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"Liberating" the Afghan Women

Yamin Zakaria

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In the name of God, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful.

We are now supposed to accept the sole Afghani woman being paraded in a bikini in the USA as a symbol of “progress” in contrast to the “oppressive” veil. Instead, it could have been her promotion to become a University Professor, or a Doctor or a Lawyer or a successful Entrepreneur but no! Somehow it had to involve the removal of her clothes in order for the western dominated mass media to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the liberation of the Afghan women has begun.

Long a tool of patriarchal oppression, the recent ?beauty? contest was employed to sell the idea that the USA-led war against Afghanistan was liberating for its population.

Long a tool of patriarchal oppression, the recent ?beauty? contest was employed to sell the idea that the USA-led war against Afghanistan was liberating for its population.

Since the removal of the Taliban, the honourable women of Afghanistan did not rush to remove the veil for the bikini, and therefore this media stunt appears to be an attempt to kick-start the process! Why is it that the west and the Jerry Springer nation in particular automatically equate nudity or adornment with revealing clothes with liberation? To what or whom can we attribute such “profound” and “enlightened” ideas? One wonders why the press in the west did not shout “liberation” for men when the Chippendales arrived.

One can understand the frustration within the Western Intelligentsia at present. Iraq has not worked out so well, no WMD to date, people still view them as occupiers (invaders) rather then “liberators”, oil is not being pumped for the convenience of the USA administration, the recent report from the charity commission exposes the theft of Iraq?s oil resources, etc. So turning to Afghanistan, the picture is equally grim, the Taliban are creeping in, production of the poppy has increased, so has crime and lawlessness, including the suffering of women, who are being kidnapped and raped with far greater ease and frequency then before. Kidnapping and raping of women under the Taliban were almost non-existent.

The west has forgotten that before we talk about political rights, one needs to ensure security, and availability of basic amenities for survival. Despite the demise of Taliban from power, there was no great social upheaval, and the veil continues to flourish as the norm rather then the exception. Hence televising this lone woman in the USA is simply stating the obvious. The vast majority of the women in Afghanistan even under Hamid Karzai do not want to abandon the veil for the bikini. It is not just the world of the Taliban - increasingly many in the liberal west are embracing Islam and adopting the veil or the Islamic scarf. Such facts are conveniently ignored, but give them one Muslim woman donning the bikini in public ? Instant News Headlines! So frustration may be one possible explanation for the media to do this cheap stunt at promoting the bikini as a sign of “liberation”.

So what is the rational here? Surely if a woman is described as “progressive” for replacing the veil with the mini-skirt, then by the same reasoning if she were to move further in the same direction to complete nudity that should be seen as peak of the “progression”. Yet total nudity is a legal offence. On the other hand the usual progression (career path) from the bikini at beauty contests is towards modelling, which itself can move from topless to full nudity, then ultimately ending up in some sort of porno movies, under the pretext of “acting”. There you go, the entire path drawn out for liberating the Afghan women. Of course one cannot be drastic; the path to liberation has to be treaded slowly with care, so the mass media has begun with the bikini.

The right to party. Beneath the layers of make-up, and behind the dark sunglasses, lie frightened symbols of the true face of oppression for both men and women.

The right to party. Beneath the layers of make-up, and behind the dark sunglasses, lie frightened symbols of the true face of oppression for both men and women.

Let us briefly take a wider look, by examining the impact of these liberal values on wider society, which thereby indicates the nature of the ideal society that lays waiting for the women and men of Afghanistan. The answer is simple; just observe the youth of the west in how they form relationships with the opposite sex. Just a cursory glance of the regular programs on TV about the parties in Night clubs in the UK, Ibiza, Greece, and Spain etc. shows how they are fornicating in public places in packs without reservation or shame, like a pack of dogs. Just as one dog barks the others follow without rationalisation, suspending their intellect. In such an atmosphere drugs and alcohol certainly aids the suspension of intellect.

What?s the consequence? The effect of Women?s (and Men?s) “liberation”, has lead to Western orientated societies becoming more volatile, torn apart by the rise in single parent families, soaring divorce rates, increased dependencies on alcohol, drugs and anti depressants. Increasingly children are born without knowing the identity of their father, and in some cases even their mother. Estimates of illegitimate children are 33% of the population in the USA and similar numbers in some of the European countries. Sexual abuse of children is rampant, and in turn children disown their parents in old age as a burden. Why is it that all societies that raise the flag of women?s rights end up only facilitating the selling of her flesh, be it in the form of lewd pop videos, the fashion industry, advertising or else where, then end up calling it “liberation”.
The use of a child?s doll to sell the decadent night-life industry displays the deep contradictions in secular advanced capitalist moral ideology.
Moving on from the national perspective to the international perspective, such “liberal” values without clear definition in terms of the ever-changing parameter of right and wrong are now being enforced through the muscles of the western controlled institutions, under the pretext of promoting so called universal values and human rights. Like the notion of ‘war on terrorism’, the pretext is vague, and it is meant to be. As they say the politicians never give a straight answer, they always like to have their options open - in other words manipulation, dishonesty, hypocrisy.

However there is a trend that can be observed within the western mass media. The venue for the previous world beauty contest was initially designated for Nigeria - a Muslim majority country - which was then shifted to Turkey - another Muslim country - and again, any surprise that a Turkish woman won. No doubt it was another attempt to kick-start the veil to bikini move. On more intellectual level, anyone with an offensive argument against Islam or Muslims is immediately given recognition and publicity. In the past we have had Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie, Najib Mahfuz, all of whom gained instant fame (and notoriety) over night. In more recent times we have seen how the media openly confessed that the award given to Shireen Ibadi was in view of her stance against Islamic values. Then we had the senior USA general William Boykin calling the Muslims “Satan”, ignored under the pretext of freedom of speech, but Mahathir?s remarks, which were far milder and factual in comparison, resulted in the western mass media going into hysteria.

Finally the same arguments also emanate from the so many secular minded fundamentalists from within the Muslim community. Many of whom are simply armchair critics of Islam, without offering any real solution as to how one should organise relationship between the sexes so as to attain tranquillity. Ask them on a specific issue and see how vague the answer is - that is if you can get an answer. Likewise ask them about women?s liberation, but as soon as you refer them to apply the principal to their own household members, and you will see how quickly the flag of liberation drops and the discussion becomes a brawl.

Published Saturday, November 1st, 2003 - 06:02am GMT

Article courtesy of Media Monitors Network

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