Islam and “Western Imagination”

[Update: I forgot to thank Djemaa Maazouzi for sending that link to a seminar mailing-list… So, thank you Djemaa! Sorry for the delay…]

Thinking about Lila Abu-Lughod‘s powerful Eurozine “Lettre” The Muslim Woman. The Power of Images and the Danger of Pity.

In the common Western imagination, the image of the veiled Muslim woman stands for oppression in the Muslim world. This makes it hard to think about the Muslim world without thinking about women, sets up an “us” and “them” relationship with Muslim women, and ignores the variety of ways of life practiced by women in different parts of the Muslim world. Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod emphasizes that veiling should not be confused with a lack of agency or even traditionalism. Western feminists who take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of oppressed Muslim women assume that individual desire and social convention are inherently at odds: something not borne out by the experience of Islamic society.

Though it uses veiling as a starting point, Abu-Lughod’s insightful piece reaches to several important issues of religious tolerance, global policy, cultural awareness, secularism, liberalism, and thoughtful respect and consideration for human beings. This piece is in fact so powerful and thoughtful that it seems irrelevant to add much to its content.

Let us wish that more people will grow their understanding of both Islam and “The West” through a careful reflection on those issues.

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About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

3 responses to “Islam and “Western Imagination”

  • enkerli

    I would agree that these discussions can eventually help bridge gaps in understanding. Unfortunately, many of the current discussions we end up having remain at a more superficial level, not helping much in terms of dialogue.

  • Islamic Store

    I think everyone should be allowed to dress as they want whether with a hijab or without for that matter. It is great that the hijab is being discussed more and more, i think it helps build bridges of understanding between communities

  • C L O S E R » Blog Archive » Eurozine: Lila Abu-Lughod - The Muslim woman. The power of images and the danger of pity

    […] Lorenz has brought to my attention (via Disparate) an interesting article by Lila Abu-Lughod (The Muslim woman. power of images and the danger of pity) at Eurozine.com. In the common Western imagination, the image of the veiled Muslim woman stands for oppression in the Muslim world. This makes it hard to think about the Muslim world without thinking about women, sets up an “us” and “them” relationship with Muslim women, and ignores the variety of ways of life practiced by women in different parts of the Muslim world. Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod emphasizes that veiling should not be confused with a lack of agency or even traditionalism. Western feminists who take it upon themselves to speak on behalf of oppressed Muslim women assume that individual desire and social convention are inherently at odds: something not borne out by the experience of Islamic society. […]

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