| Re: SILENCE IS VIOLENCE
This is a thought provoking speech, and here is an off the top of the head response.
Identity is a complex overlay of many senses of self. Typically, the discourses of domination and exclusion try to explain it in simple, monolithic boxes. Identity as derived from a faith is one such convenient box. Other similar boxes have been used in the past - place of origin, gender. The alarming use of Islamic identity in India as a catch-all descriptor reminds one of similar identity classes used in the west in the nineteenth century - like race. We all know the disastrous historical outcome of the notion of race.
The overlay of Islam and womanhood is a highly textured space as the lifelong studies of anthropologists like Lila Abu-Lughod in Egypt have convincingly shown. This space is simplified and linearized in the public discourse as we have seen in the recent hijb-bikini debate in France and the complex approach to hijb across peoples in varied cultures who profess Islam and who do (or do not) practice the hijb. Simplification is more often than not a tool of domination, a negation of pluralism, and the outcome of intolerance of difference, a denial of the other.
Active, specific and plural feminisms of our time have responded to the complexity of womanhood as identity. We all know that gender difference is not a monolith and that experiences of womanhood are extremely culturally contextual and historically contingent. This does not deny the possibility of a hermeneutic, cross cultural understanding of the experience of womanhood, manhood, gender, femininities and masculinities. Since simplification is a tool of the opressor, speaking out would, in my view, comprise speaking in solidarity with the constructed other as much as speaking to point out the skew in the dominant optic.
Speaking out would on the one hand, be to point out from outside the life experience of the woman in Afghanisthan or say, Brahminical orthodox upper caste India. On the other hand it would involve an emic understanding and articulation (ethnographic writing if you will) of what it means, and feels like to be a woman in a culture with a seriously androcentric worldview.
Speaking (including writing) is often the catalyst for action, and the ultimate task, here, is one of empowering the self and the collective toward liberation. Unfortunately the mechanisms of democracy as we know them now, rule of law and adult franchise, are often inadequate in this task. I am sure there are cultural resources within the cultures of tribes and communities in Afghanisthan, ways in which women network and organize, woman-to-woman support systems, which can be leveraged to deliver this task. But to do this the woman needs a voice, and a voice speaking along helps.
The problem is that I am not a Muslim. So my voice for the Muslim women will not be entertained. I could have spoken out despite this, but Muslim women would oppose me even more violently that the males.
Please show me a way how I can fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.
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