Muslim American Libyan journalist Noor Tagouri is in the news lately because she appeared in Playboy magazine to spread a positive and much needed message. Tagouri is growling at the camera, fully clothed wearing a leather jacket, jeans and copper headscarf. She talks about modesty and her dream of becoming the first veiled anchorwoman in the United States. You don't have to have an active imagination to picture social media's response to a hijabi appearing in a magazine historically associated with nude women.
Many comments on the article, on Facebook, and Twitter are horrendous, insulting Tagouri's character and morals. Others are positive and many posts on my own Facebook feed generated a discussion about individuality, choice, and Islam. I stayed quiet about my thoughts, reading the discussions on Facebook and liking whenever someone had a valid point. The whole time the only thought that was going through my head was, if an unveiled Muslim woman appeared in Playboy talking about social justice or modesty we wouldn't even be having a discussion! The comments would be nothing but insults and the majority of the Muslim community would not have her back. If you stop for a second and think about what the controversy of Tagouri appearing in Playboy really boils down to it's this: Islam has a women problem. When Muslim women are in the public eye people freak out. They automatically throw assumptions and assume the worst. I know this from my experience as a contestant in the first ever Miss Arab USA Pageant where I represented Libya in traditional garb. Comments on my page were personal attacks and assumptions by Muslims who'd never had a conversation with me.
So why do Muslims feel the need to insult and attack women whenever we do something that is a little different? Something that possibly pushes boundaries, breaks stereotypes, or makes people uncomfortable? We don't hold Muslim men to the same regard, so why women? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when we see Muslim women appearing in public doing something we may not agree with. These are the types of questions that lead to reformation, and it doesn't take an analyst to realize that men with very traditional views have controlled the interpretation of the Quran for centuries.
To the veiled men and women who supported Tagouri's appearance in Playboy, would you have supported an unveiled Muslim woman doing the exact same thing? If your answer is no, realize you too are part of the problem. We either support Muslim women or we don't. If your decision to support someone is based on whether or not they wear a hijab and blindly do so, you are no better than the people who wrote ignorant comments about Tagouri. Muslim women need to be taught that they are responsible for their own choices, and Tagouri is an example of a Muslim woman who makes her own decisions. Whether you agree with Tagouri's choice to appear in the magazine or not, you can't deny the discussion it has sparked-and that is what we should be focusing on, not her morals or integrity.