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Topless Jihad Day -- Xenophobic or Rightfully Provocative?

26/04/2013 16:18 BST | Updated 25/06/2013 10:12 BST

It is no surprise that FEMEN, the Ukrainian feminism group, has found the need to resort to bare-breasted demonstrations with slogans such as "Nudity is Freedom" painted across their chests. The feminist message is not always a simple one to dissipate and media attention is easily distracted by out-of-the-ordinary things. This method, however, has become ineffective enough that discussion has been centered mainly on the breasts themselves leaving little time for the actual issues.

Recently, FEMEN's members in numerous countries across Europe and elsewhere demonstrated topless with slogans such as "Bare Breasts against Islamism" written across their torsos. This act in solidarity with Amina Tyler in Tunisia, who posted photographs of herself on Facebook with the phrase "F**k your morals" across her body, has sparked great debate.

The general attitude that FEMEN takes towards Muslim women lacks a finer awareness of these women's lives. Inna Shevchenko, leader of FEMEN and self-proclaimed "sextremist" makes sweeping statements by merging all Muslim women into one pile of poor helpless ladies who don't know any better and are in dire need of saving. In a blog post she writes "So, sisters, (I prefer to talk to women anyway, even knowing that behind them are bearded men with knives). You say to us that you are against Femen, but we are here for you and for all of us, as women are the modern slaves and it's never a question of colour of skin. You say you live the way you want. Being fifth wife in harem the maximum you can be is the favorite wife... Right?"

While a large proportion of women in Islam-dominated regions of the world are indeed restricted and even oppressed, their issues are indicative of a larger cultural paradigm that is masked under the veil of Islam. They are not caused by the religion itself, rather by biased patriarchal interpretations, a global problem. FEMEN's strategy for Topless Jihad Day operates on a generalized assumption that all Muslim men are oppressive and all Muslim women oppressed.

What FEMEN lacks in concrete knowledge and thoughtfulness, they make up for in bare breasts. It cannot be doubted that they mean well as they wish to further the cause for women's rights. However, they have managed to ostracize Muslim women and feminists by creating a clear divide between themselves and those unwilling to submit to their process.