Originally a comment by Chris Lawson on The worst the Christian community can do in America.
The problem with the Dear Muslima argument:
1. “Dear Muslima” implies that one should only combat the world’s worst examples of a problem and never the less dramatic examples of the same problem immediately around us.
2. “Dear Muslima” minimises the importance of mild and moderate aspects of a problem by asserting that they’re not worth tackling.
3. “Dear Muslima” minimises the importance of geography by assuming one’s efforts are better spent on addressing a problem on the other side of the world in a culture one is not a part of. (Note: I have nothing against people trying to address a problem in distant lands and unfamiliar cultures, I’m only against the attitude that this is the only acceptable way to do it.)
4. “Dear Muslima” assumes that progress on a problem in better-off countries has no effect on progress on the same problem in countries where the problem is more entrenched, when we know full well that as more and more countries adopt a culture change, the resistant countries become more and more isolated and feel more pressure to change (e.g.: the Arab Spring, the spread of gay marriage equality, the rise of democracy in Europe in C18-20).
5. “Dear Muslima”, at its worst, underplays the severity of problems in better-off countries; as Ophelia and Zug have already pointed out, being denied a wedding cake is NOT the worst thing that can happen to gay people in the US.
6. “Dear Muslima”, on the observational evidence, is exactly what Saad says: a rhetorical tool for dismissing concerns about the treatment of oppressed groups in better-off nations in order to maintain the status quo; it is a deeply conservative message that essentially says “no effort should be made to address local inequities until they have been eradicated in all distant parts of the world”, i.e. never.
Let’s imagine these “Dear Muslima” prescriptions being used in international health.
1. “We cannot treat your malaria here in Brazil because the disease is far more prevalent in Africa.”
2. “We’re not going to treat your testicular cancer because it has a much better 5-year survival rate than pancreatic cancer.”
3. “We’re not going to put any money into researching AIDS vaccines because the people who really need the vaccine are in Africa, not here.”
4. “We’re going to stop vaccinating against polio because we feel like ignoring the benefits of vaccinating neighbouring countries to reduce transmission everywhere.”
5. “We shouldn’t treat heart disease because the worst that can happen is unpleasant chest pains.”
6. “Of course we’d like to improve the health of First Nations people in the US, but our hands are tied until Australia and New Zealand close their health gaps; it saddens me to say it, but our First Nations people are just going to have to accept the situation with the admirable resilience they have honed over centuries of mass murder and land displacement. Our thoughts are with them, but not funding or political change.”