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Works by and about Muslim Women

The following discussion began with a request for works by Muslim women and
about Muslim women.  The works could be in any medium (memoir, fiction,
film, song, etc.) and would be used in an adult education course.  WMST-L
discussion, June 2010.  See also an earlier file, Women and Islam:
Readings/Videos.  For additional WMST-L files available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 12:08:50 -0400
From: Sarah Whedon <swwhedon AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: seeking women & Islam titles
I am seeking works by Muslim women about Muslim women in any media (memoir,
fiction, essay, film, song, visual art . . .) for an adult ed course hoping
to push beyond popular western media representations of Muslim women.  I'll
be happy to receive recommendations off-list and post a compilation.

Thanks in advance!


Sarah W. Whedon, Ph.D.
Adjunct Instructor
Department of Religion
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 11:43:15 -0500
From: Awatef Rasheed <awatefrasheed AT sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Hi Sarah, some suggestions:
1. The trouble with Islam; Irshad Manji 
2. Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism; Haideh Moghissi
3. The Veil and the Male Elite; Fatima Mernissi
4. Women in Islam; Fatima Mernissi 
5. Woman at Point Zero: Nawal Saßdawi
5. Daughter of Isis: Nawal Saßdawi
6. Islam and Modernity; John McBrewster

Awatef Rasheed 
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 11:54:42 -0500
From: Awatef Rasheed <awatefrasheed AT sympatico.ca>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Oh sorry, John McBrewster is not a Muslim woman, while Sarah asked about
literature written by Muslim women.

Also, I would like to point out that radical and liberal Muslim feminists (
who reveal the facts of gender inequalities in Islam) are silenced by some
western media that gives more space to Islamic feminism ( Fundamental
Islamic feminism, which claims that Islam does offer gender equality within
a framework of human rights equalities)
I don't want to start a debate on issues of feminism in Islam; only wanted
to differentiate between two categories: Muslim feminists and Islamic


Awatef Rasheed
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 10:01:20 -0700
From: Penka Skachkova <pskach7 AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Some other suggestions:

   1. "A Border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman's Journey," Leila
   Ahmed (a memoir)
   2. "Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl," Virginia Lee Barnes and Janice
   Boddy (oral history)
   3. "A Woman of Egypt," Jehan Sadat (autobiography)
   4. "Infidel," Ayaan Hirsi Ali (memoir)
   5. "The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam,"
   Ayaan Hirsi Ali

For movies, check out the website of Women Make Movies - http://www.wmm.com

~ Penka
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 13:08:03 -0400
From: Carole V Bell <cvbell AT UNC.EDU>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Some consider her controversial, but I'd recommend you consider *Standing
Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam* by Asra
Nomani. Here's an interview with the author:
"*Nomani* is a Muslim feminist who writes about the place of women in Islam
and has advocated for what she calls "Gender Jihad" or a reform movement for
equality within the Islamic religious community."
It's a very accessible book and there's even a  related documentary about
Nomani's struggle to make changes within her mosque and community in
Morgantown, West Virginia (see http://www.themosqueinmorgantown.com/film/ for
a synopsis, audience reactions ).

This web site sponsored by the University of Wisconsin at Madison is another
resource-- it offers commentary specifically of the issue of women and the
veil with links to other resources . Some but not all of the contributors
are Muslim women:

Carole V. Bell, Ph.D.
UNC-Chapel Hill
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
cvbell  AT  gmail.com | www.cvbell.com
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 21:35:17 -0400
From: Cari Carpenter <carimc AT UMICH.EDU>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
I'd just like to second this--Asra's work is wonderful.
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 16:43:27 -0400
From: Kathleen Wininger <wininger AT USM.MAINE.EDU>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Since the book is written in the 70s,  I am finding it helpful to
contextualize Woman at Point Zero with some of Nawal El Saadawi's non-
fiction writing of the period.  I use chapters from The Hidden Face of Eve
and the section on Egypt from Sisterhood is Global by her also written
around that time.

For films I love Four Women of Egypt which interviews women who were
imprisoned with Nawal and gives an interesting and more nuanced account of
those times.

This is history for our students, sigh.

Dr. Kate Wininger


Kathleen J. Wininger, Ph. D. Department of Philosophy,
University of Southern Maine,     Portland, Maine 04104-9300
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 15:53:48 -0500
From: Kulvinder Arora <kulvinder.arora AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Saba Mahmood,  The Politics of Piety

kulvinder.arora  AT  gmail.com

Kulvinder Arora
Visiting Assistant Professor
Gender and Women's Studies
University of Illinois, Chicago
1222 University Hall
601 S. Morgan Street MC 360
Chicago, Illinois 60607
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 17:55:41 -0700
From: Phillipa Kafka <phillipakfk AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
I am aware that you are requesting "works by Muslim women about Muslim
women."  Yet I feel that your class would be deprived of  a profound
experience from exposure to a magnificent novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns,
2007.  It would be a shame to exclude it from the syllabus because it was
written  by a male writer, Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner.
He is from Kabul, Afghanistan.

If you go to Amazon.com under this book title you will find an interview of
him about A Thousand Splendid Suns. In the beginning he states, too
modestly, I feel, that the book is "based on the collective spirit of those
women I met in Kabul in 2003."  At the end he expresses his basic
motivation--to convey the contemporary situation of Afghan women.


