Politics

On the brink of reductionism

After years of critique from local female activists, why did one of the most powerful media platforms for women’s empowerment, Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, preclude the more meaningful ways to understand the complex lives of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Their recent summit in New York City featured a discussion titled “On the Brink: Women in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which embodied longstanding critiques of how gender and women’s oppression in areas of strategic U.S. interest are problematically framed within western contexts. A deeper analysis can help ensure that their messages are not overlooked.

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France gets riled up about a candidate’s headscarf

Headscarves are the hot talking point in French politics again. But on this occasion, we aren’t talking about girls getting kicked out of high school or women getting kicked out of mayors’ offices. No, the latest uproar comes about Ms. Ilham Moussaïd, a candidate from the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France’s upcoming regional elections who dares to “visually” identify herself as a Muslim and stand for election. Feminists and politicians are up in arms. While not the first candidate with a headscarf, the buzz around Moussaïd’s candidature is something new.

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Tongue-tied

The one I wanted to wrap in my arms and bring home was Nebras. I didn’t even know her name when I went back to Iraq, shortly after the assault on Baghdad. I was armed only with a photo of a beggar touching her nose with her tongue. I had met her a few months before, when I’d traveled to Iraq with a women’s delegation, just five weeks before the U.S. bombings and invasion. Unfazed by impending disaster, the little girl, old enough to be in primary school, had begged for handouts in a popular market.

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Fatwas against Facebook?

Like any other social media platform, Facebook hosts a wide range users, some looking for intellectual stimulation, and some others looking for companionship. One has to be no less careful with Facebook friends than with next door neighbors, perhaps more so given the 400 million active users that it boasts about. You could waste your time uploading doppelganger pictures onto your profile or fill your status bar with the meaning of your name from urbandictionary.com.

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Dr. Aafia’s appeal

The aftermath of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s conviction nearly two weeks ago in a New York courtroom has seen several protests in her home country of Pakistan. On February 13, students from universities all over Islamabad congregated at Aapbara Chowk and demanded her release, while pointing out the silence of human rights groups. A day earlier, Lahore’s Liberty Chowk saw students and faculty members of several educational institutions come together to protest against Dr. Aafia’s continued detention. Many other protests have been witnessed since the verdict was announced.

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The boy who cried “Witch!”: Saudis investigate domestic workers for witchcraft

Something decidedly medieval is in the air in Saudi Arabia. Fears of black magic and curses cast by Indonesian domestic helpers have spread across the country, and Saudi employers increasingly feel the need to hire private investigators to check their domestic workers for suspicious behavior and evidence for witchcraft. Investigators, mostly foreign women from neighboring countries, are paid to search for photographs, hair, or clothes belonging to the employers before the domestic helpers are repatriated, reports Arab News. The employers do not do this themselves because they feel it is immoral and something Islam prevents them from doing.

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Sexiness for everyone (even Muslims)

Liaison Dangereuse, a German online lingerie store, recently released a new video advertisement. With Arabic-sounding music in the background, a woman is shown getting out of the shower (we can see, from the back, that she has no clothes on), putting on her make-up, then walking (wearing nothing but high heels – to each her own, I suppose) to her dresser, where she puts on her underwear, bra and socks, all the while looking at herself in the mirror. Last (anyone see where this is going yet?), she puts on a burqa. The final scene is of her face at a window, with this phrase showing up: “Sexiness for everyone. Everywhere.”

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The caged and the saved: finding feminism in the Islamic world

Like most ideas, this one did not have a single genesis. I’ve been thinking, and to some extent writing, about feminism for many years and in many guises. The word itself is controversial, with some damning it as the force that destroyed the family and others defending it as the movement that freed a gender. It is one of those terms that starts simply and rapidly gets tangled: if you look around the world and think there are inequalities between the genders, and that those inequalities are not biological and are unfair, you are probably a feminist. And that’s where the arguments begin.

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How to suppress American Muslims (and throw Sikhs and Jews under the bus)

At a time of fear and hostility toward Muslims, ID documents offer bigots a simple way to wreck the socio-economic mobility of religious minorities (that Sikhs, Jews, and others might be impacted is usually an afterthought). The act of redefining photo ID standards by law to slam religious minorities has an economic dimension, but it also constitutes a form of dehumanization. For the faithful, religious headcoverings are not merely articles of faith but also integral and inseparable components of their identities as human beings. They are a source of self-definition and strength.

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The debate continues: A response to a rebuttal to a response

The Muslim Public Affairs Council said I misrepresented their argument in my critique of their article on child brides featured on Altmuslimah. I noticed that their rationale for demanding an Islamic prohibition on child marriages is the exact same rationale used by Muslim scholars who advocate for child marriages: that a young girl does not have the mental maturity to make such an important decision. Muslim scholars who advocate for child marriages would then assert that since the young girl lacks mental maturity, the decision for her marriage is given to her father.

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