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Muslimah Media Watch thanks Ali Eteraz for the tip!
A few weeks ago, several Western outlets featured an exposé on Yasmin Fostok (pictured below), the daughter of infamous cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed.
And when I say exposé, I’m not kidding: the majority of outlets that ran the story ran it with accompanying pictures of her arching her back against a stripper pole or posing in clothing that revealed a great deal of skin (not to mention cleavage). One of these pictures accompanied every story, even when there were others of her fully clothed available: The Sun, The Daily Mail, Al Arabiya…even the outlets than published only a teaser (like The Huffington Post) made sure to get a revealing photo of Yasmin in, as if to say, “Hey, look! Read this article! There’s boobs!” This blatant “sex sells” approach is reprehensible and sensationalist. No matter what her job is, she has a right to respect: just because she works as a dancer doesn’t mean her body and image should be used to generate page views.
But it’s pretty obvious that these news outlets don’t consider her much more than her body: the Sun article described her as a “busty”, “olive-skinned beauty”, who a lover described as “very adventurous in bed.” Publishing personal details about her relationships and sexist judgments on her appearance? Classy.
Many readers might think to themselves, “Well, perhaps this is how she wants to be perceived.” Perhaps. But a line in the Sun article makes me suspicious that this kind of representation is her wish:
Blonde Yasmin, who has changed her name from Youssra, confessed her saucy secret when a Sun reporter called her posing as a gentlemen’s club booking agent.
Posing? As in, misrepresenting himself and his intentions to Yasmin? This sounds shady and exploitative. One can’t help but wonder if Yasmin agreed to the publishing of this expose about herself; judging from her statement about keeping her job quiet (and the statements of several neighbors who were unaware of her job), it doesn’t sound like it.
It doesn’t seem as if they took many of Yasmin’s opinions into consideration: she plainly states several times that she doesn’t agree with her father’s views and is estranged from him, yet all of these articles go beyond the topic of their shared blood and detail Fostok’s father’s beliefs and soundbites, thus linking her to ideas which she expressly rejects. Without her father, there is no story. Nobody cares if some woman is a pole dancer; but if her father is a fundamentalist cleric, suddenly she’s big news, denying her any autonomy or independence.
And, despite Yasmin’s preference about keeping her job “quiet,” these news stories blare it loud and clear. They not only “out” her as a dancer, but the Sun also publishes detailed descriptions about her life, where she lives, and aliases she uses. Now, if someone was comfortable with having their private business splashed around, would they use an alias?
There’s another angle here that must be brought up. The publishing of her names and aliases, her picture, detailed descriptions of where she lives…this seems like not only an invasion of privacy, but a dangerous move, considering that her father holds views that some might term “radical”. I’m not saying that her father has plans to murder her because she’s living a life that is incompatible with his views, but it’s not a huge stretch that someone might feel she has dishonored her family, is it? The Western media points fingers at Muslims about honor killings, but then irresponsible outlets like The Sun practically publish directions to her house accompanying scandalous photos of her—women have been killed for less, unfortunately. The Sun (and accompanying outlets) shows little concern for a live woman; all sensationalist outlets seems to care about is the ones who’ve already been murdered for a twisted sense of honor.
Now we come to Orientalist icing on the cake (you knew it was coming!). Several “close friends” of Yasmin say that her father paid for her breast augmentation, and that this directly led to her becoming a pole dancer. While we don’t truly know her motives behind having her breasts augmented or becoming a pole dancer, this whole story smacks of our favorite Orientalist fantasy: button-down Muslim girl throws off her robes (the articles mention that she used to wear a headscarf) and gets dirty! All she ever wanted was the freedom to be freaky!
Never does the idea come up that, because Yasmin was pulled out of school at 16 to marry “the Turk” (none of the outlets ever mentions her ex-husband by name, referring to him thus), she has no marketable skills, and thus took a job as a dancer out of economic need? Working in the sex industry is not always a choice. I’m just sayin’.
Just to put things in perspective: This same week, Afghanistan’s top female police officer was shot down. The Sun, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail did not cover this—I’m assuming because she wasn’t dressed scandalously enough.