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
November 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jonathan Cook
From an Open Internet, Back to the Dark Ages
Linda Pentz Gunter
A Radioactive Plume That’s Clouded in Secrecy
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Fires This Time
Nick Alexandrov
Birth of a Nation
Vijay Prashad
Puerto Rico: Ruined Infrastructure and a Refugee Crisis
Peter Montague
Men in Power Abusing Women – What a Surprise!
Kristine Mattis
Slaves and Bulldozers, Plutocrats and Widgets
Pete Dolack
Climate Summit’s Solution to Global Warming: More Talking
Mike Whitney
ISIS Last Stand; End Times for the Caliphate
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness, Part Two
James Munson
Does Censoring Undemocratic Voices Make For Better Democracy?
Brian Cloughley
The Influence of Israel on Britain
Jason Hickel
Averting the Apocalypse: Lessons From Costa Rica
Pepe Escobar
How Turkey, Iran, Russia and India are playing the New Silk Roads
Jan Oberg
Why is Google’s Eric Schmidt So Afraid?
Ezra Rosser
Pushing Back Against the Criminalization of Poverty
Kathy Kelly
The Quality of Mercy
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Gerry Brown
Myanmar Conflict: Geopolitical Food Chain
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Robert Redford’s Big Game in Nairobi
Katrina Kozarek
Venezuela’s Communes: a Great Social Achievement
Zoltan Grossman
Olympia Train Blockade Again Hits the Achilles Heel of the Fracking Industry
Binoy Kampmark
History, Law and Ratko Mladić
Tommy Raskin
Why Must We Sanction Russia?
Bob Lord
Trump’s Tax Plan Will Cost a Lot More Than Advertised
Ralph Nader
National Democratic Party – Pole Vaulting Back into Place
Julian Vigo
If Sexual Harassment and Assault Were Treated Like Terrorism
Russell Mokhiber
Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics
Louis Proyect
The Witchfinders
Ted Rall
Sexual Harassment and the End of Team Politics
Anna Meyer
Your Tax Dollars are Funding GMO Propaganda
Barbara Nimri Aziz
An Alleged Communist and Prostitute in Nepal’s Grade Ten Schoolbooks!
Myles Hoenig
A Ray Moore Win Could be a Hidden Gift to Progressives
Graham Peebles
What Price Humanity? Systemic Injustice, Human Suffering
Kim C. Domenico
To Not Walk Away: the Challenge of Compassion in the Neoliberal World
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Giving Thanks for Our Occupation of America?
Christy Rodgers
The First Thanksgiving
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power”
David Yearsley
On the Road to Rochester, By Bike
November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail