Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's 'Nomad'

Thinking back what I’ve written recently on my blog condemning the prohibition on women drivers in some parts of the Jewish and Muslim worlds, I realized that ever since, I’ve had a strangely guilty conscience for having voiced my opinions on this issue.

There’s a small, persistent voice in me that’s saying: Maybe it’s their culture, their tradition; maybe I just don’t have the right to criticize and impose my feminist views on them. But then my more dominant voice argues back: No, of course, as a woman, I do have the right to criticize and demand change for my fellow women denied the right to drive a motorized vehicle. We’re talking about a very real injustice against women, which should override any cultural sensitivities.

And then, by chance,I came across “Nomad,” a new memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali campaigner, feminist and outspoken critic of Islam, who raises these very questions when discussing the muted response of Western feminists to issues of female circumcision, honor killings and other injustices to women that are most commonly associated with (but, by no means, relegated to) the Muslim world.

Hirsi Ali writes:

Hirsi Ali is furious at the failure of Western feminists to openly condemn these forms of women’s oppression in the Muslim/developing world she has left behind. She goes on:

So what’s the right answer here? What’s it to be: cultural relativism/multicultural tolerance or a purist, non-hypocritical brand of feminism? It’s clear which one the powerful Hirsi Ali advocates, but how do the rest of us square our desire to fight for women’s equality with a niggling fear that we should only be criticizing our own?

Rebecca Schischa blogs at RebeccaInSpace, where this post originally appeared.

Recommend this article

Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's 'Nomad'

Thank you!

This article has been sent!