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There can be another reason for this change in terminology

Reader comment on item: Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque

Submitted by PS! (India), Jul 8, 2013 at 09:47

There seems to a dimension in this analysis that is completely missing. The term termagant may have come in through direct experiences of the Europeans as they were going on piligrimages to Jersualem all along. What changed the perception of the Europeans about muslim women to the term Odalisque in the 17th century may have had nothing to do with the change in the nature of Arab women or other Muslim women. It may well have to do with the large number of women and children who were enslaved and put into harems or sold into slavery by the Islamic invaders invading Afghanistan, Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab, Rajputana, Gujarat, Delhi and other kingdoms of India. The extent of rampant slavery was so much that the mountain range near the Khyber pass was given the name "Hindu Kush" - meaning the place where Hindus are slaughtered. This name exists to date. The term Odalisque may well have emerged as subcontinental women slaves, demure/ scared/ terrified and at the total mercy of their captors may have found their way into Turkey and other places. Present day Gypsies are some of the abandoned slaves left rootless and to mind their affairs.

During the early period of the invasions, hundreds of thousands of women and children were taken away and this capturing made it possible for the muslims to (a) increase their population and (b) they were able to get a large number of recruits for their jehadi wars against India in the next few decades after the first waves of such attacks. The civilization of the Indian sub-continent were taken aback by these attacks as they had never experienced terror - even wars fought between kings in India were ALWAYS conducted with ZERO impact on civilians, agricultural fields, places of worship, and no act of even lewd behaviour towards women & children was tolerated by the victorious king of his soldiers. In that context, it is also worth noting that in those times, the Hindus had to resort to desperate practices to save themselves from extreme dishonor and a lifetime of slavery not only of themselves but children born out of rape and sex-slavery.

One the famous cases was In the 14th Century AD when several thousand women including the Queen, Rani Padmini jumped into a fire prepared for this purpose in Chittorgarh after it was certain that their fort would fall to the army of Sultan Alaudin Khilji. The King and his army smeared themselves in the ashes and in saffron robes, rushed out of the fort in their last stand. In many places across north India, women were forced to stay in seclusion and kept away from public places on account of the Islamic invasion. The Islamic invaders felt that taking women and children as war booty was their divine right as the Quran gave its sanction quite explicitly.


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