Stressing open-mindedness, education and humility as requirements for Western feminists hoping to aid Muslim women, Asifa Quraishi gave a talk last night entitled “Western Advocacy for Muslim Women: It’s Not Just the Thought That Counts.” An assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and a specialist in Islamic law and legal theory, Quraishi discussed the potentially harmful effects misguided efforts from Western feminists can have on the Muslim women they are trying to help.
The event was planned by the Islamic Society of Stanford University (ISSU) and the Muslim Students Awareness Network (MSAN) in response to increasing attention on the status of Muslim women as seen in headlines last year about a woman sentenced to be raped to preserve the honor of her family.
Student organizers said they hoped the event would increase awareness about women’s rights.
In an email to The Daily, ISSU organizer and electrical engineering graduate student Salman Latif said, “We wanted to have an event where we could start a discussion on how Muslims in the West and western human rights organizations can work together, realizing that we share the same goals.”
Quraishi began her speech by observing that Western feminists often use “conflicts of strategies that are ultimately detrimental in the long run to the very women they are trying to aid.”
She cited basic misconceptions about Islam and Islamic law as main causes of these unintended negative consequences, arguing that Western feminists sometimes have an “innate, often subconscious sense of superiority” and approach issues facing Muslim women with a “rescue mentality.”
“It is a situation of friends, but they are not having a conversation as equals,” Quraishi said. “Western women generally don’t even realize there is this disconnect.”