Media

The Top 5 Most Islamophobic Reactions to Huma Abedin

Anthony Weiner's wife has stood by him in a baffling show of support - and the media, both mainstream and right-wing does not know what to make of it.

Huma Abedin and Hillary Clinton.

With all the talk surrounding Anthony Weiner's (second!) sexting scandal, and what it means for his chances for an electoral comeback (not looking good), his wife Huma Abedin, the Michigan-born, Saudi Arabia-raised, former aide to Hillary Clinton is coming in for her share of totally speculative, and unflattering coverage.  There is the puzzle of why a woman of her stature is sticking with a man of Weiner's ever-diminishing one, as well as depressiingly ignorant speculation about what her ethnic background has to do with all this. 

And much of it, as should be expected, has been tinged with that unique sort of racism called Islamophobia, often concluding that her baffling resolve to stand by her man is the result of her ethnic background as a Saudi woman—as opposed to, you know, her personal choices as a human being capable of asserting free will. 

“I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him,” Abedin said following her husband’s confession that the most recent sexting allegations, that came just two years after he left Congress in disgrace, were indeed true. “It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony, but I do very strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.” Nice try, missy. We know your forgiveness is just middle-eastern submissiveness all dressed up in Westernized threads, covering the real reasons like a burka wrapped too tight. 

Below are some of the best (by which I mean absolute worst,) most egregious offenders of this subtle, patronizing form of racism, a.k.a. Islamophobia, that is so pronounced on the right, but which you will find among some so-called liberals too. Some familiar faces will appear (shout out to Rush Limbaugh for never missing an opportunity) while others may take you by surprise (really Maureen Dowd?) Here are the contenders:

 

1. Andrew McCarthy, National Review

McCarthy's piece "The Huma Unmentionables" frames itself as an attempt to reveal Abedin's actual motivations which are, of course,jihad.There are some actual facts in the piece, like that Huma's mother is a Dr. Saleda Abedin, also a Muslim, and that Huma herself was a member of George Washington's Muslim Students Association. Huma's history, McCarthy claims, also includes working at a journal that promotes Islamic supremacist ideology and is supported by an Al Qaeda financier, and both she and her mother have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The piece goes so far as to imply that Huma is using her marriage as a way of deflecting attention from her real investment in various Islamic organizations, a.k.a. jihad. To sum up: Huma Abedin is trying to destroy America from within.

 

2. Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine

Jacobson's profile on Weiner's attempt to rise again emerged just before the second sexting scandal broke and his infatuation with Huma, which bordered on objectification reminiscent of Edward Said's Orientalism, was all too clear. Aside from describing her lips as having "a 3-D look" (they look that way because everything brought to live by this earth does, in fact, exist in the three-dimensions), Jacobson's piece seemed to focus almost exclusively on Abedin's "exotic" looks, describing  her clothes, her body, going so far as to compare her to the Taj Mahal (are there editors left on this planet?), and mentioning of the "harmony of angels" that vanish once she sits down. While some of the writing is complimentary (unlike most of the rest you'll find on this list), the association of the Taj Mahal with a Saudi women is, geographically questionable, and, well, just off-color and weird.

 

3. Elizabeth Wurtzel, Personal Twitter Account

In a tweet on July 28, Wurtzel (who herself came under fire earlier this year in an anti-feminist rampage after a New York Magazine essay on her stunted adulthood had many crying "white privilege") attempted to calm the masses, reminding them that "Huma Abedin grew up in Saudi Arabia. She might be joyous just to not be wearing a burka." After I quickly yelled, "WHO?", and then remembered that Wurtzel was the author of Prosac Nation (the irony of her writing a book essentially about the damage that comes from a society that prescribes questionable methods as a means to control isn't lost on me) I came to the conclusion that Twitter is technology's attempt to eradicate inner-monologue more than anything else.

 

4. Maureen Dowd, New York Times

Pulitzer Prize winning NYTcolumnist Maureen Dowd's column for the Sunday Review this past weekend proved her to be a surprisingly simple-minded in her reading of what is, politically speaking, a rather complicated breakdown of the husband-wife dynamic. Dowd writes, after calling Weiner "eel-like" in a bit of undeniable accuracy, "you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet." Aside from the obvious bit of subjective quantifying (hasn't the inherent debate on female agency regarding the burka proven that middle eastern culture is relatively immune to ethnocentric readings of freedom?), Dowd's piece is most troublesome for the way it assumes Huma's willingness to stand behind her husband as the result of from generations of traditional submission.

 

5.  Rush Limbaugh, Of course.

"Huma is a Muslim," Limbaugh perceptively pointed out on his radio show. "In that regard, Weiner ought to be able to get away with anything. Muslim women don’t have any power, right? Muslim women are beheaded, stoned, whatever if they drive, have affairs. In certain countries, Muslim women, if they’re raped, are killed — it’s their fault."

I can only read Limbaugh's comments the way I do all of his comments: as some strange performance art piece meant to be viewed within the context of the 24-hour news cycle and the culture's sudden economy of opinion over economy of facts. So, I'll just offer my opinion in response, in the form of a rhetorical question: "How is this man even real or allowed to use his mouth for anything other than guzzling rancid garbage juice as a palate cleanser" and be on my merry way.

 

 

 

 

 

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.