Claiming our Space: Muslim Women, Activism, and Social Media
This paper addresses the ways in which Muslim women seek to employ online media, particularly social media, to reclaim narratives around space, embodiment, and power. I argue that digital space is, like any other form of media, structured essentially by racism and patriarchy, but I also note the crucial potential for resistance exhibited by Muslim activists such as political leaders Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Instagram influencer Ayesha Malik, and the largely anonymous women who participated in #MosqueMeToo, encouraged by the journalist and activist Mona Eltahawy. I draw upon a post/anti-colonial feminist framework and the tools of critical discourse analysis in examining specific instances where such women perform acts of resistance that, in turn, trigger a gendered and raced reaction. I note the ways in which some Muslim women, such as Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed, are constructed as media heroes, given that their stories can be co-opted to validate notions of the white colonial savior, while others directly challenge narratives of colonialism and oppression and are thus subjected to backlash. I point to the ways in which some of this vitriol continues to refer back to the notion that Muslim women should be silent, and to the fetishized Muslim woman's body: how it should look, where it can/should go, and what can be done to it.