Faculty Scholarship Digest

Amna Akbar


Book Chapters

Amna Akbar & Rupal Oza, “Muslim Fundamentalism” and Human Rights in an Age of Terror and Empire, in Gender, National Security and Counter-Terrorism 152-182 (Margaret L. Satterthwaite & Jayne C. Huckerby eds., 2013).

In her first publication after joining Moritz, Amna Akbar (with co-author Rupal Oza—Associate Professor and Director of the Women and Gender Studies program at Hunter College, CUNY) contributes a chapter on the human rights discourses to this new edited volume. In it, Akbar challenges two liberal positions that have emerged and are intertwined: a “good Muslim/bad Muslim” discourse and a “secular feminist” position. In the process, she exposes the one dimensional and marginalizing savages-victims-saviors framework used to justify the War on Terror. This discourse casts Muslim men as savages, Muslim women as helpless victims, and the U.S. as savior. She argues that Guantanamo and drone assassinations strain this metaphor; what is needed is a project committed to the intersectional realities that individuals may be subject to abuses and inequalities while perpetrating their own. Akbar weighs in deep to the various discourses exposing those claiming legitimacy based on being a “good Muslim” and secularism. She draws three compelling observations from this critical analysis. First, secular feminist discourse embraces the “good Muslim/bad Muslim” dichotomy and in the process endorses the us/them view of the War on Terror. Second, secular feminists’ concerns that the Muslim fundamentalist codes sanction violence on women is myopic and ignores the role of Western violence. Third, secularism viewed as a bulwark against Muslim fundamentalism ignores the multiplicity of forces that shape lived reality. Akbar calls for a human rights project that takes into account geography, responsibility, and difference to “account for the full complexity of Muslim realities.”