Monday, January 23, 2012

Wanted Women - Martyr & She-Devil

From Salon:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Aafia Siddiqui
Deborah Scroggins’ engrossing new book, “Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui,” is the story of a martyr and a she-devil. Or the story of a she-devil and a martyr, depending on your perspective. However, the author (a prizewinning international journalist) subscribes to neither view. By juxtaposing the lives of two (in)famous women involved with the so-called War on Terror — a celebrated critic of Islam and the only woman included on the FBI’s most-wanted list of al Qaida-linked international terrorists — Scroggins aims to show how “women like Ayaan and Aafia became symbols in battles that were really about other things.”

Although Hirsi Ali and Siddiqui have never met, and Scroggins wasn’t able to interview either one of them for “Wanted Women,” although there is no obvious connection between the two, the book works astonishingly well. Cutting back and forth between the two stories fosters a considerable amount of narrative suspense, and the juxtaposition of two similar personalities with two very different ideological positions keeps prompting the reader to look beyond easy or knee-jerk assumptions. Scroggins ultimately concludes that both women were “useful to the real drivers of conflict in their countries” because their stories provided political cover. Hirsi Ali’s talk of women’s oppression justified “Westerners who want to keep the Muslim world under Western rule,” and Siddiqui’s visible crusade against Western dominance masked the fact that jihadi were (at least in part) “fighting to maintain their control over women.”

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