The headline “Woman stabbed to death ‘because she was wearing traditional Muslim dress’” is repeated across today’s news.
Attacking Nahid Al-Manea because of what she was wearing was a racist hate crime and blaming her clothing is judgemental victim blaming. I have no desire to defend any religion. All religions that I am aware of oppress women. But I want to know why we can almost immediately place her murder in a box called ‘religion’ or ‘racism’. So far this year, I’ve counted more than 70 women in the UK killed though suspected male violence, but I’ve yet to see anyone other than feminists identifying this a problem with patriarchy or misogyny.
According to the Tell MAMA UK project, 58% of anti-Muslim attacks reported to them are against women and girls with a 2:1 ratio of women victims in Islamic clothing compared to men in Islamic clothing, 75% of perpetrators are male. The sex differences are clear – and predicable – to anyone who cares to look for them. When race or religion are a factor in violence, these are rightly identified and named . Why isn’t it the same with sexist and misogynistic murder?
We’re not calling racially motivated attacks isolated incidents, nor should we, but that’s still how male violence against women is too frequently viewed. Racist violence does not happen in a vacuum that is unaffected by other forms of hate-crime. Of course we need to drive out racism but we need to open our eyes and make the connections between all crimes of male violence against women – any woman, all women.
Within minutes of the breaking news of the violent murder of Lee Rigby last summer, his death was being linked to Islamic extremism– a threat to “our British values”. The government’s emergency response committee, COBRA, was convened the following day. Why hasn’t a COBRA meeting been called to look at fatal male violence against women? The murder of Lee Rigby was abhorrent, but any murder is abhorrent. There should be no hierarchy. Could it be that it is only when the primary aggressors are those acting against, not reinforcing the dominant ideology, that the structural root of violence is identified?
According to Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell MAMA UK “If the killing is found to be an anti-Muslim in nature, then this will be the second Islamophobic murder in 14 months,”. Two in 14 months is two too many. Nahid al-Manea, 32, was stabbed to death. A 52 year-old man has been arrested. I’ve seen more than 70 versions of this same story in the UK already this year. Over 70 dead women. Over 70 male killers. 70 dead women in five months. Women with a wide range of backgrounds. Nine dead women this month so far. Who isn’t making the connections?