The Mother and the Motherland in Arab Literature

Cover of Hanan Al-Shaykh's The Locust and the Bird. [Source].

Moroccan novelist Mohammed Berrada’s Lu’bat al Nisyan (The Game of Forgetting, 1987) begins with “In the Beginning was the Mother.”   The main character in the novel, Hadi, is a leftist journalist suffering from a midlife crisis, disillusioned on the communal level by the deteriorating political situation in Morocco, and devastated on a personal level by the death of his mother, Lala Lghalya. Hadi's mother is referred to as “indispensable, like salt in food” and represented in terms that depict h … [Read more...]

Nahdet Masr: Woman, Sphinx, and the Question of Modernity

Source

In Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soeuif’s novel, The Map of Love, there is a scene that describes the statue Nahdet Masr (Rise of Egypt), a statue of a peasant woman unveiling as she stands next to the Sphinx: "The statue of Nahdet Masr rises before her: the statue at whose feet they had gathered in the days of the demonstrations...when it had seemed that the young would conquer the world and they, the students of Egypt, would be among the conquerors. They had taken Nahdet Masr as their symbol: a f … [Read more...]

Book Review: Sophia Al-Maria’s “The Girl Who Fell To Earth”

Cover of The Girl Who Fell to Earth. [Source].

The Girl who Fell to Earth is the coming-of-age story of a self-described “Qatarican” (Qatari/American) which takes the reader on a zig-zagging journey from a farm in Washington State to a Bedouin town in Qatar, and on to a houseboat on the Nile and the hustle and bustle of Cairo. The result is something very far from the usual “tone and content [of] the popular genre-memoirs of the victimized-Muslim-woman.”This book is rightly described as a memoir, but because it begins before the ambival … [Read more...]

Muslim Women in Amy Waldman’s The Submission

Cover of The Submission. Via Macmillan.

Amy Waldman’s The Submission is a novel that struggles to tell “a post-9/11 story” with a potentially implausible concept and a cast of characters lined up as representatives of certain types and injected with nuance with varying degrees of success.The title is a play on words, a speculation on ”what would happen if a jury in charge of selecting a ground zero-like memorial were to choose, from among the many anonymous submissions, a design that turns out to have been created by a Muslim- … [Read more...]

Motherhood and Islam: The Revered, the Bad, and the Mystical

Mother Minaret.

I can’t remember when I first learned that “Paradise is under the feet of mothers.” But I do remember the first time my parents quoted the story when the Prophet was asked who has greater right, the mother or the father, and replied ”Your mother, your mother, your mother, then your father.” This three-fold reiteration of the privileged status of the mother in Islam is central to those endless articles on “Women in Islam,” which tend to collapse the status of women with the reverence for mothers i … [Read more...]

“Woman vs Islamist” – Duelling Protests, Flag Switching and Zero Sum Games

Libyan women at a protest in Benghazi.  Via Associated Press.

The last few weeks in Libya have been tragic, depressing and hopeful by turn.  For months the militia situation in the country had been brewing, with increasing calls for disarmament and unification under a national army on the one hand, and on the other, calls for patience by those making the argument that the armed groups are needed to keep order and security. This simmering tension exploded on the 11th of September with the devastating attack on the US embassy, which took the life of the … [Read more...]

Metaverse Muslim: Playing out our Mongrel Selves

Image from strawberrysingh.com

In exploring the intersection of digital life and Islam over the last couple of years I’ve come across a number of projects and articles examining Muslims and the metaverse, from virtual hajj tours and Islamic sacred spaces in Second Life to academic articles on the concept of “e-hijab,” which the author describes as Muslim women whose avatars wear the e-hijab as a clear visual manifestation of religious identity.I was reminded of the idea of e-hijab in looking at images posted by Strawberry … [Read more...]


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