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10 Successful Muslim Women Who Wear The Hijab

For centuries, successful Muslim women have pioneered systems and institutions while wearing the hijab, and they still do so today.

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The Hijab, or the Muslim head covering is always met with hostility and scrutiny. Oppression and illiteracy is what it represents, according to the common stereotype against it. But successful Muslim women around the world are smashing those tropes!  

For centuries, successful Muslim women have pioneered systems and institutions while practicing their faith-prescribed veils. For example, the first ever university was built by a Hijab wearing woman, Fatima al-Fihri, in Fez, Morocco.

For many successful Muslim women the Hijab isn’t an obstacle in their paths, but it is the veil which keeps them safe as they break the proverbial glass ceiling. In fact, many Hijabi Muslim women who have made it to the height of their success continue to speak passionately about protecting the rights of Muslim women everywhere who choose to wear it in schools and workplaces. 

Here are 10 of those women changing the world.

Nusrat Sharif, Pfizer Senior Scientist

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Muslim Hijabi scientist, Nusrat Sharif, works as a Senior Scientist at Pfizer 

Towards the end of 2020, after the height of the pandemic, the release of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine seemed to be just the light we needed to return back to a normal life. Working with Pfizer as an inflammation & immunology specialist, a Muslim Hijabi scientist, Nusrat Sharif, serves as a Senior Scientist. 

In aiding the world with her research, her Hijab has never caused her to perform less successfully than her peers — nor has her performance ever declined because of her choice to wear a Hijab.

In a one-on-one interview with AnalystNews, Sharif, who topped her class in her PhD program, said: “I think the Hijab empowers me everyday to be a strong leader”.

Upon moving to the United States from India, Sharif went to visit many university campuses to decide on her higher education. She recalls one of the male students on campus yelling to her as she took a tour: “Take off your Hijab!” She says that in the heat of the moment, the only response that registered in her mind was to yell back was: “Never!”

She knew there and then that if people would try to make the Hijab a challenge for her, she would conquer it.

Sharif described her interview process with Pfizer, saying, “He [the director] was so impressed that a Muslim woman in a Hijab came so far.” She then had the opportunity to explain to him the true meaning of her religious garment.

Sharif had been working at Pfizer for some time, when she had an encounter with a new colleague who was an Arab Muslim woman. The woman told Sharif: “You can’t survive in a corporate world in purdah (veiling)”. The stereotypes around Hijabs not only impact societal perception of Muslim women, but the perception of Muslim women about themselves.

Sharif realised that not only did her Hijab dispel myths for non-Muslims, but it could also re-empower Muslim women who feel distraught when they have to pick between two identities (corporate vs religious). Her identity shows that you can be both, but more importantly, be great at both.

About the nature of the French Hijab ban, she says it has the opposite effect on trying to create equality in society. She also says forcing the Hijab makes no sense either. “Extremists on both sides are not good. Muslim women should have the freedom to decide that they want to do.

Khola Hübsch, Journalist

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Khola Hübsch on a German political talk show

A common misconception about the Hijab is that it prevents Muslim women from being free to communicate and make public appearances. But for Khola Hübsch, a German journalist, her Hijab actually helped her succeed in her career. The Hijab never got in the way of her success — in fact, she is most often known as the face of Muslim women in Germany, and that could be accredited to how her Hijab has made her visible.

For her, the Hijab never impeded on the quality of her education either. Khola feels that in many instances, her choice to wear a Hijab was guided by her Islamic faith. For some women, it is not just about opportunities, but the freedom to practice their faith. Keeping that choice for Muslim women is essential.

Munazza Alam, Astronomer

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Munazza Alam giving a presentation for National Geographic Education

One such example is a National Geographic Young Explorer, and renowned astronomer, Munazza Alam. The Harvard Graduate has worked on projects like the observation of atmosphere on exoplanets. It means she gets to work closely with large teams, and advanced equipment like the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the world’s most versatile telescopes. 

In an interview, while commenting on her Hijab, Alam says, “I have operated telescopes at national observatories, presented at conferences, and met with Nobel Prize winners in my full purdah [veiling] in venues all over the world.

