Sisterhood Blog

What Leads to 'Burqa Rage'

By Rebecca Schischa

  • Print
  • Share Share

It’s interesting to see that my previous post on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the thorny issue of condemning women’s oppression in cultures other than our own sparked an insightful response from Sisterhood contributor Elana Sztokman.

Elana argues persuasively as to what the right choice should be in the feminism vs. cultural relativism quandary that I wrote about here:

She argues that women who suffer from various forms of oppression within religious groups are not the ones telling Western feminists to “butt out.” But I’m not sure if this is always the case.

Here’s what she says:

Rebecca found herself stumbling over these issues of cultural relativism. “What is the right answer?” she asks. “How do the rest of us square our desire to fight for women’s equality with a niggling fear that we should only be criticizing our own?

I would like to say to you, Rebecca, that you should stick you to your guns! Your initial reaction, which is to condemn the mistreatment of women outside of your own culture, is the right one. The voice of “cultural relativism” is a smokescreen. It is the argument put forward by people who really do not want feminist interference. And who would that be? It’s not the women who are suffering from genital mutilation or honor killings who are asking you to butt out. It’s not the women who face violence, polygamy, and corporal punishment for showing ankles and wrists who are demanding that you step aside in the name of some abstract, twisted notion of intellectual consistency. The ones asking feminists to be quiet are the ones who want to continue harming women. And those are voices that do not deserve to be heeded.

But we can’t ignore that fact that there are women within Islam who will passionately advocate their “right” to cover themselves from head to toe with a burqa — just as there are many Jewish women who willingly submit themselves to increasingly restrictive laws pertaining to their modesty,, and just as there are women in communities in Africa who still encourage their female offspring to undergo genital cutting. It is these women — whom we claim are oppressed, but who themselves advocate that these practices are actually an expression of their own religious freedom, that I worry about when I feel the urge to give a blanket condemnation.

More questions to consider: Does Hirsi Ali’s association with controversial figures of the right in The Netherlands, such as the fiercely anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders, or the slain filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who publicly referred to conservative Muslims as “goat-fuckers” discredit her? (Van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim following the release of a film he made with Hirsi Ali about what they see as the misogyny inherent in Islam.)

And does this mean that if we feminists condemn the treatment of women in other societies, particularly in the Muslim world, we risk inadvertently allying ourselves with the xenophobic right, whose critique of the treatment of women in Islam forms only a small part of a much wider politics of religious intolerance.

Just last week in France, a lawyer “allegedly ripped off another woman’s burqa in a clothes shop — and told her to ‘clear off to your country,’” in what has been called the first case of “burqa rage.” This kind of ugly incident just confirms all of my worries about the repercussions of blanket condemnation of women in other cultures.

Rebecca Schischa blogs at RebeccaInSpace, where a version of this post originally appeared.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Feminism, Theo Van Gogh

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.