Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: May 2009
Source: Review copy provided by publicist
This book was quite different from nearly everything I usually read. Not just because it's nonfiction, but because of the format. It doesn't really lend itself to a summary, because it doesn't really have a plot. Because of these differences, I won't be doing a regularly structured review for this book.
This book reads very much like a reference book for Muslim women reformers, with numerous details about their lives, their work, their political and social beliefs, and the countries they come from. You can find hundreds of different women, women's organizations, and even male activists, from Afghanistan to Yemen. The book is complete and thorough in its research and information. But, what I really found compelling were the individuals who told personal stories. Those women who were not afraid to detail their tragic and terrifying pasts truly understand what fighting for women's rights can mean.
I found it interesting that so many of the reformers discussed (not all, but certainly the majority) were educated and grew up in families that understood how important education was for their daughters as well as their sons. Reading these summaries of how women struggle in many countries and to various degrees emphasized the importance of education to me. Ignorance really can be a stumbling block, both for men and women, in progressing towards more rights for women.
And I have to admit to being completely shocked by the brutality and fear that many women experience every day. I really think I was, if not ignorant, at least unaware of the normality and acceptability of domestic violence in many of these countries and cultures. It is rampant and it just makes you feel sick. I think domestic violence is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a person, because it comes from people who should take care of you and love you, but who obviously don't. It can be so psychologically and emotionally, not to mention physically damaging. The numerous stories and statistics on these types of violence just broke my heart over and over.
Entirely inspiring, this book can be used for research on Muslim women reformers, organizations, and the countries they come from. By reading small portions at a time, one can gain a better understanding of what is done and what still needs to be done. (I admit I didn't read it straight through, cover to cover.) It's amazing how diverse and yet how similar these reformers are. Many of them don't agree on different points, especially relating to Muslim doctrine, but they all fight for a similar cause and they are all inspiring in their courage and convictions. Some good quotes:
"They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it is the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring." p 42
"I believe that women's rights are human rights, and everyone believes that. But this is, in a way, put aside...because they try to say that we must respect the traditions and culture and religion in the country. But we do not have to respect traditions that oppress women and violate human rights." p 59
Pick this one up when you feel the need to stop wallowing in your own puny problems!
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