Prominent Atheist Richard Dawkins Says Islam Needs A 'Feminist Revolution'

Maybe somebody's got a savior complex.
Don Arnold via Getty Images

Outspoken atheist writer Richard Dawkins took to Twitter this week to air concerns about the status of women in Islam. Needless to say, his unsolicited advice to a religion of 1.6 billion people didn't sit well with many.

"Change must come from within our global Muslim society," British philanthropist Yasmin Choudry responded on Twitter.

Others challenged Dawkins for what they saw as his patronizing tone. Muslim women have "been through this before," Hind Makki, a well-known Muslim blogger, told The Huffington Post.

"When Europe began colonizing Muslim lands at the turn of the 20th century, we were told by white European men that their dismantling of our religious, economic, cultural, and political systems were for our own good -- that we Muslim women needed saving from Muslim men, by Christian European men."

Makki's response to such outreach? "No thanks," she said.

Muslim activist Linda Sarsour said she was "tired of non-Muslims commenting on what Islam is or isn't." She added: "As a Muslim woman, I have the agency to tell you that Islam is a feminist religion and informs my role and positions on women's rights issues. I am a feminist because I am Muslim."

Dawkins stood by his earlier tweet, writing:

Though the sentiment Dawkins expressed on Twitter Thursday may come from a good place, his argument ignores the fact that many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab and other forms of coverings -- and feel empowered doing so.

And as Sarsour mentioned, countless Muslim women and men are already working for women's rights and challenging stereotypes that are too-often perpetuated in the media.

Dawkins pointed to child marriage, female genital mutilation and other atrocities in some countries as evidence of Islam's inherent bias against women.

He may want to revisit Reza Aslan's explanation of why it's problematic to make generalizations about "the Muslim world":

Women's rights is an issue that governments, religious institutions, and communities the world over must address, and there is certainly a long way to go. But by pointing the finger at one religion, Dawkins seems to suggest that the rest of the world has figured out women's equality -- which it very much has not.

Qasim Rashid, a prominent Muslim author and lawyer, offered his own advice to Dawkins, tweeting:

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