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Feminism and Colonialism

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Feminism and colonialism have a long and duplicitous history in the Muslim world. When western governments, colonised the Muslim world they understood that the only way to defeat Muslims was to get them to believe they were superior.

So they wanted to liberate Muslim women, the homemakers & educators and get them to venerate liberal ideas. Liberation meant liberation from Islam.

Colonial Feminism in Egypt

Lord Cromer was the British consul general in Egypt from 1883 to 1907, Cromer was convinced of the inferiority of Islamic religion & society, & the “mind of the Oriental”. (described in Leila Ahmed’s Women and Gender in Islam). It was Islam’s degradation of women, its insistence on veiling & seclusion, which was the “fatal obstacle” to the Egyptian’s “attainment of that elevation of thought & character which should accompany the introduction of Western civilisation. The Egyptians should be “persuaded or forced” to become “civilised” by disposing of the veil.  Hypocritically, Cromer founded and presided over the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage at home. But in Egypt he called for their liberation!

Muslim Feminists justify colonialism

Qasim Amin, a French-educated  lawyer, wrote a book called The Liberation of Women (1899), he was instructed by Lord Cromer and led the Arab Liberal Party. It’s submissive in its praise for the West and harsh in its denunciation of Egypt. Amin argued that Muslim societies had to abandon their backward ways and follow the Western path to civilisation and success. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Qasim Amin of today, having done more than anyone else to malign Muslim majority countries and sing the praises of empire, all the while masquerading as a “feminist.”

French Occupation of Algeria and the reality of feminism and colonialism

 

This was never really to ‘liberate’ women but to undermine the backbone of Muslim society – the family. As one nineteenth-century French official put it, “If we are to strike against Algerian society’s capacity to resist, then we must first of all conquer their women,” adding, “We have to go and find these women, under the veils they hide behind.’ (Lila Abu-Lughod in her book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?) French did nothing to help North African women, they had “un-veiling” campaigns during the Algerian War, ( 1954 -1962) under the pretext of “liberating women.” The purpose, like the rapes committed by soldiers was to demoralise the Algerian men.

Liberal interventionism in the Muslim world

“Respect for women… can triumph in the Middle East and beyond!” trilled George Bush to the UN in 2002. “The repression of women [is] everywhere and always wrong!” he told the New York Times, warming to his theme that the west should attack Iraq for the sake of its women. Just as he bombed Afghanistan to liberate the women from their burkas (to free the “women of cover”), and sent out his wife Laura to tell how Afghans are tortured for wearing nail varnish,Bush, used feminist language to denounce the indigenous culture; and, says Ahmed, feminism thus served as a “handmaid to colonialism”. “Whether in the hands of patriarchal men or feminists,” she writes, “the ideas of western feminism essentially functioned to morally justify the attack on native societies and to support the notion of comprehensive superiority of Europe.”

Over 111,000 Afghans, including civilians and soldiers are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.[1] The Cost of War project estimated that the number who have died through indirect causes related to the war may be as high as 360,000 additional people based on a ratio of indirect to direct deaths in contemporary conflicts.[3] These numbers do not include those who have died in Pakistan. Neta C. Crawford (22 May 2015). “War-related Death, Injury, and Displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan 2001–2014”

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