In recent years Abu-Lughod has struggled to reconcile the popular image of women victimized by Islam with the complex women she has known through her research in various communities in the Muslim world. Here, she renders that divide vivid by presenting detailed vignettes of the lives of ordinary Muslim women, and showing that the problem of gender inequality cannot be laid at the feet of religion alone. Poverty and authoritarianism—conditions not unique to the Islamic world, and produced out of global interconnections that implicate the West—are often more decisive. The standard Western vocabulary of oppression, choice, and freedom is too blunt to describe these women’s lives.
Lila Abu-Lughod is an anthropologist who has been writing about Arab women for over thirty years. She disputes the claim that women need to be saved from Islam and in the video about argues that conditions like poverty have a far more serious impact on the well-being of women.