This is one of the most eloquent articles I’ve read on the subject of how Muslim women’s rights, and “Muslim women” as a category, are perceived by Westerners versus how Muslim women (and the male activists who are working with them for gender equality) perceive themselves.
if you post Pages about Muslim women’s rights and sincerely want to see things change for the better for them, then please ready the entire article thoughtfully and heed the important distinctions Ms. Lalami is making, especially in the last two paragraphs. Oh, and you can follow her on Twitter at @LailaLalami.
There came a moment when I realized that there are two distinct kinds of conversations taking place around Muslim women — one in Muslim countries and one in Western countries. The first conversation is highly specific, and focuses on local problems. In Morocco, for example, feminist activists pushed for a reform of family law for more than a decade; it was finally passed by parliament in 2004, and it granted women greater rights in marriage, divorce, and custody. These activists also successfully lobbied parliament for another reform, this time of the penal code, because it contained a loophole that allowed a man to escape statutory rape charges in case of marriage. Now feminists are focusing on access to education in rural areas, the practice of hiring underage girls as domestic workers, sexual harassment on the street — these are issues that Moroccan women and girls face every day, but they might not be exactly the same issues faced by women in Somalia or Comoros, where the legal apparatus and cultural practices are quite different.
The second kind of conversation takes place in Western countries, primarily via the Chronicles of the Veil™ and other sensationalistic materials. Here, the terms of the debate are global. One hears about arranged marriages, forced veiling, honor killings, female genital mutilations, and punishment by stoning, the narrative line always the same: Muslim women are victims, and they need Western saviors. So simple and so powerful is this message that even when Muslim women speak out against it, their supposed saviors refuse to believe them. Last April, for instance, when the Ukrainian group FEMEN staged topless protests outside mosques in Europe, billing them as “International Topless Jihad Day,” Muslim women organized their own counterprotests online, in which they made clear they did not need FEMEN’s help. But FEMEN’s Inna Shevchenko’s response was, “through all history of humanity, all slaves deny that they are slaves. […] [These Muslim women] write on their posters that they don’t need liberation, but in their eyes it’s written help me.” […]
More: Chronicles of the Veil
Speaking of sensationalistic Chronicles of the Veil™ type materials regarding Muslim women, I’ll soon be creating a Page about a film that’s due to start screening in March. It looks and sounds legit and even seems to have managed to suck in some legitimate human rights organizations, however it’s backed by an organization that’s one of the biggest funders of anti-Muslim fear-mongering. You’ll see lots of familiar faces, so stay tuned…