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As MMW’s Artsy Niqab Spotter, man my hands are full! If I’m not checking out French performance artists or Swiss campaign posters with minarets and niqabs, there are just so many people using niqabs as their accessory du jour and not enough time to write about them all. I can’t keep up!
So I had to make a choice, and our latest candidate in the “Let’s Play Dress-Up Like Muslim Women and Call it an Edgy, Disruptive Political Statement” is An-Sofie Dewinter, daughter of Filip Dewinter, a leading member of the Vlaams Belang, the successor to Vlaams Blok, which you may remember as the Belgian party that was actually outlawed due to inciting racial hatred. (To put things into perspective, the Front National and the Austrian Freedom Party are still around. The Vlaams Blok was THAT BAD.) Anyway, our newest niqab artist, An-Sofie, is shown on the pages of Belgian daily Het Laatste News in a bikini, and with a niqab. Over her breasts is a banner that asks “Freedom or Islam?” and over her hips, another banner saying “Dare to Choose.”
As I wrote when NiqaBitch threw their niqabs on – and this was something that NiqaBitch said themselves – it was to protest the constitutional validity and logical extremes of France’s niqab ban. But Ms. Dewinter changes the game and uses her look to justify the other extreme by making it part of her daddy’s tired racist/anti-Islam trope. What did An-Sofie have to say? That “daddy didn’t make her do it” and she “isn’t scared of death threats or criticism.” But why the bikini, lady? According to her, she felt it was a perfect juxtaposition of her tired Islamophobic trope: she feels that we have to make a choice between “freedom” (bikini) and “Islam” (niqab). Because of course, the two are mutually exclusive, and not just as fashion accessories. And if her ad campaign wasn’t enough for you, Arrêt sur Images tells us that she even lent her image to a website called “Women against Islamization” (oh dear Lord, they even took the time to make an English version of the site) and the book Whore or Slave, Women in Islam!
The story was even picked up by the Daily Fail in a story entitled “Belgian politician risks Muslim backlash after using teenage daughter dressed in burka and bikini for campaign against Islam,” where the comments were what to be expected given the general literacy and intelligence of the target audience, with things like “hush you, now her life is in danger” and “yay for freedom of speech.” Personally, I don’t know how Muslims are going to keep up with all of these backlashes and honor killings we supposedly have to do for these racist, disruptive white women. If we’re going to drop a fatwa on Ms Dewinter we are going to have to drop them on everyone, because EVERYBODY is wearing niqab these days. And I don’t know how free her speech is because wearing niqab as a statement is now so commonplace that the disruptiveness is gone.
Even though I think the “let’s wear niqab and call it art” is starting to get played out, I loved NiqaBitch and thought they rocked their niqabs so much harder and better than our right-wing friend Ms. de Winter. In fact, I’m having cognitive dissonance issues at what the daughter of Belgium’s leading far-right politician is attempting to say with her niqab bikini (not a burkini) ensemble. I don’t understand how it furthers her cause. I don’t get it kids, and I’m the fake niqab expert! What do you think, gentle readers?