Dr. Phillipa Kafka
Professor Emerita, English Literature and Former Director of Women's Studies
Kean University
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 01:07:09 -0700
From: Cynthia Fortner <clfortner2004 AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles

I also agree with the recommendation of Khaled Hosseini's writings,
but I would add the first book, The Kite Runner, to the second, A
Thousand Splendid Suns, as the silence, absence, and treatment of
women--even in how women are discussed or dismissed--is incredibly
telling, particularly in regard to mothers, especially in the opening
chapters and in chapter 10.á The development of Middle Eastern
communities within American culture, as well as family, religious, and
marriage traditions transferred to the American scene dominate the
middle section of the book (10 through chapter 16), with interesting
consequences, as the novel concludes, involving Middle Eastern
children and adoption, social class, and transitioning families along
with transitioning beliefs.

I am happy to dialogue with you off list about assignments,
perspectives, and approaches to the material of both Hosseini books as
I've taught both numerous times, as well as these that follow (some of
which do stretch your parameters a bit but are worthwhile

The memoirs of Azar Nafisi are wonderful and resonate very well with
students: Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Things I've Been Silent About.

Riverbend's blogs collected in the books Baghdad Burning and Baghdad
Burning II: More Girl Blog From Iraq are both riveting.

Asne Seierstad's memoirs are recounted in The Bookseller of Kabul with
revealing descriptions of how women address everyday life and the
wearing of the burka.

Sara Sulari's essay "Karachi 1990" also has a wonderful treatment of
families, traditions, contrasts between old and new, and treatment of

>From a theoretical perspective, Helene Cixous (with Jacques Derrida)
 has a difficult but extremely worthwhile treatment of veiling in her
 book Veils, with particular value in revealing multiple perspectives
 toward veils and covering.á (I've paired this with parts of A
 Thousand Splendid Suns.)á

I believe also that the discovery process for American students can
 receive motivation by other American women who have also been through
 the discovery process of living in the Middle East and experience
 integration into Muslim culture, while also writing about it.á For
 this, I really enjoy the memoirs of Deborah Rodriguez: Kabul Beauty
 School.á The opening chapter is particularly engaging for women with
 the integration of Muslim women's lives, salons as a sanctuary
 against abuse where men are not allowed, and marriage ceremonial
 traditions as they travel from India and Pakistan into Kabul.á
 YouTube has videos of a form of marriage ceremonial dancing from
 Pakistani film represented in the book.á I will look up the URL if
 you are interested.á The ending of chapter 1 reveals a current
 discourse about how Muslim women can be in control of their virginity
 on their wedding night that has resulted in pro and con articles
 about products for sale that women can purchase to use during wedding
 night traditions.á Rodriquez's Kabul Beauty School resonates in many,
 many different important directions.

Persepolis is both DVD and graphic novel, both of which reveal life
course female history and consequences from Iran.

An interesting online source called "Women In Islam" at Catherine of
Siena Virtual College is available at <www.catherineofsiena.net> and
is another interesting source of accessible multiple perspectives,
particularly in investigating women, the Quran, and Hadith.áá

I am happy to chat further. 
All the best,
Cynthia Fortner PhD
cfortner  AT  purdue.edu
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 05:28:23 -0400
From: keileraas AT WESLEYAN.EDU
Subject: Re: seeking women in Islam titles
Based on my experiences with teaching a similar course, I would also
recommend the following as possibilities:

Assia Djebar, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
Fatima Mernissi, A Border Passage
Shirin Ebadi, Iran Awakening

And a film by the Canadian Film Board entitled "Under One Sky".

Good luck!
Karina Eileraas
Women's Studies
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 14:17:36 +0300
From: "Zerrin Yan²kkaya" <zyanikkaya AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women in Islam titles
"The day I became woman" ( Roozi ke zan shodam) by Marzieh Makhmalbaf
is also an interesting movie. It is the story of women at three stages
of life in Iran. Makhmalbaf family has good movies about Iran.

Best wishes,

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 01:40:50 -0400
From: Luis Gutierrez <luisgutierrez AT PEOPLEPC.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles ~ Rabia al-Adawiyya
The following is a new listserv of Islamic feminist scholars:


Many real jewels coming my way.  You may want to try it:

with the following text:

You also may want to check the Wikipedia article on

Rabia al-Adawiyya

Sufi saint Rabia al-Adawiyya
Basra, Iraq, ca. 717-801 CE


*Directory of her poems and books about her:* 


Luis T. Gutierrez, Ph.D.
luisgutierrez  AT  peoplepc.com
The Pelican Web (http://pelicanweb.org)
Editor, PelicanWeb's Journal of Sustainable Development
A monthly, CC license, free subscription, open access e-journal
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 11:45:06 -0700
From: Phillipa Kafka <phillipakfk AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
Here is one from Saudi Arabia.  I did read it, but just found it o.k.

Rajaa Alsanea, Girls of Riyadh, Penguin, 2007. Or. ptd.2005

The social, romantic, and sexual tribulations of four young women from the
elite classes of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  On a list-serv, a "Scheherezade like
narrator" tells the stories of Gamrah, Michelle,Sadeem, and Lamees-as they
negotiate their love lives, their professional successes, and their
rebellions, against their cultural traditions.  They understand the Western
worldview and experiment with reconciling pieces of it with their own.

Phillipa Kafka

Dr. Phillipa Kafka
Professor Emerita, English Literature and Former Director of Women's Studies
Kean University
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 22:13:32 +0200
From: Agnese Fidecaro <Agnese.Fidecaro AT UNIGE.CH>
Subject: Re: seeking women & Islam titles
I would recommend reading novelist Leila Aboulela:

Leila Aboulela, Minaret, 2005

Leila Aboulela, The Translator, 1999

And if some of your students read French:

Les filles voilTes parlent
Quarante-cinq textes et entretiens recueillis par Ismahane Chouder, Malika
LatrFche et Pierre Tevanian

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