Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Political Rhetoric of Saving Muslim Women


According to the postcolonial binary position of the West versus Islam, barbaric cultural practices in certain Middle Eastern countries equal Islam. A misrepresentation which has arguably legitimatized war against those held responsible for the barbaric oppression of women under practices deemed to be anti-human rights and anti-democratic, such as veiling, forced marriage, honour killing and so on. Therefore, images of women victimized by Islam and Islamic terrorists have mobilized a large criticism in the west about waging war against such Islam, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq for defending the rights of Muslim women as responsibly which required military intervention in the region.
Western war against terrorism hence became a civilizing mission rather than a policy, which reduced Muslims and Islam to a stereotyped subjects of evils and threatening the locus of human rights and democracy, and which need to be eradicated through military power. Discourse of saving Muslim women and promoting democracy, therefore, have become a form of co-opting the non-Western cultural forms. The speech of Mrs Bush to mobilize the world in favour of Bush Administration to fight against terrorism in the Muslim world through addressing women can be coded as one of the example of the colonial narrative on Islamic culture and cruelty which glorifies military action on behalf of democracy. In her famous speech addressing the issue of terrorism and Muslim women, Laura Bush stated that “civilized people throughout the world are speaking out in horror -- not only because our hearts break for the women and children in Afghanistan, but also because in Afghanistan we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us” (Bush, 2001), this as postcolonialism argues, is a form of silencing the others culture- and form of colonial civilizing missions- that reasserts western cultural identities dominance. The “us” as exclusively distinct Western identity subjugate the Muslim “other” as an element of cultural inferiority to the West.  Laura Bush holds that “because of recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment” (Bush, 2001). The West as military power holds the credit of liberation, dignity and freedom. On the contrary, Islamic terrorists are portrayed as the source of fear who suppress and ‘imprison’ their women of their mankind and own culture. The heroism and civilizing burden of the West is another political and colonial rhetoric of “the white man’s burden” toward the uncivilized other. The former first lady, then appears to frame her arguments mostly in the language of dualism. That is to say, she regards America as a powerful agent that got to speak out for the women in Muslim countries, whilst, at the same time, silencing the culture of these women and portraying them as incapable for standing up for themselves. The language of victimization she uses carry a poignant demonstration of Western superiority over  the non-white category, in a war in which the use of violence seems noble enough to bring democracy, human rights and prosperity to Muslim women and Muslim community in general. Such cultural co-option that is reminiscent of civilizing missions of the past imperial project of bringing civilization and light to the colonized. Postcolonial discourse of victimization of Muslim women under Islamic terrorism maintains and reinforces the political hegemony of the West over the rest through the political denial of the cultural difference. Abu-Lghod (2011) believes that it would not be easy to mobilize so many of these American and European women if it were not a case of Muslim men oppressing Muslim women- women of cover for whom they feel sorry and in relation to whom they can feel smugly superior. (Abu-Lghod, 2011:92).