Ramadan Resolutions, Revolving Revolutions: In One Year, Out the Other

One of the Mawa'id Arahman in Egypt. [Source].

A couple of years ago, I heard a story about an Egyptian woman who decided that she would cook the Ramadan favourites she usually cooked for iftar, but she and her family would not eat the meals she prepared. Instead, the food was distributed among the poor and they broke their fast on flat bread and fava beans. Maybe this is impractical idealism, or even (if you’re cynical) a form of poverty tourism, but the story struck me as a personal way of relating to Ramadan in a way that breaks from the y … [Read more...]

“Do You Dream?” – A Police Campaign against Honour-Related Crimes

The "Do you dream" poster. [Source].

As the summer vacation begins in Sweden, so does a campaign against a broad variety of crimes that the police have been addressing under the category hedersrelaterat våld och förtryck - “honour-related violence and oppression.” In particular, the police have focused on forced marriage, which they believe to be a “seasonal” crime, as the risk of people being forced into marriage are greater during the summer with the long leave.As one article covering the campaign put it, summer vacation is “n … [Read more...]

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...]


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