This is the eighth in a series of posts in which I answer uncomfortable questions posed by readers. You can learn more about the series, read the other questions, and ask your own here.

Why are we encouraged to believe Muslim women when they say they’re happy with their religious choices, but not (for instance) Michelle Duggar when she does? (I try to err on the side of believing people about their own lives; not saying don’t believe Muslim women.)

I’m tempted to just answer “Who’s ‘we’?” and leave it at that. But okay. I’ll say a little more.

First, who are you referring to who’s doing this encouraging? Are there specific individuals who you’ve seen standing up for Muslim women’s choices but slamming Christians’? If so, I’d encourage you to raise that question with them and see how they respond. If not, are you sure that the folks doing A agree with the folks doing B and vice-versa? Because a lot of times when communities of people are called out for supposed contradictions, what’s actually being described is ideological diversity, not hypocrisy.

Are some folks on the identity-politics left more inclined to cut theologically conservative Muslim women slack than theologically conservative Christian women? Yep. Is that sometimes kind of fatuous? Sure. Is it always? Nah. Life is a rich tapestry. There are all sorts of ways to break down complex questions, and all sorts of distinctions to be drawn between superficially similar circumstances.