I thought that Lila Abu-Lughod’s article “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?” was well written and interesting. The author discusses whether or not we can be justified in our intervention of Afghanistan with the purpose of “liberating and saving” women. She points out that we are trying to “reify” other cultures and it can be messy and somewhat insensitive. I think that one of the most fascinating points that she made was that “we must take care not to reduce the diverse situations and attitudes of millions of Muslim women to a single item of clothing. Perhaps it is time to give up the Western obsession with the veil and focus on some serious issues with which feminists and others should indeed be concerned.” I have to say that I am not sure if our actions in Afghanistan were really well-intentioned or not, but I think that Lughod makes an incredibly strong point in that what is important is trying to listen and understand other cultures rather than trying to thrust ours onto others. Though there is now somewhat of a divide between us and the Afghan women, by “critically exploring” the problems of the Afghan women, and accepting their differences, we can be cultural relativists and become respectful of their culture and their way of life.
Furthermore, I thought her discussion of the burqa relevant to what I learned while I studied abroad in France in my Sociology of France class. At the time, there were debates going on regarding the subject, but recently the country just passed a law in which burqas and other Islamic face coverings in public places is illegal, and those who break this law face a fine of up to 150 euros. According to an article by CNN, “The ban pertains to the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes”.
It is interesting to note, however, that France has also banned wearing or displaying “overt religious symbols” in schools, such as headscarves. This last point makes it a bit better that France has made the ban, but I still think that as Lughod says, we should just “explore and respect” culture rather than what I feel is trying to make everyone more similar/mainstream. The differences between us is what makes the world an interesting place.