Last November in Ethiopia, we filmed a conference by three Rastafari of Sheshemane on their presence in Ethiopia. Sister Isheba Tafari explained that her decision to wrap her hair nearly amounted to a crime back in her native Austria. "Many friends of my mother are very angry with me, and say I'm undermining the liberation of women in general, somebody must have forced me and influenced me into this. The truth is no such thing ever happened I chose out of my own free will and consciousness to wrap my hair".
While normally Rasta women are not at the centre of public debate for covering their hair, Muslim women are. In the last decade, Muslim veiling has brought about countless national debates in France and Germany that have led to banishing veiled girls from schools (France) or authorizing veiled teachers (Germany). The veil has become one of many proxy stages where the "clash of civilizations" is fought out.
The paternalistic crusade for the liberation of other women, probably just as selfless as all other liberations the west has ever undertaken, is embodied in the discourse of right wing politician Daniela Santanchè.
Santanchè is the premier candidate of the "Destra" party with the imaginative electoral slogan "Italy for the Italians", so you get the drift. Her party is not in Berlusconi's Popolo della Liberta coalition, as it has left AN (Allianza Nationale) to move on to their right. Santanchè is their feminist avantgarde. Fascists in Italy, though, are more ambiguous than the oracle of Delphi, to a question on her opinion on the 2WW and Mussolini, Mrs. Santanchè answers "it was a tragedy" (for whom?)
In her account, Muslim women's problems are solely culturally inflicted. Differently from the violence that women suffer in Europe -and in Spain not a single day goes by with a newspaper reporting a case of a murder or severe beatings – the condition of Muslim women is due only to Islam and the Qoran, the big bad boys of our time.
Of course, she is totally ignorant about feminist movement in Arab countries, which have led for example to such outspoken figures as Nawal asSaadawi, who can very well defend their cause on their own, even if she comes from an Islamic background.
Furthermore, most of the terrible cases the books describe have taken place right here in Europe, making it in the first place a European problem. The underlying assumption is that Muslims in Europe are "Fremdkörper", a foreign matter, alien to the society they live in.
My recommendation is that Santanchè after the elections next week go on a well deserved holiday to Sicily for example, I'm sure she will find a lot to liberate.
Unfortunately, she is not the only one interested: