Carol Downer: Speech on Feminist position of “Islamo-Fascism”
Coulter’s appearance, was to kick off the Islamo-Fascism campaign sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the purpose of which was to pressure feminist scholars at the university to offer courses focusing on anti-woman policies of Muslim countries, and to sign a statement, “Calling on Feminists to End Their Silence on the Oppression of Women in Islam.”
I am Carol Downer. I have been an activist in the women’s health movement in the United States, mostly in the area of abortion rights, for almost forty years. I’m here today to make clear the feminist position regarding laws that subordinate women and the practices that violently oppress us, here or abroad.
Feminists oppose laws and customs that support violence against women, however, American feminists do not dictate to feminists in other cultures how to wage their struggle against these laws and customs, and we do not direct our criticism against those who practice any religion.
Any charge that US feminists are apologists for Islamic regimes’ anti-woman policies, just because we are against the imperialistic policies of the United States, is baseless. For example, on International Women’s Day in 2006, last year, I and other feminists marched in Westwood to support Iranian women organizations in their protest against being forced to wear the veil and against brutal practices, such as “honor killings.”
I believe that this attack against academic feminists is designed to quell our staunch opposition to the Iraq War. What really bothers those who criticize feminists who don’t equate the “war on terror” with “a war on Islam” is that we opposed the Persian Gulf War in 1991; we oppose the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Despite our concern with anti-woman practices in Afghanistan and Iraq, we believe that these countries have the right of self-determination, and we see these outright imperialist wars as unjust, inhumane and, furthermore, disastrous to our own country. In short, we oppose the policies of the Bush administration that promoted these wars, and we are especially alarmed at its threats of an imminent violent attack against Iran. We believe that it is not coincidental that the same people who support this administration’s belligerence are also leading the battle against women’s rights.
We disagree with the term, “Islamo-fascism”, because it seeks to transform the legitimate, international efforts to protect society from terrorist acts into a so-called “war on terrorism”, justifying preemptive attacks on other nations. We reject the hate-mongering that would make this “war” into a Christian crusade against Islam. Also, the term diverts attention from the anti-democratic behavior of right-wing extremists in the West, and it is being used by them to label feminists who are critical of U.S. policies as unpatriotic.