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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail