Debunking Myths on Women’s Rights, Muslim Women, Feminism and Islamophobia in Europe

This leaflet is part of a unique cooperation between the feminist and antiracism movements in Europe on the project “Forgotten Women: the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women”. Given the continued debates and misconceptions around both Muslim women and feminism and their societal impact, the European Network Against Racism is debunking some of the more common stereotypes about feminism and Muslim women in Europe in order to promote a shared understanding of equal treatment in a diverse society.

This document focuses on Muslim women in Europe in order to better address the intersectional discrimination affecting Muslim women (gender, religion, race and class). It also looks at myths on feminists in general, which needs to be debunked, including in the anti-racism movement.

We believe that addressing these myths jointly will reinforce mutual trust and hope this will contribute to promoting more coalitions against those trying to pit groups against each other.

The stigmatisation of feminism and of people who identify as feminists is an example of the patriarchal social system (the patriarchy) trying to control and define concepts that threaten their privileged place in society. Reinforcing a negative connotation of the term “feminist” has a detrimental effect; it contributes to the misunderstanding of the movement, creates divisions (instead of unifying to achieve common goals) and makes individuals wary of calling themselves feminists. In its most basic sense, feminism is defined as the belief that women and men should be treated equally in a society.

Muslim women are no different than any other women: they face the same barriers and oppression. But these can be compounded by additional factors such as religion, nationality and/or ethnicity. As a result of Islamophobia, a specific form of racism that refers to acts of violence and discrimination against Muslims or those perceived as such, Muslim women are depicted in collective consciousness as oppressed or dangerous, submissive and complicit in the violence they endure. They are the subjects of studies and fantasies but never the narrators of their own story. These myths are deeply rooted in society, including in the feminist movement, and impact these women’s daily lives.