Since gender equality, democracy and freedoms of expression were used duplicitously as ruses for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, it has become fashionable to suspect these very principles as permanent neo-colonial conspiracies against all Muslims.
Despite objections to the orientalist project of ‘saving brown women from brown men’, a new wave of post-9/11 ‘corrective’ politics ironically continues to deploy the rescue motif itself. This time, it seeks to defend Muslim women from universal, rights-based values, laws or freedoms and so it rationalises anti-women practices in Muslim communities. The reasoning is that liberal (western) freedoms must be replaced with ‘Islamic rights’ based on ‘Muslim autonomy’. After such reinvention, there must be global concessions across international legal and social policies in order to accommodate this exceptionalism.
In the post-9/11 period, conservatives in the west view Muslim women’s freedom exclusively through the act of unveiling, while ‘anti-imperialists’ fetishise it as a tool of passive revolution against racism, imperialism and Islamophobia. Neither wishes to discuss discrimination or material rights beyond wardrobe politics.