Magazine article The New Yorker

Muslim Sisterhood

Magazine article The New Yorker

Muslim Sisterhood

Article excerpt

Muslim Sisterhood

One of the many received notions shattered by last week's election was the belief, among supporters of Hillary Clinton, that women of all creeds and colors would band together to elect the first female President. That didn't happen. Fifty-three per cent of white women voters took a pass on Clinton and threw their support behind the self-proclaimed groper. (A few went further, coming to Trump rallies in T-shirts that said things like "Hillary Couldn't Satisfy Her Husband / Can't Satisfy Us.")

Last Thursday night, as protesters marched on Fifth Avenue, seven young feminists gathered in a midtown theatre to reflect on what had happened. They had a unique perspective: all were of Middle Eastern heritage, and some were recent immigrants. They'd got to know one another in a creative-writing workshop at Queens College, called Places of Pilgrimage, which was started by Heather Raffo, an Iraqi-American playwright. Raffo's new play, "Noura," reimagines Henrik Ibsen's 1879 feminist work, "A Doll's House," from the viewpoint of an Iraqi refugee living in New York City.

Ghazala Khan

Raffo had instructed her students to read Ibsen and write about their experiences growing up in the patriarchal societies of the Middle East. Many wrote about feeling oppressed by other women. In Egypt, where female genital mutilation is common, "it was often the mothers and aunts who were the biggest enforcers of the practice," Raffo said. She went on, "What has come up in my writing and other women's writing is how cruel women can be to each other."

Reem Razek, twenty-four, grew up in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia; as a teen-ager, she complained about being treated differently from her brothers. When she was eighteen, her father, a doctor, had her committed to an insane asylum after she told him that she no longer believed in the teachings of Islam. (She eventually persuaded her doctors that she was a believer and defected during a family trip to upstate New York.) Razek said that, during her rebellious years, "I noticed a lot of the women in my family believed the same things that I did. But they were pissed off at me for saying it out loud." A friend disowned her publicly but sent her private messages on Facebook, saying, "I wish I had the courage to do that."

Razek talked about Trump's campaign. "When I saw the women who were defending him after the pussy-grabbing comments, it reminded me so much of the women in the Muslim Brotherhood who'd defend bad things that the Brotherhood guys did," she said. "They'd say, 'Men and women are different, and we have to accept that we're the weaker sex. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.