I refuse to be lumped into this monolithic group of oppressed, abused and hated victims. Arab women’s problems are not the same across the board. Even within one country like Egypt, what I see as a problem, might not be the most pressing issue for the woman next door. So, I refuse to have Eltahawy talk on my behalf as if she is the expert who can accurately identify my plight.
It’s as if she thinks Eltahawy is doing something bad to her…is in fact oppressing her and abusing her and making her a victim. But why? Eltahawy is angry about things that are done to women in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as elsewhere in the Middle East. She doesn’t talk on Eltantawy’s behalf; she doesn’t claim to identify her plight; she describes abuses of women’s rights. Why does that make Eltantawy so angry? What does she want instead? Silence on the subject? Why would she want that? Silence on oppression and abuse is easy to have, but what good does it do? Silence on oppression and abuse allow the oppression and abuse to go on happening. We know what that’s like; we see that happening all the time; we see the aftermath; we think it’s terrible, we feel shame and horror, we say it must never happen again.
The people of Sarajevo got plenty of silence on oppression and abuse for a long time. The people of Rwanda got silence and inaction when they could have used something else. The abused imprisoned children and women in Ireland got luxurious, lavish amounts of silence on oppression and abuse for decade after decade, and it wasn’t what they wanted – they wanted noise and attention and an end to the oppression and abuse.
What is this idiotic and callous idea that reporting human rights violations is an insult to the potential victims? Where did this come from? It seems to be a confused version of anti-colonialism, but when the confusion is so deep that it sees Mona Eltahawy as Othering Egyptian women – well things have gone wrong.
Everything, from virginity tests, to sexual deprivation, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and child marriage, is included in this article to produce a column that will surely be welcomed by many Western feminists and anti-Islamists, who for years have been telling us that Muslim women are weak, oppressed victims of misogyny and rigid Islamic rules that force them to hide behind their veils.
That, when you look at it closely, is a revolting thing to say. We “Western feminists” welcome news of finger-rape, FGM, and child marriage? The hell we do! We don’t welcome it; we pay attention to it. We should pay attention to it. Everyone should. Internationalism is a good thing. Human rights are a good thing. Finger rape and FGM and child marriage are not good things.
We don’t think Muslim women are “weak” any more than we think the Tutsis are weak, Irish women and children are weak, Iranian gays are weak, and so on. If someone has a gun to my head, it makes no difference how strong I am.
We really need to resist this hateful idea that human rights are purely local and that everyone should ignore any abuses that happen beyond their borders. Eltantawy probably didn’t mean to suggest that, but she did. She needs to think harder about the subject.