Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Muslim Women Reformers by Ida Lichter - A Review

Muslim Women Reformers
Inspiring Voices Against Oppression
By Ida Lichter

In a world where the strident demands of Islamic extremists capture the media's attention, the courageous protests of Muslim reformers barely receive any notice. These include a surprising number of women who are prepared to challenge institutionalized persecution, risking derision, arrest, physical harm, and even death.

In this inspiring compilation of Muslim women's stories from around the world, the voices of these long-oppressed women ring loud and clear as they question ideology and culture, patriarchal and religious beliefs, and demand the social and political rights women lack in many Muslim countries. The reformers speak out with passion, humanity, and sometimes humor in these compact and often poignant biographies, bringing alive the harsh realities for women in many parts of the world.

By surveying a wide range of Muslim reformers, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and North America, author Ida Lichter uncovers some significant emerging trends. For example, she notes that the majority of Muslim feminists would like to see reform contained within Islam. Many criticize their patriarchal culture for suppressing egalitarian views that they believe the Koran expresses and so they advocate a reinterpretation of the holy text. Some demand changes to discriminatory Sharia-based laws. Others campaign openly for political and educational reforms.

Complete with a glossary and a list of helpful Web sites, this vibrant anthology makes use of reliable translations from original languages to demonstrate the groundswell of grassroots change that promises eventually to bring even the most conservative sectors of Islam into the twenty-first century.

Ida Lichter, is a clinical and research psychiatrist and contributor to The Huffington Post. Living in London for over 12 years focused her interest on the large Muslim populations in the UK and Europe and brought her closer to the eye of the storm in the Middle East. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

Muslim Women Reformers
By Ida Lichter
Prometheus Books | ISBN-13: 978-0984301706
US $27.98 | Hardcover | 513 pages
What did I think? Where to begin?  Well, this book is not for the faint of heart, both in content and in length.  Resembling more of a text book than light reading, this book is 400 pages.  And that total doesn't include the notes or the glossary.  It is a big book.  It took me quite a while to read.

Part of the reason it took me so long to read was the length.  Part of it was that Christmas came and I finally decided I had to put it down in order to get things done.  But mostly it was because I was riveted.  When I first started reading this work, I thought that I would likely skim much of it as it's a fact based collection of women's lives and work in the Muslim world.  As I delved deeper however, I could not bring myself to skim anything.  I needed to read every word.  And I did.  I felt that each woman's story deserved my attention.  I think what I found especially compelling was the quotes that Lichter used.  Every woman's story is peppered with their own words and as I sat reading about their lives, their words hit home just how dire it is for women in some parts of the Muslim world.  I was aware it was bad.  I've watched documentaries and I see the news, but reading so many of these brave women's struggles somehow made it more real to me.

Honor killings, domestic abuse, illiteracy, lack of rights, burkas, isolation, female circumcision (or mutilation depending on your view).  These are all everyday realities for many women in the world.  And that's just the beginning.  It's unfathomable for me to imagine what their lives must be like in that misogynistic society.  And it's allowed in the name of religion.  Religion.  It is sickening, the human abuse that happens every single day.  

This book has drastically changed how I - a female, relatively liberal Christian and North American - look at this religion, culture and politics.  Drastically.  I'm grateful to Ida Lichter for sharing this information with us.  

While this book is slightly repetitive and long, you may want to tackle it anyways.  I think this is information all of us should read.

Thanks to Lisa, the Online Publicist, for this opportunity to review this book.  Lisa sent me this book in exchange for an impartial review and I was under no obligation to give it a positive one.

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