by Fatema Mernissi
Scheherazade Goes West
Washington Square Press, March, 2002.
Trade paperback, 228 pages.
While the rage and grief that Americans experienced after September 11, 2001, will be a part of American history for a very long time, thoughtful Americans have begun to answer the haunting question of "why?" by trying to learn about the Muslim point of view. Fatema Mernissi, professor of sociology at the University of Mahamed V in Rabat and widely considered the greatest living scholar of the Koran, makes an outstanding guide through this profoundly different point of view. Professor Mernissi is not only a diligent scholar, but she is also an Islamic feminist. The author of Beyond the Veil and other books about the Islamic woman, Professor Mernissi presents a well-documented and researched comparison of two types of harem: the Islamic harem and the western harem, which is rarely recognized for what it is.
One of the of the most striking points that Professor Mernissi makes is that the Koran clearly states that women are the equals of men and that when Muslim men do lock their women up it is because of their deep fear of that fundamental equality. Western men began to subscribe to the opinions of Kant, who stated that women should never study mathematics history or geography as this knowledge would destroy their beauty. Historically, powerful Muslim men have enjoyed the company of educated and witty women, and considered this to be seductive, while Western men have followed an opposite path.
Professor Mernissi's comparisons of the two cultures give a balanced view and are thought-provoking. Ever since Alexis de Tocqueville allowed Americans to view themselves in a different mirror, we have been fascinated with how others see us. Professor Mernissi holds up a mirror to the Western democracies that readers will find illuminating as well as entertaining.
--Sarah Reaves White
Scheherazade Goes West is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the September, 2002 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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