Globalizing the Margins: Legal Exiles in the War on Terror and Liberal Feminism’s War for Muslim Women
International Review of Constitutionalism, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2010
29 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2010
Date Written: March 15, 2010
In the post-9/11 United States, there has been a great deal of anxiety surrounding Muslims and their assimilability in Liberal democracies. Part of the debate has focused on the identity of Muslim men and women both locally and globally. This Article examines the production of Muslim masculinity as dangerous and violently patriarchal, the co-production of Muslim women as victims of Muslim men and Islam, and the use of law to contain the former while rescuing the latter and to legitimate these actions. Central to the argument are two linkages that follow. First is the linkage between the local production of identity and their global regulation. The production of these identities occur in both the West and the East. Indeed, the attacks of 9/11 brought the reality of radical Islamist violence from the global to the local providing the kernel of reality to the stereotype of the “Muslim” terrorist. However, the article focuses on the export of Western local anxieties and preoccupations about Muslims, which have been fed by both local racism and by the global terror attacks, to the world particularly after 9/11. The result of such export of legal mechanisms that are based on these anxieties is to globalize the local margins exiling certain groups of people to the hinterlands of civilization, sometimes marking them as outlaws. The second linkage that the Article makes is between the production of violent Muslim men who deserve therapeutic violence and Liberal feminist efforts to “save” Muslim women. This second link requires complex rearrangements of identity, decoupling women from community and sometimes family. The claim of the Article is that Liberal feminists who are interested in the liberation of women must first understand the marginalization of Muslims in the West and how it impacts Muslim women and the hierarchies that exist within Liberal orders. Resisting the globalization of the margin allows for truer partnerships with women in the Global South in the struggle for gender justice. In the final section of this Article, I outline the ways in which law works to legitimate the “exceptional” treatment which many Muslims are subjected to in both local and global contexts and how it maintains their otherness.
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