“I do not shake hands with men and I have found this practice to be especially effective for setting a physical boundary from the start with the non-related men I meet. I have met some people who believe that doing purdah or refusing handshakes might disadvantage women from opportunities in their careers, but I have not found this to be the case in my experience. I have never felt that doing purdah has hindered my ability to be a professional scientist in any way. In fact, many people have told me that they admire my courage and respect me more for doing purdah even though it sets me apart in professional settings.”

Throughout her education and practice, the Hijab has served as a mark that sets her apart from her colleagues, and is something she is admired for, thanks to the acceptance of those around her.

“We live in a world today in which society is moving toward being more inclusive of people from all different backgrounds, which includes Muslim representation in STEM and other fields. Moreover, we have a right to dress in our purdah as Muslim women and discrimination against it is illegal. We should not be afraid to show the world who we are.” 

The challenges she faces don’t come from the Hijab itself, but by bullying and discrimination because she chooses to wear it. Alam shared with Carnegie Science that, “Once I visited an institute to give a research seminar and at the end of the talk, I was approached by a faculty member who harassed me about my headscarf.” The situation was later settled, with the woman understanding why her reaction was uncalled for. But the Hijab itself never became a factor that dimmed the light of Munazza Alam.

Nusrat Haq, Lawyer

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Purdah has always been a part of my outward image”

Muslim women have also successfully ventured deep into the field of law, proving that their Hijab does not get in the way of pursuing prestigious fields. Oxford alumni, Nusrat Haq graduated with a degree in law and now practices Corporate Law in Melbourne, Australia. While sharing her thoughts in an interview, Haq said that, “At the end of the day, purdah [veiling] doesn’t hold you back from anything in my view.”

“Having started purdah in my early teens, it feels as though purdah has always been a part of my outward image. Perhaps that brings with it a sense of confidence in wearing purdah, but I consider the ease with which I view purdah to be another one of the more fortunate aspects of my life.

Personally, I see purdah as one of the easiest forms of religious compliance. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s just the ease that comes with it. At university, I just put on my niqab and coat and run out of the door to the library or lectures!”

For most successful Muslim women, the support that they receive in their decision to wear the Hijab, from their peers and colleagues is ultimately what helps them on the journey of success.

Asked whether she faced and difficulties because of the hijab, she said:

“No, I haven’t faced any challenges at work or work events due to purdah and I’d echo my comments from your earlier question. There is so much awareness and training given to people at work these days, hiring and senior managers in particular, that I think it’s easier than ever for Muslim women to participate in the workforce and work events. It’s well understood that, ultimately, it’s to the employer’s benefit to ensure an inclusive workplace.”

Ayesha Noor Rashid, Entrepreneur

For some successful Muslim women, like Ayesha Noor Rashid, the Hijab is not just a tool of self-empowerment, but also a way to empower others. Rashid runs a small business, Equal Entrance, where she sells scarves, among other apparel, with quotes meant to give the wearer a boost of empowerment.

She says about the Hijab ban in France that, “Muslim women will either be forced to let go of their values or will gradually vanish away behind the closed doors of their homes.” But as a Hijabi herself, she believes Muslim women breaking the barriers is important because “representation matters.” To change the outlook of a whole new generation, Hijabi women must not be afraid of rising to the top because of what society makes them believe.

Amnah Khan, Bone Cancer Researcher

Amnah Khan, a bone cancer researcher, has had experiences with the Hijab where she feels as though the Hijab never got in her way. She has pioneered a method of bone cancer treatment that aims to use products found in insects to age the cancer cells and allow them to die naturally. 

Khan says that the results are promising, for a future where bone cancer becomes easier to treat once identified. Her motivation for her work comes from Islam itself, and while adorning the veil, she has been met with many great opportunities, thanks to how accepting everyone around her has been.

Ilhan Omar, Politician

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Ilhan Omar is the first Hijabi woman in the U.S Congress. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

Breaking through barriers as the first Hijabi woman in the United States congress, Ilhan Omar says that her Hijab allows her to be a representation for her faith. In an interview with Vogue Arabia, she said, “To me, the hijab means power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.” To her, it is a celebration, not a form of oppression.

For women of all walks of life, and for Muslim women whose choices are often taken control of by society, Omar says, “We are deserving and we don’t need permission or an invitation to exist and to step into our power.”

Maria Mensah, Construction Designer Manager

Muslim women not only breakthrough in the maths, sciences and laws, but they’ve also made a mark in construction. From the Islamic Golden Age, Queen Amina of Zaria is known for building the fortified walls that protected her country (current day Nigeria) from danger. 

Maria Mensah pursues another field of construction — creative design — that allows her to bring uniqueness to urban buildings, while wearing the Hijab. Mensah has always felt as though her Hijab added to her recognisability in the industry, helping propel her forward instead of drag her back.

She says: “At University, I had the room to grow based on the Islamic principles I wanted to live by but had found difficult to adopt earlier. I also saw University as a test run to the ‘adult’ world and I am glad that I made the decision to go with it. Wearing the hijab was a constant reminder that I am an Ahmadi Muslim and therefore needed to behave like it. It helped me a lot to navigate the university social life and have fun while sticking to my principles.”

Her latest project is working on the Marylebone Square in London, England.

Raffia Arshad, Court Judge

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The first Hijab-wearing judge in the United Kingdom – Credit: St. Mary’s Family Law Chambers

Raffia Arshad made headlines when she became the first Hijab-wearing judge in the United Kingdom. That barrier she broke was for all the Hijabi women who society has convinced that their Hijab could not allow them to attain success.

She says, “I decided that I was going to wear my headscarf because for me it’s so important to accept the person for who they are and if I had to become a different person to pursue my profession, it’s not something I wanted.” There is nothing Hijabi women need to change about themselves, but instead it is society that needs to change its perceptions on them.

Amani Al Hosani, Nuclear Scientist

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Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

A United Arab Emirates nuclear scientist, Amani Al Hosani, achieved everything that she did while wearing the Hijab. But her status as a Hijabi never stood in the way of her status as an asset for her nation. 

Her slogan to dream big carried her to great heights, and the Hijab always served as her rope forward and never as something that tied her down. 

In a society that is quickly evolving, successful Muslim women have pioneered many advancements themselves. But one thing that is leaving society stuck in the past is the judgment it is so quick to pass on women who choose to have control over what they wear.

The Hijab, to successful Muslim women globally, is a symbol of their commitment to their God and to their religion.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.

Business

Hijab-Wearing Muslim Women Face Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Muslim women around the world find themselves in the middle of heated political and social debates, because of their choice to wear the Muslim veil.

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Muslim women around the world find themselves in the middle of heated political and social debates, because of their choice to wear the Muslim veil. Their Hijab is a barrier towards their participation in a western society, not because of any barrier the head covering presents, but because of the discrimination and prejudice surrounding it.

A new report from a group of researchers at the University of Oxford, Utrecht, and Berlin revealed that Muslim women in the Netherlands and Germany are less likely to get hired for high customer-contact jobs if they wear the Hijab. The field experiment also included Spain, where they found less discrimination compared to the other two countries.

In an interview with Analyst News, senior University of Oxford researcher, and co-author of the paper, Mariña Fernández Reino said that the funding and reason for publishing this paper comes from a push from the European commission “to assess and measure discrimination against ethnic minorities.”

The paper reports that the average callback rate for native women in the Netherlands who did not wear the Hijab in their application photo, was around 70%. But for women who did wear the Hijab in their photos the callback rate was only 35%.

For a country like the Netherlands, known as one of the more accommodating nations towards religious minorities, these statistics are concerning. This shows that employers take Hijabi women at face-value, in a country that is normally known for its progressive practices towards people of all backgrounds.

The ongoing politicisation of visible Muslim women has prejudiced people — customers and employees alike — against those that choose to wear the veil. The Netherlands, despite its otherwise progressive stance on religious freedom, has policies in place that discriminate against Muslim women, such as the burqa ban. But the discriminatory practices that have been proven to exist in employment fields further ostracize Muslim women who wear the Hijab from participating in society.

Germany had a similar, albeit, less staggering, difference than the Netherlands: 53% of native German unveiled applicants received a callback for their job applications, whereas the veiled applicants received callbacks at a rate of around 25%.

Khola Hübsch, a German journalist known as the “face of Muslim women” in Germany tells Analyst News that, “In Germany we had public discussions on the hijab for years.”

