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Sherene Razack

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Geopolitics, Culture Clash, and Gender After September 11

Books advancing the idea of a culture clash between the West and Islam have proliferated in recent years. This article focuses on three books published between 2002 and 2003 that were widely acclaimed and received: Italian journalist and feminist Orianna Fallaci’s The Rage and the Pride (2002), well-known American feminist Phyllis Chesler’s The New Anti-Semitism (2003), and Canadian broadcaster Irshad Manji’s The Trouble with Islam (2003). Each book outlines the need to defend the West generally, and Israel in particular, from an Islamic threat, a threat reinforced by the idea of misogynist Muslim men. Each book also suggests that to take up a political position critical of the current U.S. and Israeli administrations (George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon’s successor) is at best being callous toward Muslim women and at worst supportive of profoundly misogynist political regimes. The author argues that a racial logic structures the three texts and that the Islamic world’s treatment of women provides an opportunity to reinforce a message of European superiority in which both the U.S. bid for empire and the contemporary politics of the Israeli occupation are defended and legitimized. In this way, gender equality operates as a kind of technology used by states to manage populations. In an era of “bombs for their own good” directed at Muslim populations and defended as necessary for securing democracy and women’s rights, an old imperial formula of saving Brown women from Brown men in the name of civilization is used with renewed vigor. This article is directed to feminists on the basis that post-September 11 conditions have profoundly altered the conditions of struggles to improve the status of women.

feminism, September 11, Islam, culture clash theory, Orianna Fallaci, Phyllis Chesler, Irshad Manji

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 32, No. 4 (2005): 11-31.