An Obsession

As a Law and Global Studies student, I am constantly reading. As I concentrate on Middle Eastern studies, Islamic studies and Social Justice studies – I definitely have an overload of information in my brain at the end of each day. At the moment I am in Chicago, focusing on my fascination with the world outside of the perfect bubble I grew up in.

It is 8.20pm and I am in the library. I have been reading since 4pm, so there are a lot of alarming thoughts in my mind right now. I went from reading about Palestinian women and the violence of Israel’s occupation to the creation of the Qur’an and the criticisms related to the Hadiths.

A reoccurring theme in my studies has been the West’s ideas of freedom and deciding who is oppressed in the third world (I generally try to avoid classifying countries into the third world) or countries facing conflict.

Lila Abu-Lughod, an American anthropologist, wrote one of my favorite pieces describing the obsession of the “West” over Muslim women.

“Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” – describes the obsession of the plight of Muslim women. Since 9/11 the infatuation has grown. From my understanding, it seems that the sheltered and fortunate people tend to try and change what they are fearful of. First of all, many seem to correlate the terms Islam, Arabs and Muslims. This is incorrect. With this incorrect use of terminology, coincided with the fascination of Middle Eastern culture – it leads to a heightened obsession with rituals, traditions and culture that was not originated on “our side of the world”.

For example, as the Western Feminist movements have thrived in the past decade – so have the Arab and/or Islamic feminist movements. Two very distinct movements with the same goal of freedom and equality. But is the journey towards freedom and equality for women and men the same in the West compared to the Middle East? With basic study of culture, religion and societal norms – I would say definitely not.

The ignorance has been demonstrated by the most influential, Laura Bush in 2002 “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”. It seems like a harmless statement, until you analyze it. This clearly justifies colonization or ruling through undermining the plight of women in Afghanistan.

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