In these discussions, however, she points out that Hijabi Muslim women were never included themselves. This meant many prejudices were perpetuated through one-sided dialogue. She says, “As a consequence, we had hijab-bans for teachers and public servants.”

Although these bans were later rescinded, they left their impact, ostracising Hijabi women in society — and thus, the workplace.

Spain which was described in the paper as a country with “high competition for jobs in a context of high unemployment” had a 25% average callback rate for non-Hijabi native Spanish women compared to 15.8% for Hijabi applicants.

Reino says that in addition to competition and unemployment, the lack of discussion surrounding the Hijab on a political level in Spain as compared to Germany and the Netherlands could be a reason it didn’t matter much in employers’ decision for callbacks.

The study further looked at the difference in discrimination in callback rates between non-Hijabi Muslim women and Hijabi Muslim women, to see at what extent employers consider the veil as a barrier to a job.

For high-contact jobs, such as front desk reception, the average callback rates among non-Hijabi Muslim women were 42%, 52%, and 14% for the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. These rates are still less compared to the native majority callback rates, perhaps showcasing a general discrimination towards Muslim women.

But for Hijabi women, the callback rates for these jobs were 18% for both the Netherlands and Germany, and 10% for Spain, showing an even greater disparity.

Reino tells Analyst News the logic they put behind the numbers is that human resource officers during the hiring process consider that, “women that wear a Hijab will be seen and contacted by customers.”

Due to negative societal beliefs surrounding the Hijab in countries like the Netherlands and Germany, she says, “customers might discriminate against employees, and thus businesses, so having public Hijabi employees might be considered bad for business.”

Reino says, “The main take of all this discrimination study is that what happens in the labour market reflects what happens in society.”

To change the inequality and discrimination in hiring practices, the change must start at a societal level. The larger anti-Islam narrative in the West must be studied and addressed.

To do that, Hübsch says “It is important to give those a public voice who are affected. Hijab-wearing women must be involved in the debate.”

Both Reino and Hübsch say that in addition to training employers to remove their prejudices, educational work to debunk the myths surrounding Islam and the Hijab must also be implemented.

The change in the labour market will have to be in tandem with the change in society.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.

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Crime

“Log kya kahenge?”: Is colonialism to blame for the rise in honour killings and honour culture in the South Asian community?

Family reputation has huge implications for many South Asian families and is regarded as a very precious asset.

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Honor Killing

“Log kya kahenge?” or “What will people say?” in Urdu and Hindi is a common enough phrase heard by many South Asians.  No doubt Sania Khan, a Pakistani American may also have had to hear this too many times before she was murdered by her ex-husband whilst going through a divorce. Khan, 29 left her bad marriage as she felt unsafe with her husband due to his long-standing mental health issues. She shared her experience on TikTok recalling how “going through a divorce as a South Asian woman feels like you failed at life sometimes”. However, on 18th July 2022 her ex-husband shot her in the head then shot himself.  Sadly, Sania Khan was pronounced dead at the scene.

But why has there been a rise in honour killings in the South Asian community and why is this toxic honour “culture” so important?  Family reputation has huge implications for many South Asian families and is regarded as a very precious asset.  Analyst News spoke to psychoanalyst Shukriya Mahat about how honour is all about abiding by family rules. “Honour is the highest level of integrity you have.  When you are born into a family you have to abide by a certain set of rules and principles that come with that family, so you end up carrying a name of a family, you are not yourself.” That is exactly how the families of honour victims Sania Khan, Qandeel Baloch and Shafilea Ahmed viewed their daughters. For some South Asian families they are more than willing to kill one of their own when they do not abide by these “rules” to preserve their family’s honour.

“For women in the South Asian community, they gain respectability if they get married as their name becomes attached to a male,” says Neha Gill, executive director of Apna Ghar, a Chicago-based human rights organisation working to end gender-based violence. It offers services to predominantly South Asian women facing intimate partner abuse. Gill told Analyst News that divorced women still carry the stigma of unrespectability within the community – they begin to symbolise sexual impurity, leading to their shaming and shunning.  The definition of what a “respectable woman” is, continues to be used today, because the community is obsessed with creating a woman who is the “marriageable type”.

Gill goes on to say, “Women like Sania Khan are not trusted to make their own decision of leaving a marriage or not” because, she believes, they are not trusted to uphold their family’s honour. “Many women are expected to ‘compromise’ in their marriage, and this can mean many women are expected to tolerate abusive behaviours solely to preserve honour.  That is why we find when abuse victims leave their marriage, that is when the most homicides occur as the abuser loses power and control over their honour,” she explains.

According to the Sri Lankan author and activist Kumari Jayawaradena, the idea of “respectability” is a throwback to colonial times when missionaries who settled in India and Sri Lanka claimed they were bringing “salvation and the light of true faith”.  By trying to convert the native populations, the Christians created female missionaries in schools with the aim of providing  “good Christian wives and mothers” for male converts to uphold the principles set out in the Bible. A family’s honour was tied to whether their daughter was ‘sexually pure’. Thus rules for what a ‘respectable’ woman was, were rooted in fundamentalist Biblical ideas of abstinence before marriage and sexual purity.  But Gill opines that colonialism probably made an already deeply patriarchal society even worse and compounded women’s low status.  Indeed when missionaries were first placed in schools in India and Sri Lanka during British rule it was difficult to persuade parents to send their daughters to school as ‘reading and writing were not considered to be traits of a female’.

Gill explains how the culture is steeped in patriarchy. From the beginning of someone’s life “we praise a woman if she gives birth to a boy but then wishes them to receive a boy ‘next time’ if they give birth to a baby girl.”  Unfortunately this attitude still exists today.   A recent study found that there would be 6.8 million fewer female births recorded across India by 2030 because of sex selective abortions, where a baby is more likely to be aborted if it’s female. This cultural preference exists and is perpetuated through the generations, as a boy means he’s more likely to earn and become a breadwinner and girls are just seen as a “burden from day one” because someone needs to provide for them.  And if you’re unlucky enough to have a girl, then the onus is to ensure she’s of a “marriageable type” so she can be married off as soon as she’s of age.

But why are these blatant discriminatory practices perpetuated today?  Psychoanalyst Mahat believes that the patriarchal system continues to be upheld by the older generation which “instils these rules because for many of their generation, honour is much more important than life.” The problem then becomes that the community is stuck in a constant cycle of successive generations being taught that these backward-looking, paternalistic standards are the cultural norm.

Is there any way to stop this vicious cycle, change attitudes and restore women’s status? Shukriya Mahat feels one way to cut through is education.  She suggests that by simply teaching younger generations that there is no shame in getting a divorce if marriage does not work out and setting better examples for them to follow would be a huge breakthrough. “However, re-educating South Asian adults can be the hardest challenge when they have been taught all their life to abide by these rules,” she says. But it will be women who have suffered at the hands of their partners, who will likely have the courage and agency needed to change the cultural mindset into one which truly values the fairer sex.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Religion

Hijab wearing Costco employee files complaint alleging harassment and discrimination

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A Muslim woman in the US has filed a complaint against wholesaler, Costco, alleging workplace discrimination and harassment.

Wafa Aziz, 44, who had worked at two stores in Livonia in the state of Michigan, claimed managers were prejudiced against her for being visibly Muslim since she joined in November 2018.

“They view me differently,” she said. “They see what I wear on the outside but they don’t view me as a human being.”

Aziz, who is of Arab-descent and wears the hijab, said she was subject to rumours from her manager, who filed a false document to discipline her and prevented her from progressing to higher paying roles. She also claimed to have overheard managers saying her employment was to fill in “minority numbers”.

“We are living in America, where we have laws that protect citizens from this type of discrimination, but it’s still going on,” Aziz said. “At a corporation like Costco, that should not be OK…They should be held accountable for that.”

Still an employee of the corporation, the 44 year old said she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. But the mother of two, including a daughter who has scoliosis, will not quit.

“Why would I and why should I? Why should I have to leave because someone is trying to push me out because I’m simply different [from] them? Because they think me wearing my hijab is going to obstruct me from performing my job duties?” she said.

Islamophobia in the US has seen an uptick. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre in March this year revealed 78% of adults believe Muslims face discrimination, compared to 68% who believe Jews do, and 44% who believe Evangelical Christians are subject to mistreatment.

In May, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said there had been an increase of 9% in civil rights complaints it had received since 2020.

Just last month, US President Joe Biden condemned the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “These hateful attacks have no place in America.” he wrote in a tweet.

But discrimination against hijab-wearing American women is twofold. In 2019, a woman working at a detention centre in Delaware, Wilmington, was prevented from wearing her hijab on the grounds that religious clothing was “unsafe” at the facility that houses inmates. At the time, the agency worker, Madinah Brown’s attorney described the case as a “clear example of religious discrimination.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

The Problem with Andrew Tate

Andrew Tate is slowly becoming a household name for all the wrong reasons. Here’s why he’s not a good role model.

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Amongst young people especially, Andrew Tate is slowly becoming a household name for all the wrong reasons. With disturbing opinions on such topics as women, rape, masculinity and the attainment of success, Tate has been banned from Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube with other social media platforms following suit. Perhaps more disturbing is his appeal to young men thriving off the validity he gives to their feelings of isolation due to what they perceive to be a corrupted women’s society.

Who is he?

A former kickboxer, Tate first rose to prominence in 2016 following an appearance on reality TV show, Big Brother. This short-lived venture resulted in his removal from screen after a video emerged of him beating a woman with a belt. Despite his claims that the female involved was consensually participating, the behaviour seen correlates with the messages that have made him go viral. 

Views on Women

According to Tate, female victims of rape “bear some responsibility” for putting themselves in vulnerable positions, and suggests that if a woman makes an accusation of cheating,  it would be fair to “bang out the machete, boom her in the face and grip her by the neck”. Additionally, in expressing that men hold a degree of authority in male-female relationships, Tate equates the responsibility of marriage to that of owning a pet, saying, “you can’t be responsible for a dog if it doesn’t obey you”. He justifies this with the claim that women are “actually happy serving men” over “working some career”.

Even if it’s fame that’s driving him, it’s hard to understand how he and evidently, so many other men, genuinely believe such derogatory views are acceptable. But this issue speaks to a larger one concerning healthy online spaces for men.

An idol to young men

In advocating toxic masculinity and lavish living with his self-proclaimed pyramid scheme and get-rich-quick, online programme ‘Hustler’s University’, Tate has won the hearts of young men by validating their feelings of incompetence when interacting with women. Many of his followers are part of the ‘incel’ movement, which believes women and feminism are the root cause of all their problems.

A disturbing, yet unsurprising amount of support comes from British-Muslim men, many of whom have taken to TikTok to share Tate’s views and express how he upholds Islamic requirements for women. One look at the masses of YouTube videos of Muslim men discussing the corrupted behaviours of westernised Muslim women and how they are no longer dedicated to family, marital and modest life can explain this link.

Tate has also expressed his respect for Islam, admiring the false notion that women are seen as the ‘property’ of a man with the purpose of serving him. Many members of the Islamic community have taken to social media to highlight the real teachings about women in Islam and also to point out the hypocrisy of Muslim men idolising a figure who indulges in behaviours considered vices in Islam – excess money, premarital sex and fame.

He is also known for his links to controversial figures belonging to the far-right, such as Tommy Robinson and Alex Jones, which enables further exposure to a whole new audience already susceptible to extremist views.

This begs the question then, as to how deeply Tate has ingrained what is frankly, criminal thought into the minds of his followers, and what will it take to undo this damage in a world where internet content is virtually permanent?

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

Mali: Security concerns soar & human rights worsen

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UN troops serving in Mali for the peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) set up in 2013, have recently been detained, tortured and accused of being “mercenaries” by the Malian government. On July 10th, several troops from the Ivory Coast were arrested with allegations of misinformation. They claimed that the troops had arrived without informing the government, thus disrespecting their sovereignty.

Since then, Mali has urged its neighbours and the United Nations to implement a streamlined rotation procedure for troops on the peacekeeping mission, which will be assessed by its Department of Foreign Affairs. To preserve the supremacy of Mali’s government this appears to be an appropriate response. However, the current government has repeatedly adopted a hostile policy against foreign groups in the country, perceiving them to be the enemy of the nation. Or, this could be a feigned excuse to detach them from the pressure to hold elections and form a democratic state.

As a consequence of these security and military concerns, the state of human rights in Mali continues to deteriorate at a horrifying pace. Extremist groups with affiliations to ISIS, Al-Qaida and Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal-Muslim continue to wreak havoc, abduct, and kill civilians in their localities. The UN’s independent expert on human rights, Mr Alioune Tine, has recently observed the situation in Mali and expressed an urgent need to rectify current strategies to better protect human rights in the country. 

Mr Tine’s report showed a decline in social security with over 1644 schools being closed across the country, leading to a rise in early marriages and associated crimes of sexual exploitation especially of girls. Over 100 people were murdered in an attack by rebels associated with al-Qaeda in June this year.  And a few days ago, an attack in Tessit resulted in the death of another 4 civilians.

Ordinary people are consumed by a sense of fear, unable to find proper protection with their government, insurgent groups or even UN troops. Earlier this year countless more were executed on false charges of affiliation with Islamist groups. Malian civilians are being relentlessly held to ransom by all warring factions, whilst the perpetrators of these crimes are not being held to account for any of their actions.

Mr Tine’s statement in February 2022 holds truer than ever: “Everything considered, the international and African community must recognize the need to rethink security responses in the Sahel and I also call for the development of more integrated security strategies focused on the protection of civilian populations and their fundamental human rights.”

The Malian people have long been promised a constitutional government; however the transition seems to only get further out of reach. MINUSMA has been operating in Mali for nearly ten years  and yet the conflict appears to have escalated over the last few years only, prompting serious and urgent consideration as to what more the UN and surrounding countries could do to put an end to this war.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

The Taliban’s Broken Pledges: a regressive state for women’s rights

It is an unfortunate plight that the Taliban have come back into power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s broken pledges, prove that Afghanistan is a regressive state for Women’s rights.

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The Talibans Broken Pledges: a regressive state for womens rights

The return of the Taliban and their uncompromising government following their capture of Kabul on August 15th, 2021 is seeing the lives of Afghans spiral back into one reminiscent of that during the 1990s, and once again the rights of women are being violated the most – showcasing the examples of the Taliban’s broken pledges.

The Taliban’s promise to uphold a less repressive leadership seems to be failing especially concerning the liberties of women. Women and girls are being prevented from basic human rights such as freedom of expression, movement and freedom to earn a living. 

     For many Afghan girls however, their right to education has been their most precious ambition. But with the hope and promise of this education, these dreams have been just as quickly crushed as girls were turned away from schools, following the announcement that only girls in grade six and below were eligible to attend. Additionally, despite giving more flexibility than their predecessors, like allowing selected jobs or circumstantial travelling, the Taliban have maintained that women need to be accompanied by a male family member at all times, resulting in a negative domino effect on other rights. Thus, it seems life for girls now doesn’t differ much from how it was under the Taliban’s last rule from 1996-2001.

Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon suggests that this failure to fulfil promises to Afghan girls comes from a discordance within the Taliban itself. It seems members from newer generations in the group – many of whose daughters reportedly receive their education in Pakistan –  are at odds with older and stricter members. It may be that those holding onto more conservative views of the Taliban from the 90s are perhaps the obstacles in the way of more progressive and necessary changes.    

The rest of the Afghan population also continues to suffer from dire human rights violations. With more than a reported ‘95% of Afghans’ being food insecure for almost the entire year of Taliban government, millions of civilians, specifically children, are subject to malnutrition and facing either ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity. With aid halted from international governments and the restrictive measures on the roles of women, people are having to turn to extreme solutions like sending their children to work. But this alone does not provide enough to sustain even low living standards. And with a collapsed healthcare system, Afghans are barely existing.

Human Rights Watch notes this is largely due to the failure of the Taliban and foreign governments to come to an agreement regarding financial aid, and given that before August 2021, 75% of Afghan economy was dependent on foreign aid, it appears that the Taliban’s ability to fulfil their pledges relies on their cooperation and communication with both domestic and international bodies. But this doesn’t absolve foreign governments of their responsibilities – particularly in the West – who likely deliberately fail to engage with the Taliban because its politics oppose majority global opinion, and who value political favour more highly than Afghan lives.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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