as inherently backwards and in-need of foreign intervention. They have been targeting the Muslim communities in Europe for years, they once held a protest in Paris wearing Burqas, which they stripped off and they chanted “Muslim women let’s get naked”. It is not only the Arab world they have targeted they have protested against many different groups.

A central ideological doctrine of Femen is that women are oppressed in their bodies because men use it to control them. The act of nakedness is a shock tactic which is designed to liberate women from the oppressive patriarchal system or ‘our body is a weapon, which will free us’. Any feminist who disagrees with them is questioned and accused of not being a ‘real feminist’. These three points make Femen the feminist version of Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda believes that ‘we are imprisoned’ in a materialistic atheist system which our physical bodies keep us trapped in. Al-Qaeda, like Femen, believe that the key to ‘our liberation’ lies in our bodies and turning it into a weapon. The act of suicide bombing hurts the system because not only does the bomber reject the material world they reject the orders and hierarchies it is based on.

Femen wants to smash Arab culture and social systems, so does Al-Qaeda. The doctrines of Al-Qaeda are based on a puritanical world-view and, as such, they see culture and social systems as a corruption of religious values. Both organisations denounce so-called ‘fellow ideologues’ for not being radical enough, for being pragmatic and for not subscribing to their world views and methods. Both organisations are widely denounced by fellow ‘ideologues’, although they do get isolated pockets of sympathy. Neither organisation can debate rationally, let alone win a debate, which is why they resort to extreme shock-tactics. These tactics are the only way they can be heard, but they both play-up on legitimate grievances, which is why they are so effective.

It is true that they are not equal in-terms of method. Al-Qaeda brutally uses terrorism and violence to demonstrate its political points. Femen does not. They argument is not that they are equal morally. However, they are equal philosophically; they both represent the extreme ends of their ideological movements. It is always interesting to note that regardless of the ideological spectrum, the extreme ends of different movements reflect each other more, than they do their fellow ‘ideologues’, who are nearer the centre of their movement. Hitler and Stalin were ideological opponents in competition with one another- despite this the two men and their regimes mirrored each others. Extremist movements, tend to be time-specific and have an inability to adapt with change, add to the fact that their numbers are usually small to begin with. Because of this they invariably disappear. Al-Qaeda is going through this and Femen will too.

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

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About the Author

Usman Butt

Usman graduated in 2012 with an MA in Palestine Studies from the University Of Exeter. Before that he read Arabic Language and International Relations at the University of Westminster. Amongst his proudest achievements include winning a muffin for public speaking, winning a Lego set at age 5 and helping Palestinian refugees learn English. Usually writes about genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, Israel/Palestinian politics, Iranian/Syrian/Lebanese politics, the Arab Spring, philosophy, religion, British politics, Foreign Policy, history and social issues. He enjoys writing as he sees it as an outlet to express his opinions about the public discourse on these issues. He believes writing is a good way of keeping productive and teaching yourself new things.

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