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Femen activists interrupt Salafist preachers at a trade show in Paris. Moments later they were assaulted by members of the audience (© Eric Hadj/Paris Match via Getty Images)

The feminist action group Femen made the headlines again last September. Two members, both topless, leapt on stage at a Muslim women’s fair in north-west Paris to protest against the presence of fundamentalist preachers who allegedly justify rape in marriage, and other human rights abuses against women in the name of Islam. The women bore messages written in black across their chests, with one translating as, “Nobody makes me submit.”

When the women — one of Algerian origin, the other Tunisian — stormed the stage, two imams were debating whether it was permitted for a man to beat his wife. There were shouts of “Dirty whores, kill them!” from the audience, and a group of men jumped onto the stage themselves and assaulted the protesters before the police intervened.

Unsurprisingly in today’s climate of cultural relativism on the Left and within liberal feminism, the women, despite being of Muslim origin, were labelled racist and Islamophobic for disrupting the event and for displaying their breasts in front of religious men.

This is not the first time that Femen members have been accused of Islamophobia and racism. Chitra Nagaranjan, a black British feminist, wrote in the Guardian in 2013: “Femen’s actions also come at a time of intensifying international backlash against women’s rights that is increasingly being framed, perpetuated and accepted by male elites as rooted in ‘the West’ and imposed on other countries in a form of cultural imperialism. Unfortunately, statements from white French women saying things like ‘better naked than the burqa’ feed this narrative and are more likely to damage rather than support the struggles of the women they call their sisters.”

Following last November’s jihadist attacks in Paris, I wanted to find out how the divided women’s movement was dealing with the aftermath of such an outrageous assault on France’s freedom. French feminists have long been divided over Islam. Some argue that it is possible to redefine and reinterpret the teachings of the Koran to better suit it to equality between the sexes. But secularists insist that Islam has the subjugation of women and girls at its heart. The polarisation of views was compounded by the law against the wearing of the veil (and other visible religious artefacts) that came into force in France in 2004, and remains today.

Islamic feminists, as defined by researcher Stephanie Latte Abdallah, “claim the right to an interpretation (of the Koran) that promotes gender equality, new roles in rituals and religious practices, changes in the areas of family law, criminal law, and legal and political practices”.

The Left has allowed its tendency to blame the West for everything to offer a justification for terrorism as resistance to colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. As a lifelong feminist, and firmly of the Left, I have long been bitterly disappointed with those who supposedly campaign for women’s rights yet capitulate to Islamofascist men. Such women, in the UK, France and other European countries, have given their support to Sharia courts, the wearing of the full-face veil, arranged marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and gender segregation in public places. Supporting traditional Islam flies in the face of feminism, and even of basic equality between men and women.

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February 1st, 2016
3:02 PM
Anonymous can read The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman- as can all who want to see where the islamist nazis come from. Unfortunately Cameron and Corbyn and the imams can`t talk straight in their bent worlds. Billy Connolly said he`d rather have one fire-breathing whore in paradise than 77 virgins.

January 29th, 2016
6:01 PM
First, I’d like to point out what I see as a failure here. Chitra Nagaranjan is not a Black British woman. She’s of Indian origin. Technically speaking, these women did act like what people call “whores.” According to dictionaries, A whore is an informal term for someone who indulges in casual and unrestrained in sexual behavior. These women did act that way. There is a more civilized way to prove your point, but these women chose to act otherwise. They were not only inconsiderate towards other culture, but also towards children who might’ve been present in the crowd. It might have been a shock and/or traumatic experience for them.

January 27th, 2016
11:01 PM
Koran forbids women from marrying non-Muslims. This is not fundamentalism but mainstream Islam. Why do these kinds of article (or ones on integration) never mention this? Or the Koranic rule whereby daughters inherit a half share to sons? These are central tenets of orthodox Islam but for some reason they are never discussed.

December 31st, 2015
1:12 PM
There was an excellent (and entertaining) discussion on BBC Radio 4`s Late Night Women`s Hour (30 Dec) including Inna from Femen on the phone from Paris. It`s probably on the Radio 4 website. All it needed was Camille Paglia and some 000 (object-oriented ontology) philosophy. There`s an article at Art Review online on the latter.

December 23rd, 2015
2:12 AM
Great article - thank you.

December 22nd, 2015
9:12 PM
The twitter share option defaults to an incorrect/non working link: http:///features-january-february-2016-julie-bindel-france-islam-the-sec...

December 17th, 2015
7:12 PM
Some women become feminists so they can hate women (as Julie Burchill noted). Other people become tories to hate everyone. Obviously there`s more to be said.

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