Women and fundamentalism

Rahila Gupta points out the horrible ironies and tensions:

The fallout from the Rushdie affair was the widespread growth of religious identities at the expense of racial and gender identities. Secular anti-racists began to declaim, even reclaim, their Muslim identity. Muslim women increasingly adopted the hijab as a symbol of pride in their religious identity, not recognising or even accepting the fact that it set women back by placing the onus on women’s safety on their modest dress and behaviour rather than male aggression. The left displayed a reluctance to challenge reactionary forces within our communities because it might be seen as racist.

And goes on displaying – so we get people defending the archbishop of Canterbury’s reactionary embrace of sharia as something with great (if elusive) potential for…liberalizing sharia. In some other universe.

The state’s response has been divided to say the least: the “fighting extremism” agenda after 7/7 has seen the active wooing of so-called “moderates” (often linked to extremist organisations overseas) who may be moderate on the question of public order but certainly not on the question of women. This has led, for instance, to an explosion of religious schools and the growing acceptance that some form of sharia law should be accommodated within the legal system.

Exactly. It’s a dismayingly common trope to identify extremism with terrorism and moderation with non-terrorism, completely ignoring the ‘extremism’ of reactionary rules and punishments for women, gays, ‘apostates’ and unbelievers. Ian Buruma does this regularly. It’s a bad mistake. Just ask the women of Swat.

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