Critical Commentary: After Gadhafi, Libyan women now press back against rising Islamists

Posted on March 8, 2013 by


The eyes of a young woman with the Libyan flag on her hijab tell a story of pain and worry, yet there is determination and hope in them. This image of a strong woman with her head held high helps the reader to empathize with the Libyan women’s cause before starting to read the article. The first paragraph builds on that empathy by telling a story of a woman whose car was kicked, her driver beaten, and she was threatened. The explanation adds to the readers’ anger and confusion of this horrid act with the sentence, “Her offense: being alone in a car with men without a male relative as a guardian.” This narrative gives the reader strong emotions for the rest of the article by helping the reader to identify with a Libyan woman.

The article continues to paint a picture of the everyday injustices in Libya through the voices of the oppressed women. The contrasts of these innocent voices to the voices of the militiamen committing these crimes demonstrate the brutality of these men.  For example, a militiaman says, “You have violated the law of God.” The woman then gives a reasonable explanation. People reading this article will not believe that she has violated the law of God, and will understand the hypocrisy and cruelty of these men. The leaders also use religion to justify their actions. One presenter said, “We believe, respect and emphasize personal freedoms, but we are also a Muslim nation.” The author again brings us back to the woman’s perspective by quoting her reaction to the speech, “I felt like I was slaughtered.” Along with the juxtaposition of direct quotes, the author uses his own literary techniques such as irony in the line, “Women have been rewarded by seeing their rights hemmed in and restricted,” to incite disgust at the Libyan government’s treatment of women.

The more the reader sympathizes with the women, the more hatred is built toward the men and their use of religion as justification. But the article also implies that the reason for all of this violence is Islam and that all Muslims see women as the men in the article who say that women who wear revealing clothing are “the people of hell”. For example, the title states, “Libyan women now press back against rising Islamists.” Although Islamists are a specific group of Muslims, it is used as a blanket term for all Muslims. People who don’t know who Islamists are may think that this group of people is anyone who follows Islam. This abstract image based on stereotypes of violent Muslims is amplified throughout the article with the author’s use of adjectives such as bearded men.

The pessimistic attitude of the article gives readers the perception that Islam is to blame for the continuation of rights being taken away. While a woman’s life under Gadhafi was oppressive, the article insinuates that the only reason Gadhafi gave women any rights was because Islamists were one of his main enemies, but now after the revolution, women fear the worst to come. Through the quotes of many women, we can feel their persistence along with their helplessness. “I don’t know which path we are heading in, but this is a matter of life or death for us.”  The reader steps in the shoes of all of these women to understand the importance of the new constitution, Shariah, and the elected officials of Libya.

The author’s use the full names of all of the women interviewed makes them seem more real and personal to the reader.  All of the quotes by the men also had full names. Some of the quotes seem so outlandish, that the fact that these quotes were from people in leadership positions and were televised makes the author’s claims much more trustworthy. The article seems reliable because although the leaders are portrayed badly, the article directly quotes them, so the author isn’t putting words in their mouths.

The problems of the women in this article are foreign to a Western audience. The author provides us with individual experiences and opinions of Libyan women to foster concerns and empathy for issues of these women. Although the main point of the article is to give a voice to the oppressed women and their struggles, it also contributes to people’s negative connotations with Islam.

After Gadhafi, Libyan women now press back against rising Islamists

(Washington Post, Associated Press, Benghazi, Libya, March 7, 2013)


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