Two weeks ago, a social media shitstorm started and it hasn’t stopped.
Noor Tagouri, a 22-year-old Muslim-American journalist, was featured in Playboy magazine as part of the magazine’s October “renegades” issue, which focused on “seven cultural rule breakers who are changing the way we think, dress and more.”
Muslims around the world tweeted, commented and posted about Tagouri’s decision to be interviewed in Playboy’s article. Although Playboy no longer publishes nude photographs, many self-righteous Muslims, particularly Muslim men, took offense with a Muslim woman in a headscarf associating herself with Playboy.
She’s been called a “hoejabi” (a word combination of “hijab” and “hoe”) and a “slut” online by Muslim men who would not have the audacity to say those words to her face. Many Muslim men and women have said on social media that Tagouri is a “poor role model” for young Muslim women because she does not fit their idea of what a hijabi should be: quiet, hidden and passive.
Although I understand Playboy’s problematic reputation and history of sexually objectifying and commodifying women, Tagouri should have the right to make her own decisions without public condemnation from leaders within the Muslim community. She’s been called a “faux” hijabi, and many have implied that she’s thrown her values out the window for media recognition.
The slut-shaming that Tagouri has faced harbors religious connotations. Underneath these comments is the implication that it is okay to shame a woman if done on religious grounds. In Tagouri’s case, the ongoing criticism of her decision to appear in Playboy stems from the belief that she committed a sin and it is the Muslim public’s duty to correct her.
This is not an isolated incident. Brown men and Muslim men have long been dictating how women should behave, should dress, and should think. Misogynistic attitudes are ubiquitous in all cultural and religious communities, but especially within mine. I am disgusted by it.
Tagouri is not being attacked on moral and religious grounds because she was featured in Playboy. Even before her “Playboy” appearance, she was criticized on social media for wearing makeup, for showing her bangs and for her attire. She is being attacked because she is a young Muslim woman who — instead of staying home, getting married and birthing children — had the courage to express the complete autonomy she has of her body and her life. She is being attacked because, like many millennial women, she is reclaiming her religion and deciding what her faith means to her instead of allowing others to dictate it.
Constructive criticism is one thing, but when you shame a woman and question her values because you don’t agree with her decision, you destroy a part of that religious community you hold so dear. It’s time we stop shaming women for daring to be themselves, for daring to be bold and for daring to challenge the status quo.