This is a topic with which I am constantly engaged so it was surprising to find it in the news (though a blog entry only). The article makes the point that wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq that have been partially justified through the discourse of liberating Muslim women have in reality done little to secure their future and their rights. Although I would not be so quick to dismiss the conflict there as having had no positive effects, I think it is worth noting the costs and also the ways in which the conflict has silenced certain groups of women. Most important is the difficulty of Muslim women in these zones who must navigate a war that pits their rights to equality in opposition to their culture and also characterizes their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons as the villains of the piece while disregarding the effects of foreign intervention.
Western wars vs. Muslim women
Western media is awash with reports about Taliban mistreatment of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan that feature countless voices in support of the war to secure a ‘brighter future for women’s rights’. This week’s Time magazine cover story is a case in point.
If Western wars ‘liberate’ Eastern women, Muslim women would be – after centuries of Western military interventions – the most ‘liberated’ in the world. They are not, and will not be, especially when liberty is associated with Western hegemony.
Afghanistan has had its share of British, Russian and American military intervention to no avail. In fact, reports from credible women’s groups there signal worsening conditions for Aghan women since the US invasion a decade ago.
The Taliban’s social norms might be an affront to modern values, but they cannot be replaced summarily with Western values, let alone by force.
Despite the fact that the Bush administration’s use of women’s rights has been discredited, Muslim women’s plight still serves a humanitarian-based legitimizing function for the war. Read more here.
— Cyra Akila Choudhury