A+ A-

Muslim women speak out on community backlash

Two prominent Muslim women, civil rights lawyer Lydia Shelly and author Randa Abdel-Fattah, have spoken about the community backlash they receive when they speak out on Muslim affairs and women’s rights.

Muslim community advocate and lawyer Lydia Shelly said she went to the Lindt Café, accompanied by friends, to pay respects the day after the Martin Place siege. She was subsequently subjected to a barrage of online attacks from within the Muslim community – many of which questioned the sincerity of her grief.

“I was told I deserved it because I was a ‘public person’ and that they had every right to question my politics publicly."

“I kept thinking, ‘This is the reason why we are facing our problems, because even in our grief we attack each other and we are unable to see our humanity,” Shelly said.

She understands why some members within the community strongly oppose her views but said it doesn't justify public threats.

“It is incredibly painful and demoralising. It causes me a great deal of angst… but they say if you’re a public person they can attack you publicly.”

“I think that female advocates cop it far more…we are judged on our appearance and we are fighting patriarchy and misconceptions both within our own communities and the broader Australian community.”

– Lydia Shelley

The experience is shared by many Australian Muslims who speak to the media. Many claim they’ve been abused and humiliated – both at community events and online – and called ‘apologists’,  ‘sell-outs’, ‘moderate Muslims’ and have even received threats of physical violence from within their own communities.

The Muslim community is racially diverse and there are different sects of Islam - and indeed many Muslim communities - which can make it difficult to agree on appropriate spokespeople.

Many Muslim community members say that genuine Muslim community leaders and their concerns aren’t being listened to by the media. They’re also tired of having to continually denounce terrorism and prove their loyalty as Australians. 

Others believe that the community's “dirty laundry” shouldn’t be aired publicly and disagreements should be resolved internally within the community.

Prominent media spokeswoman, PhD candidate and author, Randa Abdel-Fattah said being a community advocate sometimes means being caught in a “double-bind”.

She told The Point Magazine she’s had to censor her views on Muslim women issues due to the responses it might trigger within her own community. “In short, I hold back because I will be targeted as a 'western feminist'.”

“The community is hurting. It is vulnerable and being attacked on all sides - sometimes the disempowered lash out at the easier target.”

“We also have some atrocious spokespeople. The very idea of being a spokesperson annoys me. I do not make this claim.”

“I welcome criticism from people who are putting in their own work and effort because their critique is credible, but nothing is more insulting than being lectured to by somebody who won't take the time to inform themselves to the degree we need to in order to effectively engage with the media,” she said.

Female Muslim advocates suffer the most community backlash, agreed Lydia Shelley.

“I think that female advocates cop it far more…we are judged on our appearance and we are fighting patriarchy and misconceptions both within our own communities and the broader Australian community.”

The Point

Australian Muslim spokespersons, particularly women, receive criticism from within their community when they discuss community affairs and women’s rights publicly

INTERESTED IN WRITING FOR THE POINT?

We are looking for students who are interested in writing for us.

Email Us
Back to Top

Contact Us

For all general enquiries contact:

The Editor
The Point Magazine

Email The Editor

HAVE SOME FEEDBACK?

FEEDBACK FORM
The Point Magazine logo

Follow us