The harm of the Haram Police

Sunday, October 4, 2020 - 11:20pm

NOSELL

Habib Dadkhah via Unsplash

Let me preface this with a quick but important disclaimer. This piece is not fodder or proof that Islam is misogynistic or oppresses women. I will not be feeding into the guilt-ridden stereotypes created by liberals who are ashamed about their bloodthirst for innocent Afghans and Iraqis post 9/11 or attempting to justify drone attacks in Muslim parts of the Global South. I will also not paint for you an image of a weak and fragile Muslim female population, for we are anything but frail. If you clicked on this based on that assumption, you will be sorely dismayed and should close the page. If you would like to read about a strong system of male patriarchy in the Muslim world and the harm it causes women as well as  its detrimental effect on the fight for political resistance, please carry on. Also, to my Muslim brothers, if you feel like I have to say not all Muslim men, you are a part of the problem.

 

Once during Sunday school I had dropped something on the floor and bent to pick it up, only to quickly get scolded that I should not be bending down so seductively, surely I did not want to give a man that sort of invitation. I was only twelve. However horrid the scolding may appear, these microaggressions are the festering effects of the Haram Police, a patriarchy attempting to acquire power amid the rise of global feminism. Haram; meaning strictly forbidden by Islamic dogma and police are two specific words that combined emphasize a growing male dominance on Muslim women. Starting off as a mere joke within Muslim diaspora, the phrase has embodied active misogyny hell-bent on exerting control over Muslim women and is prevalent throughout the entire Muslim world. The Haram Police, aptly named for the violence it has inflicted on Muslim women around the globe, has reigned terror on the very women they claim to protect and care for. Often and arguably rightfully so, Muslim women focus on imperial threats rather than looking among those within our spaces, but unfortunately the silent oppressor of the Haram Police cripples our missions with its deadly misogyny. Inaccurately masqueraded as religiously driven, the Haram Police continues to tear down women, both hurting their sisters in faith while hindering their collective fights against political injustice.

 

The internet, like other hate groups, is the Haram Police’s weapon of choice. Facebook and Youtube accounts meticulously crafted to feature women shaming as their main monetized content. Pretending to care about religion, the Ben Shapiros of the Muslim world log on to their platforms to shame Muslim women about their clothing, their mannerisms and if applicable, their romantic relationships. Often times, they play a video or clip they deem to be sinful — which seems awfully counterintuitive to their brand — and use their social prowess to argue why they believe the Muslim woman is a sinner. They closely monitor Muslim influencers on Instagram and if they post a photo as innocuous as a headshot, they portray the image and claim that these women are devilish, purposefully enticing men to sin. Committed to a brand of demonizing their own sisters, they do not discriminate against which woman to attack. Veiled, unveiled, married, single, Arab, Desi, Black, their commentary is universally applied as they defend their argument that every Muslim woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to their Islamic interpretation of femininity is a woman determined to rot in the depths of hell. While this may seem dramatic to a majority American audience, this type of language is broadcasted daily to constant viewers all over the world, with view counts as high as in the millions. Like all social commentary, it has had a direct impact on society and in this case, Muslim women are the chosen victims. 

 

A painfully prevalent example is a current case in Egypt. Nine women, mostly in their 20s, have been detained by Egyptain courts for “violating family values.” This absurd claim has been a raging result of a long standing culture war over belly dancers and Egyptian pop stars, the TikTok case the most severe retaliation against claims of westernization. Two women have already been indicted and have been given a two year prison sentence, merely for enjoying their time on the social media powerhouse. The Egyptian prison system, like America’s, is a system designed to control every voice the government wants to subvert. Orwellian in its cutthroat oppression, the court system utilizes unjust tacticts to torture civilians like starvation, rape and stark humiliation. As they squash voices of opposition, the Egyptian government has been determined to appear to care about so-called family values to hide their classist oppression of Egyptian civilians. In the eyes of a court designed to uphold the wealthy and crumble the impoverished, these women, similar to Charli D’Amelio in their TikTok content, are guilty solely of angering the conservative sect of the Egyptian population, a population the government seeks to appease politically. Increasingly heartbreaking, some of these women, severely affected by government-driven poverty, turned to TikTok as a money making mechanism to support their families. Their imprisonment does not just affect them, rather it leaves homes without their breadwinners, starving not only the alleged offenders but their families: a true violation of family values. Symbolic of the blatant endorsement of rape culture and victim blaming within these corrupt goverments as well as a persistent class war, these women remain tangible proof that Muslim women are suffocated by an obsessive patriarchy. In their attempt to quiet these nine women, Egypt’s government, in tandem with the Haram Police, have scarred their lives to purposefully and politically prop them up as examples for any woman who dares have a voice that does not mirror the patriarch’s.

 

The Haram Police does not only harm Muslim women, it is a double edged sword slaughtering possibilities of political resistance. Continuing the case study on Egypt, Donald J. Trump’s “favorite dictator”, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, continues to reign Egypt by ruthlessly slaughtering political opponents and their children. With one US dollar equating to approximately sixteen Egyptian pounds, the poverty rate is only increasing and infrastructure is severely lacking as the wealthy, including the political elite such as El-Sisi, profiting off of the labor of poor Egyptian citizens. Constantly crushing male and female protesters against the regime with a hardened military, Egypt solidified itself as a military state and has caused irreparable damage to the nation. Men and women alike have fled to the streets aching for desperate change only to have their blood flow endlessly, the state of freedom so dire that I may be barring myself from visiting my family as an Egyptian citizen just writing this fact. Muslim Egyptian men weaponizing the courts against their fellow female comrades are only strengthening the power of a dominating elite. By heightining government power, they are actively engaged in tightening the noose around their necks, effectively cutting themselves from any possibility of desperate change. Rather than standing side by side as they have during massive political revolutions such as in the Arab Spring, some cowardly, insecure men have chosen to empower their oppressor to silence their allies rather than stand with their Muslim sisters in solidarity. By stabbing them in the back, the Haram Police effectively cuts itself as well, their misogyny an unintentioned yet skillful silencer of necessary political revolutions.

 

Egypt is only a case study as the Haram Police continues to terrorize women who have already been dealt a politically gruesome hand worldwide. Americans are not immune from the Haram Police’s wrath with even strong Muslim leaders like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib getting harped on for not wearing a hijab, or not wearing their hijabs “properly.” Their misogyny clear, the Haram police is only furthering sexist chauvinism against Muslim women rather than promoting piety, deepening the Muslim counterpart of a worldwide patriarchical system. Like other cultural apparatuses, the Haram Police have been exploited by their oppressors as an inner poisonous dynamic. If the Haram Police genuinely want a more just world as Islam dictates, they need to give their fellow sisters their support rather than their venom. Until then, Muslim women are strong enough to look into our own spaces and fight two ardent oppressors; our brothers allegiant to the Haram Police and our colonizers.