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Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Lila Abu-Lughod
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Do Muslim Women Need Saving?
    Book Description:

    Do Muslim Women Need Saving? is an indictment of a mindset that has justified all manner of foreign interference, including military invasion, in the name of rescuing women from Islam. It offers a detailed, moving portrait of the actual experiences of ordinary Muslim women, and of the contingencies with which they live.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72633-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction: Rights and Lives
    (pp. 1-26)

    On a bright December day in 2010, I was having tea with Zaynab, a woman who lives in a village in southern Egypt.¹ I had known her for many years, and as we caught up on each other’s news, she politely asked me about the subject of my new research. I explained that I was writing a book about how people in the West believe that Muslim women are oppressed. Zaynab objected, “But many women are oppressed! They don’t get their rights in so many ways—in work, in schooling, in …”

    I was surprised by her vehemence. “But is...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Do Muslim Women (Still) Need Saving?
    (pp. 27-53)

    Commentators noted the political timing ofTimemagazine’s cover story about a beautiful young woman from Afghanistan whose nose had been cut off. The unsettling photograph of Bibi Aysha, whose Taliban husband and in-laws had punished her this way, appeared on newsstands in August 2010. Eight months earlier, President Obama had authorized a troop surge, but now there was talk about bringing some Taliban into reconciliation talks. The juxtaposition between the photograph and the headline—“What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan?”—implied that women would be the first victims. Unremarked was the fact that this act of mutilation had been...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The New Common Sense
    (pp. 54-80)

    We seem to be living in remarkable times. Ever since women’s rights served as a respectable reason to support military intervention in 2001 in Afghanistan, the language of human rights has not only been on (almost) every tongue, but the call for women’s rights has gone mainstream. The abuses women suffer are no longer considered private matters, swept into dark corners, or dismissed as insignificant in the international public sphere. Fifty years ago, no one could have imagined this development. The feminists who labored so hard on legislation, health, education, consciousness raising, and international conventions should feel gratified, even if...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Authorizing Moral Crusades
    (pp. 81-112)

    How do the architects of this new common sense about going to war for women gain such authority? Why have so many come to agree with their arguments—which manufacture consent for international engagements across the Muslim world—when there are flaws in their reasoning, silences in their stories, partiality in their representations of women’s problems, and when a myth lies at their core?

    These writers make their premises unassailable by drawing on a language of human and women’s rights that now has tremendous currency. This language insists that people around the world must learn how to be just and...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Seductions of the “Honor Crime”
    (pp. 113-142)

    One of the most iconic of the cultural-legal categories created to describe the deplorable state of women’s rights in the Muslim world is the “honor crime.” The deployment of this category makes clear just how inseparable the plight of Muslim women is from the politicized and polarized world in which we live. The 1990s marked the beginning of a strong era for international women’s rights. Violence against women was successfully reconceptualized as a human rights issue and put on the agendas of various United Nations (UN) bodies. It now dominates the feminist agenda worldwide and is part of the new...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Social Life of Muslim Women’s Rights
    (pp. 143-172)

    Fayruz had some big news to share. When I arrived in the village after a year’s absence, I went to visit her. She had been in the midst of a cancer scare the last time we’d seen each other. They had removed a tumor that doctors assured her was benign. She told me about the pain she had suffered and the long nights when she wept thinking about what would happen to her children if she died. She was now back to her bold, beautiful self, full of energy and determination.

    Fayruz wanted to show me something. We set off...

  9. CHAPTER 6 An Anthropologist in the Territory of Rights
    (pp. 173-200)

    All of us who are concerned about women’s suffering and well-being find ourselves in a world saturated with talk about rights and the institutions—small and large, local and transnational—that have arisen to defend them. I entered the territory of rights because of my consternation about the ways Muslim women’s rights were being put to political use for intervention in Afghanistan. Then, during the past decade, I began exploring other regions and tributaries of this rights system. The advances of feminists into the international and local organizations for women’s rights led me to understand that rights activists, as discussed...

  10. Conclusion: Registers of Humanity
    (pp. 201-228)

    This book is a long answer to the question of whether Muslim women have rights or need saving. I have examined the work and the frameworks of the many who want to do something about violations of women’s rights globally, especially Muslim women’s rights. There are the moral crusaders who view Muslim women as distant and different and want to save them. There are writers who have capitalized on the international political situation and individual women’s traumas by selling sordid memoirs of sensational abuse and escape. There are hardworking activists leading organizations dedicated to fighting forms of gender in equality,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 229-278)
    (pp. 279-304)
    (pp. 305-308)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 309-325)