Muslim AND Feminist. Not a Paradox

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Rim Ben Haj Yahia
Member since June 24, 2016
  • 12 Posts
  • Age 27



Prejudice - when we close tight on ourselves and fear the other. When we live in our own bubbles, surrounded only by people like us. When our version of the story becomes the only one. Then we misunderstand each other, mistreat each other, and dehumanize each other. It’s only then we recognize prejudice leads nowhere. It’s only then we realize the urgent need to get rid of those bubbles.

Being a Muslim woman in a western society can be challenging especially because of numerous stereotypes associated with that image.

Sarah, an emancipated, young, brown-skinned, Arab, French-Moroccan woman wanted to break down all the stereotypes. She so badly wanted to make a change in people’s perceptions of the other. Since at a certain level, she was the other, even though she didn’t really fit into those established boxes they created for people who look like her. They made her feel she should apologize for being herself: bright, emancipated, educated.

Because people who look like her are “meant” to do the jobs White people don’t want to take.

With so much liveliness and devotion she asked her professor if she could write her thesis on feminism in Islam. She thought she had found her path and wanted to defend her cause. To her surprise, her professor said:

“You are either Muslim or a feminist, you cannot be both. You need to choose.”

Choosing! Choosing between two pillars of her identity?! She was shocked. She expected to hear those words from a standard person, a close minded one. But her professor? She had taken her as a role model but now what?

That was a changing point in Sarah’s life.

Sarah launched a personal social project called The Women Sense Tour In Muslim Countries with an aim to meet, support, and showcase the image of muslim women changemakers. She booked tickets to 5 Muslim countries: Morocco, Tunisia, Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia. She spent a month in each and met with the most inspiring emancipated Muslim women who are working to make a positive change in their communities.

She went with no prior skills in photography and video editing but with a cause she really believed in. She was there to tell us stories, inspiring ones - stories about Muslim women we never hear in the media.

Sarah returned to France after 5 months of wonder with an eye-opening documentary highlighting the inspiring work of 25 amazing women from muslim countries. She returned complete, fully embracing her multidimensional identities.

Sarah knew the struggle she was going through was not only hers, thousands of other muslim women have gone through the same pain she felt when her teacher asked her to choose between being a muslim or a feminist. She thought about creating a safe space where women can share ideas, evolve, and positively interact with each other. She then co-founded, with her supportive atheist feminist friend Justine, an association and online magazine called Lallab - a laboratory of ideas for women.

Justine and many other muslim and non muslim members of Lallab are there to fight for an inclusive feminism, where no woman is discriminated no matter her skin color, her religion, etc.

Lallab is where women write their own version of their personal stories. We don’t want the media to talk about us nor some of the feminists who are busy taking off women’s veils to ‘save’ us. We will write and write and write until our stories, the positive, sparkling, inspiring ones are heard!

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