Hegemonic narrative strikes again
Soumaya Ghannoushi tells us there are two discourses that are actually one – that are ‘one in essence’: a conservative one that keeps Muslim women stuck at home and in the power of male relatives, and a liberation one that is opposed to the first one but is (somehow) wicked too.
It is a game of binaries that pits one stereotype against another: the wretched caged female Muslim victim and her ruthless jailer society against an idealised “west” that is the epitome of enlightenment, rationalism, and freedom.
Meaning…what? That there are no Muslim women in wretched ‘caged’ situations? That the ‘west’ is not in fact the epitome of enlightenment, rationalism, and freedom and therefore there are no Muslim women in wretched ‘caged’ situations?
The narrative revolves around a dehistoricised, universal “Muslim woman”; a crushing model that oppresses flesh and blood Muslim women, denies them subjectivity and singularity, and claims to sum up their lives with all their vicissitudes and details from cradle to coffin. It reserves for itself the right to speak for them exclusively, whether they like it or not.
Really? Does it? Where? Who spins this narrative, and where, and to whom? I’ve read a fair bit about this subject and I don’t recall anyone blathering about a dehistoricised, universal ‘Muslim woman.’ Could this be just a phantom in Ghannoushi’s mind? I don’t recall anyone reserving the right to speak for Muslim women exclusively, whether they like it or not, either. I really think I would have noticed.
Representations of the Muslim woman serve a dual legitimising function, at once confirming and justifying the west’s narrative of itself, and of the Muslim other.
Yes yes yes, we know, Orientalism; we’ve heard. Tell that to Gina Khan and Irshad Manji and Maryam Namazie and Necla Kelek and Fadéla Amara and countless others. Then tell it to Aqsa Parvez and Mukhtar Mai and the women of the Abu Ghanem family.