FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Conscripting Feminism into the War on Terror

by YIFAT SUSSKIND

American feminists found themselves in strange company this week. In days of campus activity labeled “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” (IFAW), conservative writer David Horowitz and his fellow travelers issued a call for an end to the oppression of women in Muslim nations.

It may be ludicrous to hear about women’s oppression from IFAW spokesperson Ann Coulter–who has called for an end to women’s suffrage here in the US. But beyond pointing out the obvious hypocrisy, progressives need to respond to Horowitz’s message about the oppression of women living under political Islam. Otherwise, we leave him with a powerful rhetorical weapon because Islamists do call for the subjugation of women. All religious fundamentalists do. Just ask IFAW spokesman Rick Santorum, the born-again ex-Senator and anti-abortion fanatic who thinks that women in the US should be kept out of the workforce.

“Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” could be laughed off, except that it echoes the rhetoric of official US policy. Since the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush Administration has resurrected the hackneyed colonial notion that its military intervention is intended to save Muslim women from their oppressive societies. As Laura Bush said shortly after 9-11, “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”

Few Middle Eastern women believe this. In Iraq, for instance, women know that their work for equal rights has been undermined by US intervention. In general, the US has preferred to support authoritarian leaders who systematically violate women’s rights. It’s easier to get a tiny elite or a single strongman to implement US policy than it is to ensure that real democracy swings in favor of US interests.

After all, if it were up to the majority of Iraqis, how many would have endorsed the country’s new US­brokered oil law, which puts Iraq’s most valuable resource at the disposal of Exxon-Mobil? How many would have opted for sprawling, permanent US military bases in their country (whose sole purpose is to enable more US military intervention in the region)? As in Iraq, the US usually ends up undermining women’s rights in the Middle East, because women’s rights are an integral part of democratic rights, and democratic rights threaten US control of the region.

Right-wing “intellectuals” like Horowitz have honed the idea of a “clash of civilizations” dividing the United States from the Middle East. But the real clash is not between “Western” democracies and “Eastern” theocracies; it is between those who uphold the full range of human rights-including women’s rights-and those who pursue economic and political power for a privileged few at the expense of the world’s majority.

In fact, there is nothing inherently “Western” about women’s rights. Women in the Middle East have a century-long history of political struggle, popular organizing, jurisprudence, and scholarship aimed at securing rights within their societies. As for the “clash of civilizations,” no one is predestined to be on one side or the other by virtue of her culture, religion, or nationality. We choose our position based on our principles and our actions. Those of us who choose to stand in defense of women’s rights should listen to and support women in Muslim societies who are struggling both for women’s rights within their country and for their country’s right to freedom from US domination.

YIFAT SUSSKIND is communications director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization. She is the author of a book on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and a report on US culpability for violence against women in Iraq, both forthcoming.

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
Joseph Natoli
The Politics of Crazy and Stupid
Sher Ali Khan
Empirocracy
Nauman Sadiq
A House Divided: Turkey’s Failed Coup Plot
Franklin Lamb
A Roadmap for Lebanon to Grant Civil Rights for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon
Colin Todhunter
Power and the Bomb: Conducting International Relations with the Threat of Mass Murder
Michael Barker
UK Labour’s Rightwing Select Corporate Lobbyist to Oppose Jeremy Corbyn
Graham Peebles
Brexit, Trump and Lots of Anger
Anhvinh Doanvo
Civilian Deaths, Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Drones
Christopher Brauchli
Kansas and the Phantom Voters
Peter Lee
Gavin Long’s Manifesto and the Politics of “Terrorism”
Missy Comley Beattie
An Alarmingly Ignorant Fuck
Robert Koehler
Volatile America
Adam Vogal
Why Black Lives Matter To Me
Raouf Halaby
It Is Not Plagiarism, Y’all
Rev. Jeff Hood
Deliver Us From Babel
Frances Madeson
Juvenile Life Without Parole, Captured in ‘Natural Life’
Charles R. Larson
Review: Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail