Press Tv – The controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo hit headlines again last week after publishing derogatory cartoons purportedly in defense of Iranian women while making a mockery of the same women.
Looking back at the magazine’s Islamophobic history, the cartoons did not come as a surprise as it continues to aggressively promote stereotypes against Muslims worldwide.
The profoundly offensive cartoons were published in the name of so-called “freedom of speech and expression”, with sheer disdain for limitations to that freedom.
Even free speech advocates agree that Charlie Hebdo’s hideous campaign is everything but satirical and seeks to demonize Islam and human values.
Dr. Zohreh Kharazmi, a professor at the University of Tehran and expert on women’s affairs, believes Charlie Hebdo cartoons are part of a “fake reality campaign” to attack other cultures, particularly Islam.
In an interview with the Press TV website, Dr. Kharazmi said the French magazine aims at attacking Islamic values and preventing non-Muslims from understanding the religion.
“The fact is that media, literature and different other genres have helped the West construct a distorted image of other cultures, particularly Islamic culture,” she said.
Pointing to the objectification of women in the West, Dr. Kharazmi said for centuries women in Britain and other European countries were considered “animal-like” while Islam and Prophet Mohammad “appreciated and recognized the exalted position of women”.
Charlie Hebdo, like other such Islamophobic publications, attempts to push anti-Muslim narratives and prevent others from getting to know the status of women in Islam.
“As Leila Abu-Loghud wrote in her book Do Women Need Saving in 2013, it is fabricated or hyper-real that the West has been almost successful in misrepresenting Muslim women and the relationship between Islam and women in a very fake emerging media,” Dr. Kharazmi told the Press TV website.
“As Abu-Loghud points out, Muslim women don’t need to be saved by their Western counterparts. The West already has many problems but still, women’s rights are instrumentalized to attack Muslim countries and even militarily invade them and this is an absolutely politicized issue.”
According to Dr. Kharazmi, Charlie Hebdo cartoons are yet another display of not only Islamophobia but also Western capitalist man-made values and a worldview that is snatching rights from women and destroying societies.
Women in the West: chain of the whole market
The West has made women part of the capitalist market, Dr. Kharazmi said, pointing to the degradation of women’s rights in Western countries.
“I would not deny that the West made some achievements, for example in terms of equality in education, in promoting health, in giving more chances for employment and decision-making positions for women,” she said, adding that it does not necessarily mean everything is hunky-dory.
“Women are counted as labor. American and European sociologists already say that women are prepared and trained to be a chain of the whole market, women and men alike; just learning to work and to consume,” the professor said, calling it a “vicious cycle” in which “women and men are trapped.”
The 50-50 concept between men and women, as she calls it, which the United Nations has been trying to construct cannot create an ideal world for women.
“Probably women would like to be in a half-half-divided world with some rights and opportunities. But at the end of the day, I am not sure how helpful this pressure and burden on women’s shoulders are, forcing certain standards on them in a way that they should have maximum engagement in the market and economic activities,” Dr. Kharazmi stressed.
Such a “50-50 lifestyle” where women have to put food on the table and take up economic responsibilities and work outside the home represents “a hyper-pressure for women to compete in this market-based life”.
“Their womanly emotions, the nature they have, their motherly feelings and affection, many instinct-related feelings and needs are sacrificed for just having a man-like experience of life,” Dr. Kharazmi noted, adding that it results in their whole nature and existence being forgotten.
Insecure environment for women in West
The expert on women’s affairs also pointed to different forms of verbal and physical violence women experience in Western countries.
“They are always talking about the need for a safe working environment. You see a lot of rape, a lot of abuse, and actually different cases of violence against women in their work environment,” Dr. Kharazmi said.
“Even inside their families, they are not as strong as they try to show. For example, when we talk about the United States, we see that 10 percent of pregnant women are referred to hospitals not for delivering their babies, but because they are physically abused and are abandoned and have no other place to go than the hospital.”
She stressed the importance of understanding that this “individualism” in the West makes women upset and isolated in a way that they keep thinking about promoting themselves, competing with men, and becoming managers, leaders, presidents, and political leaders.
“But it is a fact that their satisfaction as women, their comfortable life that allows them deeper thinking, proper child raising is not met. They become part of a mechanical industrial and capitalist life,” Dr. Kharazmi said.
Even when we are talking about a woman’s position, for example in Western cinema, according to the expert, we can see that women have become a commodity.
“For example, it is always that women in the cinema are filmed with the camera concentrating on the female and the male looking at her. The woman is never enabled in reality, it always looks like she is a mute commodity for the enjoyment of others, especially men, and this is something Western sociologists have said.”
Western values corrupt human societies
Families in most societies are seen as an institution that pave way for peace and serenity. However, families in the West continue to be threatened by changes in social values and norms.
“Family is an institution that has been shattered in the West. The West cannot deny that the family has suffered bad damage. For example, look at the concept of homosexuality as the West is pushing the world to go beyond the nature of human beings as a two-gender aspect,” the professor underscored.
In terms of homosexuality, for instance, she said the US and many European countries are promoting laws to facilitate the adoption of children by homosexual families.
“It is very cruel that you put innocent children through this dilemma of living with two men or two women that are morally corrupt and many of them with serious psychological problems, but this is being naturalized by the West to indicate that such a family is a normal one,” she noted.
Another example of shattered families and the degrading social values in the West, especially in the US, is the high rate of divorce and single-parent families where the woman is in charge of the household with little support from anywhere. “The naturalizing single-parent families is another instance of corrupting the human society,” she explained.
A centuries-long invasion
The West, with the US topping the list, has been promoting such corrupt values through NGOs, wars, commissions and the like for centuries, Dr. Kharazmi said.
“It is a very orientalist tradition from centuries ago, maybe a seventh century, that the West is invading other cultures and attacking cultural values of others, projecting other cultures such as Muslims or Eastern cultures as those oppressing and suppressing women,” she asserted.
“By describing this mistreatment of women, they try to suggest that the Eastern societies are primitive, backward and underdeveloped, while the West is civilized and developed and saves others, particularly Muslim women.”
However, it seems like they have been the most affected by these culturally devastating ideas, she hastened to add.
“The different types of violence against women, treating her as a market commodity, the deterioration in family and social values, the 50-50 concept that puts an extra burden on women who already have a lot on their plate push us to think that the West is in a position where it should reconsider its gender standards,” Dr. Kharazmi stressed.
Hiba Morad is a Tehran-based academic and political analyst, currently pursuing a PhD in linguistics at the University of Tehran.