Navigating the Binary between Speech and Silence: Muslim Women in Post-9/11 Australia
Free Public Lecture
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
T: (03) 9035 5092
The Wednesday Lectures 2018 hosted by Raimond Gaita
Like members of other racialised communities, Muslim women in contemporary Australia find themselves locked in a double-bind between patriarchy and racism. This has forced them to navigate between competing pressures towards both speech and silence. Muslim women are always aware that when they speak out against patriarchal leaders and norms within their own religious community, their voices will be seized upon by those who hold Muslims collectively responsible for any shortcomings displayed by any Muslim, anywhere. When they speak out against anti-Muslim racism, on the other hand, their voices are welcomed by male Muslim leaders who use this evidence of external hostility as a means of legitimising their own power-base.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the call went out for Muslim women to be allowed to speak for themselves, rather than being left on the sidelines while others (whether Muslim spokesmen, western feminists or conservative politicians like John Howard who suddenly discovered their inner feminist when it came to the topic of gender norms in Muslim communities) spoke out on their behalf. Seventeen years later, there is no shortage of prominent female Muslim voices in Australian public life, but the pressure towards both speech and silence has only become more intense. Muslim women no longer have to assert the right to speak at all, but instead find themselves addressing the issue of which women should be provided with a platform, which audiences should they seek to address, how to frame their concerns in such a way as to minimise their inevitable appropriation by other misogynists within their own communities or racists from outside them, and how best to survive the now regular hate-fest that ensures when Muslim women step outside the mandated boundaries.
The Wednesday Lectures is an annual series of talks hosted by Professor Raimond Gaita that invites speakers from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds to offer their perspective on a subject of pressing public, and sometimes intensely personal, concern.