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Contentions

A “Wolf” in East’s Clothing

Naomi Wolf, the great mind who has charged Condoleezza Rice with sex crimes, and who is currently peddling a book about America’s supposed descent into fascism, is now championing the Muslim laws that require women to cover themselves – while getting a few things off her chest about western liberation, of course:

She writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:

But are we in the West radically misinterpreting Muslim sexual mores, particularly the meaning to many Muslim women of being veiled or wearing the chador? And are we blind to our own markers of the oppression and control of women?

It shouldn’t be hard to guess the answers:

The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I travelled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women’s appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one’s husband.

In other words, the veil isn’t about the woman’s repression but about the husband’s ownership. Well, let’s break out the champagne!

Wolf goes on:

I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a headscarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed; but, as I moved about the market – the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me – I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.

Because she is free. Free to experiment with burka tourism for an hour and then put on make-up and a skirt and write about the evils of the bikini back here in the oppressive West.

Her closing point: “Westerners should recognise that when a woman in France or Britain chooses a veil, it is not necessarily a sign of her repression.” What cognizant Westerner does not recognize this? What traditionally liberal minded person objects to women (or men) choosing whatever means of worship they wish – so long as their practices don’t infringe on the rights of others or pose a security threat? Wolf’s piece is an exercise in red herringism. She adduces the choice of free Muslim women to argue against criticism of Islamist oppression.

And since she’s been newly liberated by the laws of Islam, what do you suppose are the chances Wolf will be sporting a chador for her next C-SPAN tirade against the oppression of the Bush administration?


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