Nawal Al-Sa'Dawi's book The Hidden Face of Eve is absolutely essential to any global study of feminism. While it's true that the book was written in the 70s, it's important to note that many of the subjects Sa'Dawi examines are timeless - especially with regard to patriarchy - which in many of its manifestations - remains unchanged to this day and is not emblematic of any single nation, or of any single religious dogma.
Sa'Dawi opens by recounting the night she and her sister were subjected to circumcision. Her child's mind remembers the sound of rasping butcher knives, and the account is both heart wrenching, and yet somehow, removed. Sa'Dawi emphasizes that female circumcision, or FGM, is NOT Islamic - despite what many Egyptians mistakenly believe - and openly condemns the procedure in all its various extremes.
One cannot help but feel enormous respect for Sa'Dawi for her work as a doctor in poverty stricken villages, for her outspoken and vigilant opposition to inequity, - even within her own family - and for her graceful scholarly look at the history of the oppression of women. Indeed, Sa'Dawi's political activities led to her imprisonment under Sadat, but she continues to work for the cause of social justice even under the current political milieu which has, yet again, sought to silence her. Nawal Al-Sa'Dawi considered running for president, but withdrew her candidacy because she was repeatedly kept from legitimately campaigning. It's a shame that Mubarak is unwilling to have an open election. Could he be afraid of losing to a woman?
Initially I was drawn to Nawal Al-Sa'Dawi because the idea of Egyptian feminism, or Islamic feminism seemed wholly unexplored by western scholars. Her examination of the veil, or hijab, and its origins is put into both historical and Islamic context. Truly over the years the veil has come to mean many different things to different people. In a world where the word `terrorism' and `islam' have become almost synonymous it's more important than ever to understand the mentality of post-colonialism. Today, Arab youth are daily striving for an identity which is independent of western influence - enter Islamism, enter the veil, enter the extremism we see reported daily in the news.
An absolute MUST-READ for anyone seeking to understand patriarchy, post-colonialism, Islamic culture, and what motivates the current trend in Islamic countries toward extremism...