Feminism, Democracy, and Empire: Islam and the War on Terror

  • Saba Mahmood


The complicated role European feminism played in legitimating and extending colonial rule in vast regions of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has been extensively documented and well-argued for some time now.1 For many of us raised in this critical tradition, it is therefore surprising to witness the older colonialist discourse on women being reen-acted in new genres of feminist literature today, with the explicit aim of justifying the U.S. war on terror in the Muslim world. It seems at times a thankless task to unravel yet again the spurious logic through which Western imperial power seeks to justify its geopolitical domination by posing as the “liberator” of indigenous women from native patriarchal cultures. It would seem that this ideologically necessary but intellectually tedious task requires little imagination beyond repositioning the truths of the earlier scholarship on Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, and India that has copiously and rigorously laid bare the implicated histories of feminism and empire.


Muslim Woman Indigenous Woman Muslim World Feminist Thought Muslim Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abdo, Genieve. 2004. No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Abdo, Genieve, and Jonathan Lyons. 2004. Answering Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First Century Iran. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  3. Ahmed, Leila. 1992. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  4. al-Saadawi, Nawal. 2004. An Unholy Alliance. Al-Ahram Weekly, January 22–24, 2004, February 15, 2007. (accessed March 9, 2007).
  5. Alam, Fareena. 2006. Enemy of Faith. New Statesman, 24 July 2006, pp. 54–55.Google Scholar
  6. Alloula, Malek. 1986. The Colonial Harem. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  7. Amara, Fadela. 2004. Ni putes ni soumises. Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  8. Asad, Talal. 2003. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Atwood, Margaret. 2003. A Book Lover’s Tale: A Literary Life Raft on Iran’s Fundamentalist Sea. Amnesty International Magazine (Fall 2003). (accessed 7 Mar. 2007).
  10. Bahdi, Reem. 2002. Iraq, Sanctions, and Security: A Critique. Duke Journal of Gender, Law, and Policy 9 (1): 237–52.Google Scholar
  11. Bahramitash, Roksana. 2006. The War on Terror, Feminist Orientalism, and Oriental Feminism: Case Studies of Two North American Bestsellers. Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies 14 (2): 223–37.Google Scholar
  12. Benard, Cheryl. 2003. Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, Strategies. Pittsburgh: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  13. Bin Laden, Carmen. 2004. Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia. New York: Warner.Google Scholar
  14. Boddy, Janice. 2007. Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Brown, Wendy. 2006. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton: Princeton UP.Google Scholar
  16. Ruder, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On The Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Chew, Huibin Amee. 2005. Occupation Is Not (Women’s) Liberation. Znet, March 24, August 26, 2006.
  18. Crossette, Barbara. 2001. Living in a World without Women. New York Times, November 4, 2001, pp. 4.1.Google Scholar
  19. Dabashi, Hamid. 2006. Native Informers and the Making of the American Empire. Al-Ahram Weekly, June 1–7. Commentary/Dabashi-Nativelnformers.html (accessed August 24, 2006).
  20. Deeb, Lara. 2006. The Pious Modern. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Djavann, Chahdortt. 2003. Bas les voiles! Paris: Nouvelle Revue française.Google Scholar
  22. Ehrenreich, Barbara. 2004. The New Machofeminism. New York Times, July 29, 2004, p. 19.Google Scholar
  23. Feldman, Noah. 2006. The Way We Live Now: The Only Exit Strategy Left. New York Times July 30, 2006, p. 9.Google Scholar
  24. Fernando, Mayanthi. 2006. “French Citizens of Muslim Faith”: Islam, Secularism, and the Politics of Difference in Contemporary France. Dissertation, University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  25. Friedman, Thomas. 2006. The Kidnapping of Democracy. New York Times, July 14, 2006, p. 19.Google Scholar
  26. Hersch, Seymour. 2006. Annals of National Security: The Iran Plans. The New Yorker, April 17, 2006, pp. 30–37.Google Scholar
  27. Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. 2006. The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  28. —. 2007. Infidel. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hitchens, Christopher. 2006. Dutch Courage: Holland’s Latest Insult to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Slate May 22, 2006. (accessed August 28, 2006).
  30. Keshavarz, Fatemeh. 2007. Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kuper, Simon. 2004. Of All Things European: Guru of the Week-Big Thoughts in Brief-Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Financial Times Weekend Magazine, March 27, 2004. (accessed March 8, 2007).
  32. Lazreg, Marnia. 1994. The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Mahmood, Saba. 2005. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. —. 2006. Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation. Public Culture 18 (2): 323–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mani, Lata. 1998. Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Manji, Irshad. 2004. The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  37. —. 2006a. Don’t Be Fooled by the Fanatics. Times Online, August 5, 2006.–08–05.html (accessed August 30, 2006).
  38. —. 2006b. How I Learned to Love the Wall. New York Times, March 18, 2006, p. A15.Google Scholar
  39. Nafisi, Azar. 2003. Reading Lolita in Tehran. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  40. Najmabadi, Afsaneh. 1998. Feminism in an Islamic Republic. In Islam, Gender, and Social Change, ed. John Esposito and Yvonne Haddad, pp. 59–84. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Pollit, Katha. 2002. Introduction. In Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to fundamentalism and Terror, ed. Betsy Reed, pp. ix—xviii. New York: Nation Books.Google Scholar
  42. Salamon, Julie. 2004. Author Finds That with Fame Comes Image Management. New York Times, June 8, 2004, p. E1.Google Scholar
  43. Scott, Joan Wallach. 2007. Politics of the Veil. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1988. In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Sullivan, Andrew. 2004. “Decent Exposure.” New York Times Book Review, January 25, 2004, p. 10.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard Divinity School 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saba Mahmood

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations