Do Muslim Women Need Saving? was printed in 2013, a 12 months important to Afghanistan, the nation utilized by Lila Abu-Lughod to exemplify how Orientalism is used to justify imperialism in quite a few Muslim international locations. 2013 marked the 12 months wherein NATO-aligned troops started their withdrawal. This textual content got here as a response to the creator’s experiences of the justification of the warfare on Afghanistan by quite a few (public) figures, citing their considerations for Afghan girls who had been being oppressed by their male counterparts in addition to the garments they wore. The textual content primarily offers with concepts of ‘faux concern,’ the appropriation of feminism to defend army motion, reductionist concepts of immutable Eastern and Western cultures, and Orientalist manners of discussing Islam and the East. In order to look at these matters, this commentary will concentrate on the concepts of autonomy and a polarised Western versus Eastern tradition.
Perhaps probably the most pertinent instance of the struggle for autonomy versus the continuation of management is the veil. As famous by Abu-Lughod, pressured veiling beneath the Taliban was thought of the “ultimate sign of oppression” by liberals and feminists alike. Western politicians particularly used the burqa as a technique to justify intervention, as unveiling these girls would apparently save them from the Taliban’s misogyny. This, slightly than displaying a want to guard Afghan girls, seems as an imperialist want to proceed exerting management over them, equally to the Taliban, by forcing them to unveil. Keddie raises the vital level that “all classes and groups” and their respective obligations have to be taken into consideration when forming an correct image of the previous or current. We can see that the Western view of the veil doesn’t do that. In reality, it ignores the cultural context of the burqa, giving it a solely non secular significance.
The burqa existed lengthy earlier than the Taliban, worn by Pashtun girls to mark “the symbolic separation of men’s and women’s domains.” Although it could possibly be argued that this reinforces patriarchal concepts of ladies belonging at house, we should keep in mind that many noticed the burqa as a “liberating invention,” because it allowed emotions of safety while exterior of the historically ‘female’ area. The messages of ladies like Laura Bush, slightly than encouraging feminine liberation, seem as a want for Western management as a result of they don’t converse of the independence of Eastern girls nor worth the notion of ‘choice’. Instead, they converse of the will to ‘liberate’ Afghan girls by utilizing their feminist army energy.
This paints a picture harking back to that shaped of Algerian girls by the French colonisers — weak, unique and unable to make their very own selections due to the inherently repressive practices of the Middle East. Promoting this as the first picture of those girls would make it simpler for the warfare to be supported, as it will permit Western girls to really feel “smugly superior” while preventing “for the … rights of women.” These emotions appear to return from a want to drive Western concepts of emancipation slightly than help Afghan girls of their visions of their very own freedom.
The Western concept of emancipation performs into the thought of a battle between East and West, with the East being characterised as reverse to the inherently feminist West. This is mirrored within the phrases of a skit written by a Frenchwoman dwelling in Algiers, the place two Algerian women inform of the “noble land” of France the place they “felt free Under Christian skies to pray” to their God. This development of the East as patriarchal, controlling, and repressive can also be talked about when referring to the veil — as famous by Rippin, the “seclusion of women” has turn into “the most firmly lodged image of Islamic society in the Western popular imagination.” Despite the West additionally being patriarchal, the manners wherein Westerners carry out femininity with the intention to be revered — like carrying make-up — are usually not scorned in the identical manner Afghan girls carry out piety by way of veiling. This clearly exhibits the unreal dichotomy between East and West — the actions of Eastern girls are perceived to be completely affected by patriarchy, whereas these of Western girls are usually not.
To conclude, the struggle for autonomy and the thought of a polarised Western/Eastern tradition are evidently each used to push the concept Muslim girls nonetheless want saving from Muslim males and themselves, slightly than the concept Muslim girls are absolutely in a position to liberate themselves and be unbiased of each Westerners and males.
- Keddie, Nikki R. ‘Problems in the Study of Middle Eastern Women,’ International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 10, №2 (May, 1979)
- Rippin, Andrew. ‘Women, intellectuals, and other challenges,’ Muslims, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, 4th ed., 2012
Yasmine is a Moroccan Communist who writes essays on political points