We in Western society frequently latch hold of the concerns of the Third World in a laudable desire to reform, enlighten, and correct the injustices which exists in countries who do not enjoy our same basic freedoms. Though this impulse is meant to bring light to the darkness, we must also be careful not to let our own biases and own paternalistic impulses overshadow the good work we seek to accomplish. When the reform we seek thinly veils our own individual internal struggles, then we are not truly working for unselfish means. However, rather than beating ourselves up when we fall short, we would be wise to forgive our shortcomings and strive to listen more and hector less. It is only with listening and absorbing the complete picture that truly effective change ever comes to be. If short-cuts guaranteed successful outcomes, we’d have colonized Mars by now, viewed a time where same-sex marriage was illegal as unspeakably barbaric and nonsensical, and learned to take for granted a single payer health care system.
The controversy over women who demand the right to wear the Niqab or the burqu despite laws banning it altogether has become a highly politicized issue in Western Europe and even in our own country. Feminist activists, particularly female feminist activists, have grabbed hold of the head scarf and veil issue as a clear-cut visual example that shows conclusive evidence of brutal Patriarchal oppression. When sexism and anti-feminist offenses are so often disguised and ingrained within a society, the head scarf has become an endearing image to invoke due to its unquestioned visibility. If one takes into account a purely Western point of view, nothing could be a more suitable example of the malicious intent of men harshly imposing their will upon women. In comparing their perceived interpretation of the custom to their own lives and their own hard-fought struggles as women, they have incorporated the practice into a Raison d’etre of a particular school of thought. This endearing symbol pushes social justice and personalizes the lack of human rights rightly due to oppressed women through the world. The cause has been so heavily politicized and eagerly embraced that few have felt any need to examine the subtleties that sometimes contradict and frequently complicate any resounding rallying point or slam dunk. The reality, as it so often is, is full of subtle nuances that make any black and white reading much more complicated or even impossible.