Open Thread: On Mona Eltahawy And #MuslimRage

By Arturo R. García

Journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested in New York City Tuesday for defacing one of several Islamophobic posters paid for by right-wing radio Patricia Geller. Though the arresting officer never answered her question, Eltahawy was indeed charged–she revealed on Twitter that she was booked for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Geller, who helped popularize the “Ground Zero Mosque” myth, has been shown by at least one study to be part of the dog-whistle playlists that make up much of the conservative airwaves.

And if you thought photographer Patricia Hall’s attempt to block Eltahawy in the name of “free speech” was dubious, you’re not wrong: Reuters columnist Anthony De Rosa pointed out that last month, Hall posted a bizarre photo essay trailing Muslims in Times Square asking, “Is Sharia coming to America?”

You might also recall Eltahawy gaining attention earlier this year for “Why Do They Hate Us?,” her cover story for Foreign Policy magazine:

Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt–including my mother and all but one of her six sisters–have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme.

Both Eltahawy’s piece and the “Naked Burka Woman” image that accompanied it prompted more than their share of responses–Muslimah Media Watch’s Editor-In-Chief Krista Riley noted that the magazine alone ran six of them. MMW also did a roundtable about the issue, including this observation from Nicole Cunningham Zaghia:

She says that all she does it “amplify” the voices of women in the region. What she forgets is that she is where she is–a mainstream media darling–specifically because she DOES speak for people. And let’s face it: sometimes Mona is the only one on TV talking for an on behalf of Arab/Muslim/Brown people. All my respect for that. But instead of using her power as a mouthpiece to write thoughtful, reasoned pieces that reflect the true feelings of women in the region (not speaking for them here, this is as evidenced by the number of counter pieces) or those of Muslim women (of which I am one), she took her voice too far in “Why do they hate us?” Why? Because the article was remarkably simplistic and Orientalist in tone–it is something straight out of Bernard Lewis. That’s not fair to us, but it is exactly what the mainstream media ordered.

Guest Contributor Sara Yasin passed along her own more lighthearted protest against Geller’s advert:

Speaking of what the media orders, Tuesday’s confrontation came less than a week after Newsweek‘s infamous “Muslim Rage” piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. On the bright side, though, when the magazine asked for “a conversation” on Twitter using the hashtag #MuslimRage, it got more than it probably bargained for in a slew of satirical responses that earned notice on CNN, Al-Jazeera, NPR, and–of course–Tumblr.

Gawker also got in on the act with a photo essay, including this shot, which it posted with the caption, “A wrathful Jordanian girl”:

And our own Fatemeh Fakhraie also got some media attention for some of her contributions to the trend:

But let’s get your take on the events of the past week, readers. Consider the floor yours.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

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  • Seemi

    Does the fact that there are no comments mean people are just ‘blah’ about Muslims being in the press? :)
    That photo essay site by Hall is thoroughly disturbing. Racist, offensive assumptions and just downright creepy and sinister.