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Muslim Women in Eastern Europe


 Mariya Petkova is a Bulgarian freelance journalist based in Cairo. She is currently completing a graduate degree at Oxford University.  In Aljazeera,  she comments on the reasons why Eastern European Muslim women have not responded well to the efforts of a “western” feminist group to bring attention to feminism.

 Because she is from Bulgaria, she knows the recent history of women in the region.  Communists had forced them to abandon their religion and their traditional clothing and promised them “liberation” in return.  What happened was that women lost the security of family and village and got nothing but poorly paying jobs in return.  Now they see little reason to support a movement that derides their religion and its traditions.  Petkov is particularly critical of a group of Ukrainiain women who bared their breasts to publicize feminist concerns.

Her article is perseptive, if hardly new.  Even though the women she describes are not women of color, she addresses the problems that many Muslim women around the global have with feminism.  And why feminist have a particular need to read books by Muslim women and other women of color.

Some quotes from her article

Eastern European and Western female and male self-professed “feminists” have taken up onto themselves to define what women’s liberation means and expect the rest of the world to agree. For them one of the first priorities is to have women wear whatever they want… as long as it is not a burqa or niqab (or even hijab) because these are so denigrating…

So do you see, Maryna, why when you extend your hand in solidarity with Muslim women, while mocking their values, there is no response from the other side? If you show no respect to the beliefs and cultural heritage of these women and their ideas of womanhood, why should they show any respect to yours?…

 I think it is not difficult to decide which is more effective as an example of [Egyptian Muslim] women’s strength, fighting off stereotypes – women facing off with armed police, military and thugs who beat, torture, rape and kill – or a bunch of women who decide to take off their clothes for the media in a European capital.

Read her whole piece at


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