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The Economist draws ire for calling women in Arab countries fatter

Many Muslim Twitter users including Islamists from India too attacked The Economist for stating that women in Arab countries, where they do not have as much freedom and privilege as men, are fatter.

On July 28, The Economist published a report on the Body Mass Index (BMI) gap between the genders in Middle Eastern and African countries, for which it has been receiving criticism. In the report, the author suggested that the women in these regions often do not get a chance to indulge in physical work or sports, which leads to obesity. On the contrary, men in these countries enjoy sports, do labour-extensive work and go out frequently, shedding calories.

The Economist, which is a British weekly newspaper, is on the receiving end of criticism because of its report titled “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world”. Twitter user Sarah Mahmoudh said, “It is absolutely appalling and shameful that the West is being fed by this orientalist, sexist nonsense regarding Middle Eastern women. As an Arab woman who has lived in an Arab country, I do not feel represented but rather degraded. The Economist needs some serious reform!”

Another Twitter user, Amad, said, “And again, the racist Western stereotype of Arab families. Arab women aren’t fat because they are at home all day, they are because our entire culture and society are about food and hospitality. Try to visit any Palestinian home and not feel like a stuffed turkey afterwards!”

Islamist and terror apologist Lucknow resident Irena Akbar said, “A pile of racist filth. Will this trashy publication do an article on why women in the West are fatter than men? The article itself says women everywhere are fatter than men. As if they should be slimmer than men in the first place! Misogynistic garbage with latent Islamophobia.”

Balsam Mustafa pointed out that the feature image used by The Economist is of an actress who has worked extensively in the field since the 1990s. He said, “The lady in the lead image is an Iraqi actress who started her career at a very young age in the 1990s, breaking many taboos in her TV drama roles. She deserves a piece that honours her career, not one that body-shames her & other women in Arab majority countries.”

Twitter user Apex_Pretty said, “The Economist is trash. The US & UK obesity rates outdo other countries. I think we shouldn’t talk.”

What does Economist say about the BMI gap in Arab countries?

In its report, The Economist suggested that after a certain age, females are not allowed outside homes in Arab countries. However, in adolescence age, girls do play with boys. The women in these countries are allegedly deprived of participating in sports and passive exercise, which leads to obesity.

The report started with a story of a woman from Baghdad who could only meet the ends as the owner of the restaurant where she worked gave her leftovers. The food that she gets is high in fat resulting in obesity in her and her children.

It read, “Only a fifth of women in Arab countries has paid jobs, says the World Bank. In Iraq, the share is one in ten. This means that most Arab women spend most of the day indoors, missing out on passive exercise. Working women in other regions bustle around in hospitals, classrooms and restaurants. But in Arab countries, many such jobs are done mainly by men. In Gulf countries, many of the heavier menial household chores are done by foreigners.”

It further stated that poor families in Arab countries are less likely to let women out of the house. As a result, women in poor families are fatter compared to women in rich families. Furthermore, the report suggested that a carbohydrate-rich diet of the Arab people is also a reason for obesity, especially in women who tend to stay at home.

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