‘A lot of sisters are in their thirties and still unmarried …Women age like milk, men age like wine.’

This is a statement made by British content creator ‘The Sunnah Guy’ with an online audience of 121K on his YouTube channel. Sunnah Guy is a self-proclaimed Muslim motivational speaker with a mission to help ‘young people turn back to Allah,’ who recently asserted that women’s beauty, and therefore their marriageability, is time-restricted. Men, on the other hand, despite the ironic comparison to alcohol which is forbidden in Islam, mature gracefully.

But the antiquated remarks did not end there. Further into the video, Sunnah Guy argues that highly qualified women have fewer chances of getting married since ‘a man doesn’t want a woman more qualified than him.’ A certain moral high ground is presumed when Sunnah Guy explains that he has told teenage Muslim girls who are unsure about going to university, to think about their marriageability instead. The clip ends with a statement that women must avoid any ‘obstacles’ to getting married — including higher education.

The Red Pill Appropriated

To outsiders, sexist assertions may appear as characteristic stand-alone nonsense frequently found online. After all, misogynistic mantras are nothing new. However, these claims exist beyond the virtual sphere. Critical rhetoric towards women exists and is practised by some Western Muslim men who combine ‘red pill’ ideologies with so-called ‘Islamic’ justifications in order to control and subordinate women. Indeed, the realm of misogyny is real and substantial. And it’s growing.

But what is the ‘red pill’? In reference to The Matrix, seeking the truth by consuming the red pill has been co-opted by those who promote far-right ideas in male-dominated spheres online. Conspiracy theories are shared to demonise Western ‘woke’ beliefs, including feminism.

Within these virtual spheres, Muslim men condemn Western society for being ‘emasculating’ — underlying this is the disdain for developments in women’s rights which are seen to have blurred the boundaries between men and women. Hence, attempts to reinforce support for traditional patriarchal gender roles through misogynistic declarations thrive and receive a growing audience.

Another Muslim creator known as ‘Iron Fit Coaching’ on TikTok, shared a video (now deleted) with the following statement: ‘To my fat sisters’, before asserting that ‘fat’ women must lose weight to be eligible for marriage. He has also argued that Muslim women should not show their faces online and declared that ‘submissive and obedient’ women are ideal as he seeks to find a partner with an ‘old-school’ mindset who will wash his dishes.

Countering Toxicity

Within online debates, both Muslim men and women have been attempting to combat the red pill’s ascendancy. Some have put forward historical facts, such as the founding of the world’s first university by a Muslim woman named Fatima Al-Fihri, while others have referred to scriptures from the Quran, including the marriage between the Prophet Muhammad and Khadījah, a wealthy businesswoman. 

Many have also denounced creators who support and platform Andrew Tate — notably Mohammed Hijab whose podcast with Tate gained 2.4 million views. Critics have cited how Tate’s promotion of misogyny, toxic masculinity, gambling and drinking violates Islamic principles. Yet, both creators and their fans often jump to Tate’s defence, using the excuse that he is a ‘revert.’

Moreover, some creators continue to sympathise with Tate despite his arrest for serious crimes against numerous women. Youtuber Ali Dawah instructed his 900,000+ subscribers that Muslims should regard the accusations against Tate as a ‘lie’ because he is innocent until proven guilty. The video received positive responses from supporters. One comment said: Wallahi when I found out he reverted to Islam I was so happy for the brother. Reminder that we should not make assumptions about him, only Allah knows best. May Allah make everything easy for the brother.’ Another comment reads: ‘He publicly made Shahadah. He is imperfect and still learning, it is incumbent on us to support him inshAllah.’

Speaking to two Muslim women, *Noora and Zara, I was told ‘these creators and their supporters do nothing to benefit Muslims — they provide leniency to Andrew Tate but won’t extend this to practising Muslim women who seek a career or don’t wear the hijab.’

‘As Muslim women, we’re already subject to oppression and discrimination from numerous sources. Islam promotes equity among men and women. These men are fuelling hate for those they call their sisters and it’s dangerous. I wouldn’t feel safe around someone who holds these views.’

The Blame Game

Clearly, much of the content promoted in these virtual spaces is not generated for the purpose of spreading inspiring Islamic tenets but to push forth a personal agenda and to express personal grievances. But who or what is to blame for this toxic behaviour? As explored by a myriad of researchers, people are more likely to follow far-right movements during periods of economic hardship. Support for Brexit and Trump has shown this to be true. People’s financial insecurities can open up vacuums for scapegoating certain demographics by appealing to biases and prejudices against certain communities. 

In the context of red-pill rhetoric in Western Muslim spaces, it is relevant to ask whether economic frustrations are particularly felt by Muslim communities. Research from last year finds that nearly 50 per cent of Muslims in the UK are in poverty, compared to the national average of 18 per cent. The ‘Muslim Penalty’ is also a real issue that affects employment opportunities and reveals systemic discrimination faced by many Muslims in the job market where ‘Muslimness’ acts as a barrier to work success.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Abortion Act of 1967 are some of the ways in which women’s rights have increased over the years. But with this greater freedom came a reduced need for traditional male ‘breadwinner’ roles. It’s no wonder, then, that men who are already at an economic disadvantage may feel the need to push back against what they see as a direct threat to their male integrity.

Red pill creators are dividing an already diverse and marginalised community along gender lines through far-right thinking. In pushing strong patriarchal perceptions legitimised by so-called ‘Islamic’ morals, they are providing some Muslim men and boys with a renewed, but illusionary, sense of power.

Unity Instead of Division

Although most Muslims do not support red pill ideas, using Islam to promote misogyny, particularly to young audiences, is harmful. Given the discrimination Western Muslims already face, it is shameful that these creators use their power to divide rather than unite.

Despite considerable progress towards greater gender equality, patriarchy has not been dismantled and continues to hold sway. A large part of the solution to protecting young people from far-right and divisive ideologies online rests in the hands of our politicians. Effective policies on social mobility are needed, along with educational interventions on countering misogyny. Crucially, widespread initiatives are required to improve media literacy in an era where online platforms hold so much influence.

*The names of interviewees have been changed for anonymity.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.