East and West: Policing Women

Muslim women in the Western world are subject to prejudice based on their religious garments and women in the Middle East are shamed, and worse, if they choose to dress otherwise. It’s almost as if women are not the problem.

We cannot criticize islamophobia without being fully conscious of oppressive Wahhabist regimes. It is hypocritical to voice a Western frustration so loud it hushes the injustices of the East, especially when domestic subjugation at its mildest severity may come in the form of a micro-aggression. The “minimum” in certain parts of the world means far worse: suppression of the free female identity, often in the name of a government body and/or poisoned culture.

Here’s what we’re not going to do given these two dynamics:

Assume women in the Western world who have had the privilege to make an explicit personal choice to wear hijab embody the same oppression many women may be subject to. This is not liberating anyone, but perpetuating ignorance. We also should not telegraph this message in the Western world in a way that mutes the harsh reality of women who do get forced into submission. Many people are more concerned with protecting their reputation in the Western world under a social climate that pushes discriminative bias, than they are with the crimes against women abroad that do involve a violation of free will.

Hate crimes in the Western world are also a serious tragedy. It is not fair to undermine the pressures of religious expression in the Western world, especially in places like France, England and the U.S. where the Muslim identity is one with an especially uncomfortable connotation. It is understandable we focus on our microcosm and the risks that directly pertain to us. Banning the burka and forcing one to strip is no better than demanding a woman she conceals her skin. However, if we choose to be global activists, we must avoid being paradoxically narrow-minded and hypocritical. There is a difference between saying, “I wear hijab and I am not oppressed” and “The practice of any interpretation of Sharia law does not harm anyone”. It is easy and ironic to preach this under secularism. Listen to our sisters worldwide, for they are just as much our neighbors. Do not silence them to appease those who wrongly associate you with a stereotype.

The East and West must stop policing women, arresting their liberty and handcuffing their freedom.



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