David Cameron’s comments on Muslim women learning English left many of us feeling frustrated that not only were his comments a complete blunder, but also entirely inaccurate. One such comment in a Telegraph article deemed Muslim women’s ‘traditional submissiveness’ to be a hindrance to their voices being heard against radicalisation.
In a bid to show the Prime Minister how utterly mistaken he is in his perceptions about Muslim women, Dr Sukaina Hirji sent out tweets to galvanise support for a #TraditionallySubmissive Twitter storm that took place on Sunday night from 6-9pm. Swathes of tweeters in the form of Muslim women and their supporters, Muslim and otherwise, came out to prove Mr Cameron wrong. The result was something that we hope will leave him embarrassed and rethinking his comments.
However, this Twitter storm showed just how inexplicably wrong Cameron’s remarks have been and brought out a side of Muslim women that the world has never seen. We put together our top 10 tweets of the #TraditionallySubmissive Twitter storm below.
Muslim women often keep their original surnames after getting married. #traditionallysubmissive
— Julian Bond (@julianbond12) January 24, 2016
Ironically, this tweet comes from a Christian man who hasn’t overlooked that Muslim women keep their surname when they get married, a concept which is far from being ‘traditionally submissive’ in a society that glorifies the changing of a woman’s surname to her husband’s upon marrying him and thus succumbing to a loss of identity.
— Shelina Janmohamed (@loveinheadscarf) January 24, 2016
Shelina Janmohamed made an astute observation that should leave the Prime Minister wondering why he didn’t ask those MPs if they needed English lessons.
— Dr. Mohammad N.H.G (@TruthWitness) January 18, 2016
This is perhaps the crux of the entire issue – why does David Cameron insist we give in to his definition of Muslim women being traditional?
David Cameron needs to decolonize his mind #traditionallysubmissive
— Hind Makki (@HindMakki) January 18, 2016
Many Muslim women have felt that the need to be ‘liberated’ stems from the incorrect perception that they are all immigrants and must be saved from the so-called incivility and oppression of their previous cultures by learning English. Newsflash – we’re not all immigrants. Furthermore, not every immigrant is devoid of English language skills.
— HashashinTag (@HashashinTag) January 18, 2016
Following the call for Muslim women to learn English, Cameron then followed on with remarks about the niqab needing to be removed in public institutions. This Twitter user challenged the PM’s comments by inviting him to meet her and her family to truly understand that Muslim women in niqab are not the threat he has made them out to be.
— Fiza Azlam (@FizaAzlam) January 24, 2016
Apparently, being an active member of society equates to being traditionally submissive. This is a fantastic example of Muslim women that are routinely being overlooked in spite of being visible within the community.
Facilitating language learning has the potential to empower women. Perpetuating a #traditionallysubmissive stereotype doesn't.
— Sarah Ager (@SaritaAgerman) January 24, 2016
Would Muslim women have felt as insulted had the lack of language skills amongst some of us had not been associated with radicalisation? Perhaps not. Insensitive comments that seek to normalise a stereotype are what this hashtag is looking to debunk and this tweet summed it up perfectly.
— Saffiyya (@SaffiyyaM) January 24, 2016
Whilst this wasn’t tweeted by Nadiya Hussain herself, this meme has been doing the rounds on social media since she won the Great British Bake Off. It resurfaced during the Twitter storm and serves as a perfect example of a Muslim woman who cannot be called traditionally submissive. Especially not one who can beat two men in a contest.
— Ruwayda Mustafah (@RuwaydaMustafah) January 24, 2016
In light of the comments about Muslim women learning English, this tweet is particularly notable and beats the stereotype of them being uneducated, yet constantly having a brood of children attached to them. Ruwaydah showed quite accurately and realistically that having an education and being a mother are not mutually exclusive.
Muslim women are #TraditionallySubmissive. To God, not man.
— Nader (@BonsaiSky) January 24, 2016
For us, this tweet really stood out and drove home the message that whilst Muslim women come in all shapes and sizes, they are ultimately known as devout worshippers to God and will not allow themselves to be defined by men who politicise them for a particular agenda. It shows the true essence of Muslim female empowerment.
The Twitter storm was a fantastic way to get Muslim women’s voices heard by the online community and to show that they are a heterogeneous group that cannot be boxed into a single category. The response to the hashtag has been phenomenal and it is precisely why Muslim women’s media outlets need to exist. Muslim women are amazing and need to be heard; it’s highly unfortunate that stereotypes shaped by the media and politicians are preventing that from happening.