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Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women Paperback – December 1, 1995
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Geraldine Brooks spent two years as a Middle East news correspondent, covering the death of Khomeini and the like. She also learned a lot about what it's like for Islamic women today. Brooks' book is exceedingly well-done--she knows her Islamic lore and traces the origins of today's practices back to Mohammed's time. Personable and very readable, Brooks takes us through the women's back door entrance of the Middle East for an unusual and provocative view.
From Publishers Weekly
Having spent six years covering the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks presents an exploration of the daily life of Muslim women and the often contradictory forces that shape their lives.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I would have liked to see more discussion of the places in the world where Muslims live alongside people from other religions in relative tolerance. Places like Dubai, where the government itself makes a concerted effort to inform people about the difference between the cultural traditions of Arabic lands and the practices which are actually drawn from the Koran. I felt the book omitted a needed discussion of the Muslim women (and men) who have left their home countries when fundamentalist regimes gained power because policies advanced by such regimes did not reflect their own beliefs. Yet the book tries to pin the injustices it discusses purely on Islam, rather than the regimes in power in the middle east or on cultural practices not derived from Islam. Brooks seems to say, yes, there are Muslim countries where things aren't so bad, but still, all the problems they do have stem from Islam. If you are willing to do the work of reading a lot more to balance Brooks' perspective with more information, then it is probably worthwhile to read this book. On the other hand, if you only read one book about Muslims, do not make it this one.
I think that in any society you can focus on a few stories which would make the rest of society seem terrible to an outsider. If I wrote a book for Muslim women, I could point out the terrible numbers of women killed and raped in this country making the United States the most dangerous nation in the world to be a woman. And how pornagraphy, strip club, popular music, and films degrade women in this county where even the common name for a women among young men is "Ho".
As a Muslim woman I found a severe bias and crooked outlook in this book that focused on only the extreme stories and refused to discuss in which ways our lives are good. The assistant who began to wear hijab is seen in a bad way but many of us also made that choice and we were happy to live more deep and spiritual lives. We don't want to look like Brittany Spears, and I don't see why people in the West consider it oppression that we choose not to run around half naked but wish to remain modest and respectable. It is only a piece of cloth.....get over it. Americans focus far more on the hijab than we do.
I am happy to be a Muslim woman, and happy to cover. I think this book in many ways oppresses Muslim women because when we go out on the street here in America or try to get a job we are treated in a biased way becuase of books like this which portray a charactuture of Muslim women rather than the reality.
I found the book packed with vital, interesting, balanced information regarding religious practices in various Islamic countries. The author manages to cover the differences of attitudes and the attempts to make progress. She does a good job of explaining why some women, in the spirit of religious fever and anti-Western sentiment chose to start wearing a veil and even covering themselves from head to foot. It is hard for us in the west to accept this.
There is an good understandable discussion of the Koran and it is interpreted to require more seclusion and abuse that the prophet Mohammed required. Though I must state, the book is written by a woman who converted to Judaism. I assume that makes her statements unacceptable to many people who might read this.
This is a scholarly book with readable history of the Islamic countries and the various rulers of those countries. It also gave a good political analysis of how Western actions have helped increase fundamental fever rather than stop it (our misguided attempts have backfired). I also back came a conclusion that I had before I read the book. The only way Islamic women are going to gain some freedom from abuse is for them to find ways to lead their own people. Islamic men need to help and slowly they might make strides. I also had to resist injecting my own values into the reading of this - it was next to impossible but I did try.
The book does a fairly good job of describing the main branches of Islamic traditions and why they came about. I knew that there were two but did not know about the many sub branches and related traditions. Finally there is a wonderful section about women athletics and the competition of Islamic women from Russian dominated countries (fairly liberal) to those from traditionally conservative Islamic areas (little training available.)
I have a few minor negative comments. 1) the dictionary of terms is not go far enough. For instance there is a reference to a woman who is a Druse but nowhere was there an explanation of what a Druse is. 2) I would have liked a better understand what the term jihad really means to Islam. Many people believe all Muslims want to kill us. I think this is hardly true. But I would have like a deeper discussion of that point and similar attitudes to the west.
3) I would have liked to see a timeline on the progress of Islam and the major conflicts with Christianity as well as persecution from Judaism and other religions.
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Some of the ladies who did read it, liked it...