Activism

My Stealthy Freedom founder says Trump has complicated her message on Muslim women’s freedom

Masih Alinejad and Tina Brown. (Marc Bryan-Brown/Women in the World)

Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad has won legions of followers, both Islamic and not, in recent years for her stunningly successful viral awareness campaigns My Stealthy Freedom and, more recently, Men Wearing Hijabs. But both of those campaigns, aimed at increasing women’s freedom in conservative Muslim societies where they are forced to cover their faces or heads, have been complicated in recent months by the rise of Donald Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric, leading many Muslims to refuse to criticize the headscarf.

“The atmosphere that [Trump has] created in the United States put us in trouble as well when we want to talk against Islamic restrictive laws. Because people now don’t want to touch the sensitive issue of compulsory hijab because they think it’s a cultural issue and they don’t want to be seen as [aligned with] Donald Trump,” Alinejad said recently. “They want to stand with minorities here. A Barbie wearing a headscarf can make news. In the U.S., it shows you’re tolerant, you’re open-minded, you’re not like Donald Trump.

Alinejad has built a career on promoting open-minded freedom. Growing up in a rural village in Iran, she left home to work in journalism and was invited to a roundtable conference with President Obama that led her home country to confiscate her passport. When she agreed to skip the roundtable discussion, she received a journalist visa, came to the U.S., and later began posting photos of her without a headscarf, with captions about feeling free. The photos began to go viral. Soon thousands of women were posting photos of themselves without hijabs in public as a rebuke against the law in Iran that says women must wear them. The My Stealthy Freedom campaign now has more than 1 million fans on Facebook. Alinejad says she won’t be silent now that Trump has arrived.

“When you give power to ordinary people it feels really good,” she said. “Because I’m coming from a small village, and we never had the chance to be heard.” Back in April, Alinejad appeared onstage at the Women in the World New York Summit and discussed the treatment of women in Iranian culture, saying “Women in Iran are breaking the law every day just to be ourselves.” Watch her complete appearance below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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