It is always a good recipe for the media to sexualize the mystique which surrounds the ever elusive Muslim woman: Is she a burqa-clad victim of her own religion, or a strong woman of choices who is forever fighting off labels and stereotypes? Or is she a supportive partner to her terrorist male counterpart, plotting the next attack on the US?
That seems to be the story US officials want us to believe about the very shady case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. According to NPR, 37 year old Siddiqui, a Pakistani native, was once the “most wanted woman in the world.” The FBI believed she was an Al-Qaeda agent “on the run” from 2003-2008.
The story gets stranger and stranger. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is a neuroscientist who US officials think was involved in terrorist activity while she was a graduate student at both MIT and Brandeis University. After going missing for five years, she was arrested in Afghanistan in July of 2008 when Afghan authorities found her “loitering outside a provincial governor’s compound in Afghanistan.” Assuming Siddiqui for a suicide bomber, they arrested her . When she was taken to an Afghan prison for questioning by US troops and FBI agents, she “grabbed an M-4 rifle and fired” at them. US officials retaliated and Siddiqui was shot in the stomach.
Of course Siddiqui’s lawyers deny this story saying she never grabbed the rifle. Siddiqui herself states that she was missing because she was in both US and Pakistani custody, being tortured at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Despite these claims, she was convicted last month of “attempted murder and armed assault against American military officers,” by a Manhattan jury. Facing life in prison, Siddiqui is now in a New York jail awaiting sentencing which is scheduled for May. NPR states that it is not clear whether or not Siddiqui will appeal.
While the issue of the shooting and her “competency to stand trial” were major points of discussion in court, one very big factor of this case was not: The question of where this woman was for five years.
Okay, so how weird is that? Is that not just a little strange that in a court where all evidence is being presented, examined, evaluated, where you are being accused of the very serious crime of attempting to murder US officials, no one wants to dig deeper into the issue of why you were missing for five years, and where you were during that time? More importantly, no one wants to investigate further into Siddiqui’s claims that she was in US -Pakistani custody? No one wants to look into her allegations of being tortured at a US military base?
While the US is getting the story they want the public to accept out in the media, valid questions surrounding this case continue to linger. If there is nothing to hide, if there is no truth to Siddiqui’s claims, why are they not being addressed in an American court of law? I think this is making the US look guilty while making Siddiqui’s claims appear as true. Guilty or not, I cannot imagine how scary it must be to be in this woman’s position right now…
While Siddiqui’s disappearance point “remains unsolved,” in the meantime the public has a new image of the Muslim woman to grapple with: The veiled terrorist.
Now, how sexy is that?
*This post of mine was also published on Feministing.