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Sila Şahin, a Turkish-German actress, shed her clothes in order to “free” herself from her conservative Muslim background. The Daily Mail says:
Ms Sahin’s declared intention was to used the controversial Playboy photoshoot as a call to action for other Turkish girls who suffer the effects of their strict backgrounds, where women’s choices are often limited, husbands are chosen for the girls and chastity closely controlled.
I am skeptical that this was actually about social commentary as much as it was about trying to advance her career. I do not have a problem with Şahin’s decision to pose nude. However, I do have a problem with the need to homogenize Muslim women and men in order to make such a story more sensational. Rather than being about courageously baring one’s breasts in order to make a statement against conservative men, I think that the reality of this story actually has little to do with Islam, and more to do with fame.
It seems to me that Şahin is not different than any other starlet in Hollywood that is trying to leave her young and innocent image in the dust. Touted as a brave and defiant decision, her exposé isn’t particularly empowering. If Şahin were actually interested in creating an open dialogue about the pressures faced by her peers, then she would have found a more constructive outlet for it.
A recent article in the New York Daily News claims that Şahin’s photo shoot is causing uproar in the Muslim community in Germany. The article alleges that Şahin’s life is in danger because of her radical departure from her “conservative” background. Assuming that Germany’s Muslim population is comprised of a single and tribal community, the article draws the conclusion that Şahin must have angered the leaders at large because of comments made online about her photo spread. Quoting comments made by users online about her photo shoot, the New York Daily News makes the conclusion that Şahin’s life is threatened. While the Internet is rife with commenters declaring war on the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, the only reason why these threats are warranting articles is because of their ability to conjure images of bearded men plotting to stalk the German actress.
The article even casually mentions honor killings, despite the fact that Şahin’s family only showed shock and disappointment with her decision. The most drastic comment about her family is in regard to her mother, who has cut off all contact with her. In fact, The Daily Mail mentions that she has spoken with “her actor father, who expressed concern over the pressure she will inevitably face from those not only within the Turkish community in Germany, but from the wider Muslim community as a whole.” There is plenty of evidence that her family cares about her and feels hurt by her actions, but very little evidence that Şahin’s life is actually in danger.
Much like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and other celebrities with images that were once spotless, Şahin’s decision to pose nude is actually less about trying to sever ties with a conservative background, and maybe more about a poorly veiled attempt to stir controversy and change her image.