Save Me, I’m A Muslim Woman!

A few years ago, when I was in grad school, I’d forcefully disagreed with someone during a seminar on linguistics. After the class, this woman walked up to me and said, “You’re so articulate!” I was about to say, “Thanks,” and move on, when she blurted out, “..for a Middle-Eastern woman.”

“Funny,” I thought. “You’re so ignorant…for a grad student. How did you get into the program?” But of course I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even point out that I’m not from the Middle-East. Gosh. Esprit d’escalier.

Everywhere one looks these days, there’s a book or an article about that subject du jour: Women and Islam. Newsweek‘s Lorraine Ali offers a different view:

Muslim women are feeling like pawns in a political game: jihadists portray them as ignorant lambs who need to be protected from outside forces, while the United States considers them helpless victims of a backward society to be saved through military intervention. “Our empowerment is being exploited by men,” says Palestinian Muslim Rima Barakat. “It’s a policy of hiding behind the skirts of women. It’s dishonorable no matter who’s doing it.” Scholars such as Khaled Abou El Fadl, an expert on Islamic law and author of “The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam From the Extremists,” says this is an age-old problem. “Historically the West has used the women’s issue as a spear against Islam,” he says. “It was raised in the time of the Crusades, used consistently in colonialism and is being used now. Muslim women have grown very, very sensitive about how they’re depicted on either side.”

By the by, Khaled Abou El Fadl’s The Great Theft just came out in October with HarperCollins.