From Publishers Weekly
The "opposite of fundamentalism is feminism," concludes journalist Katha Pollitt in her introduction to this dense and provocative anthology of women's responses to the global rise of religious extremism. To understand what fundamentalism is about, why (or so the authors argue) it targets women and why, again according to the authors, enlightened people of all persuasions, religious or secular, must work to defeat it is the mission of the more than 30 entries (many reprinted from the Nation) in this volume. A variety of academic, activist and religious feminists, such as Barbara Ehrenreich, Eve Ensler, Karen Armstrong and Arundhati Roy, agree that fundamentalism is about social power and control, not about returning to religious "fundamentals." Thus, the rise of fundamentalism is traced to discontent with and disruptions caused by modernization and globalization. Several writers trace these dynamics in Afghanistan, Algeria, India, the Gaza Strip-even the rise of the Christian Right in modern America. Most religions-featured here are Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism-have extremist wings characterized by misogynistic theory and practices. Feminist responses have been varied, but follow two major paths: either rejection of the religion in favor of a more secular culture, or a reclaiming of the right to interpret the religion in more female-supportive ways. The book's final section explores the meaning of what the authors see as the real global struggle: not East vs. West or tradition vs. modernity, but secular, enlightened society vs. fundamentalist theocracy. A compendium of energizing political discourse, this anthology is a substantial contribution to an alternative view of the war on terror.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Images of Afghani women hidden in bulky burkhas as if their bodies affronted men and tempted them to sin are among the most vivid images of religious fundamentalism. But is there any difference between the attitude that fosters such visual elimination of femininity and, say, the American pro-life movement that claims the right to determine women's biological destiny? In gripping short essays, women scholars and writers take on the question of the anti-woman attitude common to religious fundamentalisms. Iranian feminist Janet Afary examines political manifestations of Muslim fundamentalism; renowned novelist Arundhati Roy examines how fascism can grow when religion turns from the spiritual to become political; political scientist Rosalind Petchesky discusses the connections between fundamentalism and global capitalism; playwright Eve Ensler, renowned for The Vagina Monologues
(1998), vividly portrays Afghani women she encountered in their war-torn land. Although the contributors' styles vary from scholarly to op-ed, the underlying message is the same: fundamentalism is fundamentally antiwoman, whether it appears in the East or the West. An important if not especially hopeful book. Patricia MonaghanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved