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How Muslim Women are Dealing with Red-Pill Misogyny in the Community

“He said he had God-given right to a good wife, meaning I had no right to reject him.” Muslim women seeking a spouse share their misogynistic experiences.

“He said he had God-given right to a good wife, meaning I had no right to reject him.” Muslim women seeking a spouse share their misogynistic experiences.

Names have been changed to protect identities. The original article was published here, and all content belongs to the original author.

Sabrine is sitting in her ten-year-old brother’s room one night, playing Xbox, when he asks her if she knows who Andrew Tate is.

“I heard other boys at school talking about him – they wanted to pick him for our English project, but Miss wouldn’t let them,” he told her. Sabrine froze. She knew of the hold Tate and wider incel culture were having over teenage boys and young men across the world. She saw it as a dangerous virus of violent misogyny spreading through social media and infiltrating impressionable minds. But she had never expected her brother in Year Six to be talking about him: she still thought of him as a baby.

“I didn’t know how to explain to him in a way he could understand. I just said he hates women and that he’s a bad man,” she tells me, her voice trailing off with the regret she later felt at not knowing how to handle this moment. But Sabrine was even more lost for words when her little brother mentioned Tate’s apparent conversion to Islam recently. “Doesn’t that mean he’s a good guy?”

“I just said that in our religion, we value women – heaven is under our mother’s feet. But afterwards, I felt like I had failed to get the message through to him. What if he gets influenced like these other boys?”

Sabrine was on a social media detox at the time because, as she puts it, it was wreaking havoc on her mental health. Plus, it was a huge distraction from her final year law exams, which were looming. But that night, she decided to log back in, delving into “Muslim Twitter” to tackle the problem head-on. She created a fake account using a pseudonym and began obsessively replying to Muslim incel figures who spouted what she refers to as their “dangerous message” online.

Weeks on, it’s something she regularly does. “I just question the basis of what they’re saying,” she explains. “If they post support for Tate, I ask where in our religion it says we should support an alleged human trafficker, even if he is a Muslim. If they tweet things about the role of women, I challenge them for evidence from the Quran to support their misogynistic views”. With a laugh, she explains that she normally just gets blocked or “takfired,” which is when someone accuses her of denouncing Islam because of her feminist views. “But I feel like at least I’m doing my small bit now”.

“Muslim Twitter” is shorthand for the corner of the internet dominated by (largely) British Muslims, sharing posts about everything from politics to fashion, religion to marriage dilemmas. As a millennial, it feels like I grew up on the internet, and it has shaped my identity in myriad ways – including my relationship with my faith.

From obsessively watching YouTube hijab tutorials in the mid-2000s when I was new to being a hijabi to learning pretty much everything I know about my religion through online lectures in place of the afterschool Islamic schools that other British Muslims usually attend, the internet has been a central pillar in my identity. But recently, there has been a seismic shift in Muslim-dominated online spaces as red pill and incel culture have taken hold. The former refers to a misogynistic ideology that originated on Reddit, positing that advancing women’s rights systematically disenfranchises men. This has led to the development of an incel – shorthand for involuntarily celibate – identity among red-pillers, who attribute their sexual dissatisfaction to women’s liberation.

Of course, social media algorithms have a lot to answer for in how they amplify particularly controversial posts. Thanks to the history of what I click on, I’m sure I have a higher exposure to these posts than some, but I know I’m not the only Muslim woman who feels like everything I see online these days is a confirmation of the red-pill culture’s hold over Muslim men.

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The frustrating thing is, despite Tate’s apparent conversion to Islam and his commitment to stoking up Muslim support in his times of need (e.g. bringing a Quran to court to face human trafficking charges), incel culture is entirely at odds with Islam’s commitment to gender equity and female empowerment. For example, Islam emphasises that women should retain their own name and assets after marriage which completely contradicts Tate’s misogynistic belief that women are the property of men. Plus, Islam’s focus on chastity for both men and women couldn’t be detached from Andrew Tate’s so-called “porn empire.”

So if Islam and incel culture are so incompatible, then why are the two increasingly seeming to converge online? As Mariya Bint Rehan writes for Amaliah, a platform that champions the voices of Muslim women: “Inceldom and Red Pill thought is the result of the social anxiety that exists around the role of male identity in these volatile economic times. As the nuclear family, and the traditional gender and economic roles that define it, face threats from social, political, cultural and global shifts to its foundations.”

Black and brown men in Britain experience economic instability more acutely than their white counterparts, facing higher levels of unemployment and lower average wages. Incel culture and red-pill thought offers stability rooted in a hardline conservative ideology that looks tempting in this turbulent economic climate. And when the likes of Andrew Tate and Muslim viral figures such as Ali Dawah and Mohammed Hijab promote a crossover of red pill with Islam, this begins to look like the answer for men facing a generation-defining crisis of masculinity intersected with state racism and financial insecurity.

Of course, it’s Muslim women who suffer the consequences. Aisha is a twenty-five-year-old Muslim woman who is looking to get married. For her, as a conservative Muslim, this means speaking to guys her parents have introduced her to or who she knows of through her local Muslim community in Manchester. “I was so shocked,” she tells me, “by how many of them seem indoctrinated by this red-pill ideology.” Stifling a laugh, she recalls how one man even had Andrew Tate as his WhatsApp picture. “That was an automatic no for me”, she says, rolling her eyes.

Aisha’s sister, Naseema, is six years older than her, and the two sisters have noticed a significant difference in their experiences with looking for a potential husband. A few years ago, for Naseema, it was more about the compatibility of personalities and how aligned they were in terms of religious and personal outlook. But Aisha describes her search as “constantly putting out fires. I have to have a list of questions I ask now to seed out any undercover misogynists.”

Things took a dark turn for Aisha when she spoke to a man who took her eventual rejection of him very badly. “I had some red flags”, she explained. “He was very adamant that we had to live in his mum’s small flat, and he wanted kids from the beginning,” – whereas Aisha has dreams of travelling the world with her future husband before settling down to start a family. When she politely told him that she didn’t think they were compatible, he completely changed. Despite the fact they never even met up in person, only spoken on the phone and messaged frequently, he threatened to spread rumours about her in her close-knit community that the two had been intimate with one another.

“He knew that would ruin my reputation”, she tells me, clearly distressed by her ordeal. “He started to use misogynistic language: calling me a wh*re and a b*tch and said something about him having a God-given right to a good wife, meaning I had no right to reject him.” He even said she was too old for a “high-value man” such as himself anyway – a mentality Aisha felt was borrowed straight from incel culture: the idea that women are something men deserve by right.

Given the way Muslim communities are hyper-policed in this country, it feels frustrating that more is not being done to tackle the scourge of incel and red pill thought online. How long will Muslim women like Aisha and Sabrine bear the brunt of a culture in which violent misogyny can run rampant?

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