“Saving” Muslim Women from Their Own Culture: Three Case Studies of Humanitarian Intervention


  • Siyu Li Student of Experimental High School Affiliated to Beijing Normal University




Muslim, Humanitarianism, Women


After the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the initiation of the War on Terror, the image of oppressed Muslim women has been used to justify foreign intervention into Islamic worlds. Yet this portrayal is not new. It dates back to origins of humanitarianism, its tendency to universalize its concepts and identifying women as helpless victims. This paper analyzes the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts inspired by Western principles of emancipation in comparison with indigenous relief efforts. Specifically, cases relating to Muslim women will be shown to exemplify general problems associated with humanitarian efforts on behalf of “other women.” This paper argues that Western humanitarian interventions are at risk of being ineffective acts of cultural imperialism, and that interventions by local women’s agencies, combined with international support and media coverage, yield much better results. In the end it proposes that international aid work should be grounded in the local cultures, whereas local NGOs should adopt Western modes of operating.  


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