Free yourselves, Muslim women!

Free yourselves, Muslim women! February 28, 2007

I don’t have time to comment at length, but check out this gem of neo-colonial paternalism, unvarnished prejudice and ironic sexism from the youth wing of the hardline Danish People’s Party

They have launched a campaign directed towards Muslim women entitled "Free yourselves" ("Befri jer selv").  They’re referring to Islam, of course.

You can order a poster and get postcards for spreading the good news that they are waiting with open arms to receive Muslim women exiting Islam.

Below is a quick translation of a typical passage from the introduction on their hompepage (the paragraph "Hvis du som muslimsk kvinde frigør…)".

Danish rightwingers say 'Free yourselves, Muslim women!'

If you as a Muslim woman free yourself from old Muslim traditions that require you to submit to male family members, you can become an independent woman and member of modern society.  A woman who is not dependent on a man.  A woman able to create for herself a career on the job market and not just stand over the stove or serve as a baby machine.  You can show your children what a woman’s potential is by having a job, home, and family while remaining a good  mother.  Women in the West have done it for decades.  We live well and are thriving.  You can be one of us.

Ah, where to begin?

I particularly like the offensive dismissal of normal, un-"liberated" Muslim women as simply cooks or breeders.  An inspiringly progressive sentiment in people selflessly committed to empowering women, no?

Note also how these Danish hardliners make it clear that the only way
to become "one of us"–i.e., be accepted as members of Danish society–is for Muslim women to
abandon their traditions.    These crusaders for women’s rights exhibit
curiously conditional solidarity with the supposed victims of Islamic

That’s no accident, though, as loud, self-interested protestations on behalf of oppressed Muslim women are a centuries-old staple of Western propaganda in conflicts involving Muslims.

I’m reminded of Leilah Ahmed’s insightful obsevation in Women and Gender in Islam that at the very same time British colonial authorities were crusading to "free" Muslim women at the turn of the century they were actively opposing women’s suffrage tooth and nail back in Europe.   

Katharine Viner explains in "Feminism as Imperialism":

The classic example of such a colonizer was Lord Cromer, British consul general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, as described in Leila Ahmed’s seminal Women and Gender in Islam. Cromer was convinced of the inferiority of Islamic religion and society, and had many critical things to say on the "mind of the Oriental". But his condemnation was most thunderous on the subject of how Islam treated women. It was Islam’s degradation of women, its insistence on veiling and seclusion, which was the "fatal obstacle" to the Egyptian’s "attainment of that elevation of thought and character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilization," he said. The Egyptians should be "persuaded or forced" to become "civilized" by disposing of the veil.

Do they have similar concerns about other "Western" women who make the same choices around the globe?  Or are "submissive" housewives only oppressed when they are Muslim?   Do women leading old-fashioned lives in rural America or southern Europe also need to be saved?  There’s a lot of ’em.

I think it’s a fair to assume they only pay any notice to Muslim women’s welfare when it serves their machinations to further demonize the immigrants that they evidently despise so passionately. 

Note as well how the poster not only removes the scarf, but puts Muslim women in what appear to be slight tank tops.  There’s something Freudian here.  They want Muslim women "freed" so they can undress for their liberators. 

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