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Beleaguered Muslim women deserve our support too

Garawand: where is the anger over her death?

Armita Garawand, an Iranian teenager, has just died after a month-long coma, says Joanna Williams in The Times. She had a run-in with “morality police” for not wearing a hijab and, like 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last year, paid for it with her life. So where is the solidarity with these brave women, like there was when George Floyd was killed and the Black Lives Matter movement took off across the world? All too often, it seems, “when Muslim women demand freedom they are silenced”. The Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali has had invitations to speak at American universities rescinded over claims she engages in “hate speech” against Islam. Students at British universities have tried repeatedly to no-platform Maryam Namazie, a critic of aspects of Islamic theology.

On the left, “the move from class-based to identity-based concerns has created new understandings of oppression”. White working-class men are now considered privileged, whereas Muslims are “one of the most beleaguered of identity groups” – and thus immune from criticism. So while women in Iran protest the hijab because it represents their oppression by a conservative, patriarchal elite, in the west the religious garment has become “a symbol of political resistance to white superiority”, celebrated by organisations wanting to emphasise their anti-racist credentials. A park in the West Midlands is now home to a 16-foot steel statue of a Muslim woman wearing a head covering, with a plaque reading: “The Strength of the Hijab”. This is the “twisted moral reasoning” that identity politics leads to.