June 21, 2011


Many books have been written about social injustice. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” comes to mind in the struggle against slavery. Alan Paton’s, “Cry the Beloved Country” documents similar conditions for the blacks living under apartheid in South Africa. But in the case of women’s rights in the Middle East no novel has emerged that has awakened a global outcry. 

Irshad Manji’s, “The Trouble with Islam” gives a good account of a Canadian girl growing up in the faith. Azar Nafisi, now a living in the United States, tells her troubling story as an Iranian teacher  in her memoir, “Reading Lolita in Tehran.  A few other works have tugged at the heart strings, but no chronicle, fact or fiction, has ignited the bonfire of revolution as did Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique. Without such a bonfire, it’s difficult to see how the juggernaut of religious and political inequality will ever be cleansed. The desire to repress and mummify women has no logical basis and ignores contributions that could be made by half the human population. Without a visionary who can write words that will ignite passions, women in repressive Muslim states will continue to be denied their voice. 

In Saudi Arabia, a few women are attempting to be heard. They face jail and beatings for daring to drive a car. Wajiha al-Huwaidar, one of the spokespersons admits the rebellion will not be big for the treatment of these revolutionaries has been brutal (“Yahoo News” 6/17/11).

(Yahoo Images)

I do not doubt the courage of Muslim women. They will carry on their fight in numbers large or small. But I must ask where are the men? In Egypt and Tunisia, women stood side by side with their counterparts in the struggle for freedom. Where are the cries of these compatriots now as the women of Saudi Arabia seek the simplest freedom?