18. March 2005 · Comments Off on Bush, Feminists, And American Muslims Failing Middle Eastern Women · Categories: Iraq, Politics, World

TNR’s Joseph Braude sees substantial room for improvement in the policies of the Bush administration, and American NGO’s in their policies towards women in the middle east, particularly Iraq:

Having invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States has arguably set in motion a wave of political change that stands to weaken authoritarian rule in numerous other countries. In this respect, setbacks for women in Afghanistan and Iraq that stem from weakened central authority, physical insecurity, and a rise of Islamist political influence may be a harbinger of things to come in many places. Which is why it’s so important for American politicians and grassroots movements across the spectrum to shed their ideological baggage and formulate coherent stances on the use of soft power to advance Arab and Muslim women.

There are some encouraging signs that this process has already begun. The National Women’s Charter weighed in with a statement on women’s rights in Iraq on February 25. Other organizations with a global reach, like Women for Women International, have been active and influential on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, and across Africa and Asia for years. This afternoon at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in New York City, in a move of symbolic importance, the Progressive Muslim Union will publicly break with a Muslim tradition of long standing that denies women the right to lead mixed-gender prayer services. The leader of the Friday prayer, who will also deliver the afternoon’s sermon, is Amina Wadud, an African-American Muslim theologian from Virginia Commonwealth University. A New York mosque refused to host the event, claiming it would be incompatible with Islamic law. Wadud, who has already drawn coverage on the satellite network Al Arabiya, says she has received numerous death threats in the past few weeks. At a recent lecture in Toronto, she was accused by one Muslim man of being a “CIA agent.” He apparently had no idea of the gap that often divides the U.S. government from American grassroots movements. This disconnect is intolerable at a time when American policy stands to affect millions of Muslim women–for better or for worse, and whether the U.S. manages to formulate a coherent strategy or not.

I see American, and other, government’s policies towards middle eastern women as par-for-the-course. This is quite similar to the dichotomy between our support for the One China policy, coupled with the pledge to defend Taiwan

The Bush administration needs to divorce itself from involvement in internal Iraqi politics. But, also similar to the China-Taiwan situation, I feel far more can be accomplished through western businesses and NGO’s. NOW’s total sell-out of Iraqi women, for no better reason than blind Bush-hatred, makes no sense.

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