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On April 13th, TFW published the article “To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals.” The piece provoked a vociferous response on the TFW website, on our Facebook page, and throughout the sphere of social media. The exchanges—which quickly morphed from civil dialogue to hostile debate from many quarters—also prompted a deep level of soul-searching among members of the TFW Collective.
The content of the article was called into question by many, as was TFW’s mission and commitment to multiple feminist viewpoints. Most troubling, TFW was cast as racist and colonialist, and many readers wondered why the piece was allowed to be published in the first place. As we struggled to identify an appropriate response that would support dialogue and conversation, rather than just fuel the flames, we were given the opportunity by a group of feminist writers, activists, and academics to publish their collective response to the said article. That response appeared at TFW on April 14th. (However, due to an appeal to legal action, it has since been removed.)
Both the original article and the response (due to an appeal to legal action, both have been removed) have generated unprecedented readership and social media sharing, suggesting that the topics—women and Islam, Muslim feminism, race, religion, and violence—are urgent and must continue to be discussed. However, the TFW Collective was saddened by the level of vitriol leveled by some of our readers, and by the degree of intolerance expressed by many participants in the exchanges. We made the decision to “let it play out” by not censoring or even moderating the commentary. Unfortunately, the author of the original article responded to some of the Facebook comments under the TFW handle rather than her own—which led some of our loyal readers to question our commitments.
We have written this statement for several reasons, including the confusion over authorship of the Collective Statement published on April 14th—which was not written by our TFW Collective. But in large part we share this response because we, collectively, cannot remain silent in the fury of this exchange. Our intention is not to fan flames, or to point fingers, or to defend ourselves. We are human beings deeply engaged in feminist, anti-racist work, and sometimes we may call it wrong. We offer a sincere apology to readers who were hurt, angered, and offended by the author of the said article and her initial responses, and we have amongst ourselves spent countless hours in discussions about the issues raised. But we also recognize that many of our articles challenge and provoke; this is the nature of feminist criticism, which inevitably activates other structural locations and intersections.
Sadly, the Internet also swirled with many rumors about TFW in the wake of this incident, rumors that circled back to us via our multiple feminist, anti-racist, activist networks. So we offer this statement also as an opportunity to clarify and to reiterate TFW’s mission: We are fundamentally committed to feminist, anti-racist, anti-colonialist critique and commentary. We are a site founded by African American feminist scholars that is run collaboratively and with mutual respect and love by a diverse Collective that spans races, ethnicities, sexualities, class statuses, geographies, religions, and feminist perspectives.
Let us be clear: Not all of us agreed with the argument expressed in the original article, nor did all of us agree with the statements expressed in the Collective Response on April 14th. We are diverse, and we absolutely support different viewpoints. But collectively, we all recognize that the author of the original article and especially her Facebook responses failed to advance TFW’s mission. And, more corrosively, the incident eroded trust among the Collective and among our readership, and we have taken, are taking steps to reinstitute that trust.
As part of our efforts to move forward, we are undertaking a series of initiatives, which will include, among others, a call for articles for a forum on Muslim feminism/women and Islam that will be guest edited by prominent scholars, writers, and activists in this area. We are also engaged in expanding our Collective to include even more diverse voices, recognizing of course that TFW cannot do it all; we cannot represent all viewpoints, nor can we be “the” voice of feminism. Yet we can continue to provide a space for multiple expressions of feminist, anti-racist critique and commentary, and we welcome your participation.
In peace and solidarity,
The TFW Collective