OPINION: French Montana overly sexualizes Muslim women for his own gain

By Yasmeen Sheikah, Podcast Producer

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
French Montana is an American rapper born and raised in Morocco.

Religious modesty has been a controversial subject for many years. Some believe it to be unjust and oppressive, while others find it allows liberation and self-identity.

Cultural appropriation and the over sexualization of women are not new issues, but after recently coming across the cover of French Montana’s new album “Montana” and its music video trailer, I realized just how low some people are willing to go for attention.

The cover shows Montana surrounded by six painted Muslim women wearing niqāb—a veil covering the entire face apart from the eyes. He is sitting in a casual position leaned forward with a controlling look in his eye. The women are seated behind him with their legs crossed.

Montana also had all six Muslim women wearing bright red, high-heel boots. Although these are seen as fashionable in some areas of the world, it is unacceptable in Muslim majority countries. Women undergo abuse and face jail time and lashings for dressing and behaving in certain ways.

The oppression of Muslim women by Muslim men is an ongoing issue of masculinity, one that should not be dragged into the music scene by a man who does not care about the effects of his actions.

I am particularly appalled by the praise he receives for “connecting back to his Muslim roots.” In Islam, hijabs are worn as a devotion to God by women who— in the religion— are praised and ranked at a high status. How dare a Muslim man sexualize Muslim women for profit? It’s discomforting this is deemed as an act of representation, rather than an outrage.

As a Muslim woman, it is extremely insulting to see the over sexualization of other Muslim women who cover themselves. The hijab is meant to protect us, yet all Montana is doing is making us look as though we are oppressed and cannot live our own lives and express our own sexuality.

Montana’s album cover makes it seem as though Muslim women have no identities and are nothing more than sexual dolls for men. Even by writing this sentence I can feel the fire burning inside of me. The fact that a Muslim man thought it was okay to share this image, and for music outlets to say he is connecting back to his roots, is absolutely enraging.

Some Twitter users disagree, though. One user—who is a Muslim woman—wrote:

Hijab is not a cultural thing. If it were, Arab Christians and Jews would also wear them, and that would still be considered an offensive case of cultural appropriation, and Montana would be in the wrong regardless.

We live in a time where women who cover themselves are stereotyped as oppressed, uptight and judgmental of other women who don’t dress the same. I don’t care what a woman wears as long as she is happy, but I will never accept a man thinking he can overly sexualize a woman and say it is “for the culture.” Mr. Montana, do better.