Woman and Islam Term Paper

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Women and Islam

Do Muslim women really need saving?

Strengths and weaknesses

Between here and there: feminist solidarity and Afghan women.

Strengths and weaknesses

Do Muslim women really need saving? Anthropological reflections on cultural relativism and its others.

Topic overview and framework

The article deals with the topic of 'War on Terrorism', the war claimed to have been launched for liberating the Afghan women from Taliban and an argument with anthropological perspective to deconstruct the essentially flawed representation of Afghan women that War on Terrorism rhetoric makes. The article is aimed at investigating the nuances of identity that are essentially devoid of historical construction of role of women in Afghan society. The article also aims to identify the process through which women's role in Afghan society is not constructed on anthropological grounds but rather influenced by one's own culture, identity, and standards of living. Thus, cultural bias is said to have seeped into the process of constructing the picture and role of Afghan women.

The framework

The article adopts a threefold argument framework of addressing issues.

Dangers associated to reifying culture, in this case the culture of Afghanistan with respect to women's role.

That while establishing standards and notions of freedom, rights, and equality, one should not disregard the historical, political, social, and religious differences.

That the notion of saving Afghan women should be eliminated to be replaced with a healthy one that relies on jointly working together to eliminate injustices while not disregarding the cultural, geopolitical, and historical reasons of such identity.

Significance of the study

The study is significant as it is conducted right in the midst of an era where war in Afghanistan has assumed the focal point of efforts of the U.S. And Western governments. This has significantly impacted the intellectual diaspora as most of the debate on Afghan women is constructed on wrong premises that divorce the conventional wisdom of anthropology. Anthropology seeks to elaborate the role of cultural differences in shaping identity and how these differences can be managed to work together. Further, it is also essential to delink the cultural symbols from being associated to unrelated factors such as delinking Taliban from Afghan women's veiled code of dress. The veil has much longer history and perspective in Afghan women's life.


Since the study is not an empirical investigation but an argumentative dissection of premises of women liberation in Afghan War, there is no sample being collected or used by the author. In fact, the author uses two distinct happenings, one in which the author had conversation with PBS television program anchor and the other in which then First Lady Laura Bush addressed the nation. In both happenings, the construction of women role and identity by non-local informants is incorrect and ignores the role of U.S. In creating the monster onto which Afghan women's plight is blamed.

Findings of the article

The articles concludes by returning to the tile question that does Muslim women in Afghanistan really need liberation, as claimed by the then First Lady. The author reports that despite popular rhetoric, the identity of Afghan women and the role that veil plays in the life of Afghan women is not well-constructed and that historical, geo-political, and cultural differences are ignored while constructing women's identity in Afghanistan. The author also concludes that "It is deeply problematic to construct the Afghan woman as someone in need of saving." The tone of this notion, the saving of Afghan women is also patronizing and does not help the issue of gender equality and human rights. The author also equates the endeavors of the U.S. government to that of 19th century Christian missionary women who took up the task of saving their Muslim sisters, of the oppression of polygamy and injustice from male patriarchy.

Strengths and weaknesses

Strength: The article addresses the much important issue of women identity in Afghanistan and the often heard oppression under which these women live. Thus, the article addresses an important issue related to anthropology and inter-cultural perception. The article also draws on the strength of the argument by indicating towards the inherent inconsistencies of West's argument about liberating Afghan women. The wrong representation of 'veil' as symbol of Taliban oppression is also well described in the article.

Weakness: The article does not adopt an empirical approach for investigating the research questions. The study cannot be replicated due to being non-empirical in method.

Between here and there: feminist solidarity and Afghan women.

Topic overview

The topic of this article is also related to flawed visual and textual representation of Afghan women in the Western world. The article is related to discussion of misconstrued image of Afghan women and how the Westerners account of misery and oppression of Muslim women in Afghanistan is devoid of an association with Afghan culture. The article also sheds light on the inherent interest of the Western accounts of Afghan women to the sensationalizing of image only. The misery of women is left behind in the representation; rather a totally irrelevant and at times, a political agenda overshadow the real issue. That political agenda is referred as the political and territorial power of Taliban.

The article also addresses the 'real problem' faced by 'real feminists' who intend to help the gender discriminated women but cannot since the popular representation of women already divorces these women from their culture and society of which they are an essential part. "In representing an Afghan's woman's narrative I face a dilemma familiar to many feminists who want to write about women "over there," our accounts risk reinforcing them as victims. Yet women in Afghanistan are suffering" (Khan, 2001; pg. 1, Para 1). Such a dilemma is also reported by Shepherd (2006) when the author observes that gender representation is re-constructed or misconstrued by the Bush administration to justify the war in Afghanistan. The author also observed that there was a discursive representation of women gender by the political government to attain objectives of justifying the war.


The article utilizes the interview conducted by Armstrong (1997) of Fatana, Afghan women. Excerpts from her narrative are taken and the misrepresentation or inadequate representation by Armstrong is described. The issues faced by Naima, the Afghan refugee in Canada are also highlighted and discussed about to reveal the inherent problems in a new society that is essentially different than her owns. The methodology that the author adopts in critiqued article is that adopted by Scott (1992), the methodology supports that historical perspective of identity and role as well as image shall not be neglected while making any representation.


The authors makes the assumption that 'geopolitics has a major role in the current social formation in Afghanistan, specifically the Cold War has shaped social formation and the image and role of Afghan women should be assessed in the backdrop of this historical perspective'.

Significance of the study

The study is significant as it is conducted by an 'insider', Muslim women that lives in exile and hails from Pakistan, essentially a Muslim country. The study also assumes much import as it deals with the issues of image representation by popular media and the theorists. Gender roles are represented by media images, to a larger extent. Since the feminists struggled to alter the gender representations in a patriarchic society, feminists are now also faced with wrongful representation by some supposedly feminist theorists and media presenters. Although, women in general experience oppression in Afghanistan, they are represented as having to bear injustice due to Taliban only and the respective historical and geopolitical contexts are removed from women's image representation. Therefore, the study is important in challenging a popular rhetoric about women in Afghanistan. The study also assumers importance as it is cited in editorial work of (Hesford & Kozol, 2005) in which the authors compile different narratives…[continue]

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