Islamophobia, Feminism and the Politics of Critique

By Rochelle Terman

This article discusses recent critical works within the frame of what is considered a paramount concern in feminist scholarship today: How do we name and publicize acts of violence against women without providing ideological fuel for orientalism and Islamophobia? By privileging a critique of western imperialism in discussions of violence against women in Muslim contexts, I argue this work: 1) obscures a complete understanding of violence against women in Muslim contexts, 2) is unjustifiably dismissive and belittling to activists working in the Muslim world, and 3) is an expression of a Euro/American experience of Islamophobia post 9/11 that is projected in an ahistorical and politically counterproductive way onto local Muslim and Arab communities. The cumulative result is a teleology of an anti-imperialism that naturalizes the double bind between Islamophobia and gender injustice by presenting women’s rights activism not just as complicit in imperialism and Islamophobia but as inescapably imperialist and Islamophobic.

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Rochelle Terman is an Iranian-American Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and sits on the advisory council for Women Living Under Muslim Law’s International Solidarity Network.