Hello again blog post readers! Today I will be writing about Fatema Mernissi. I stumbled upon this amazing woman in my research about Morocco and am so happy I did. Fatema Merinissi was a founder of Islamic feminism. Islamic feminism obviously existed previous to her, but she is one of the key figures who helped concrete the language and rhetoric of Islamic Feminism. Fatema Mernissi was a Moroccan feminist and sociologist. Born on September 27, 1940 in Fez, Morocco, she belonged to a wealthy family and grew up in the harem of her paternal grandfather. According to dictionary.com, a harem is a room where women live-(typically in a Muslim household) where mothers, sisters, daughters, and other female domestic workers reside. She studied political science at Sorbonne University, and received her Master’s and Doctorate degree from Brandeis University. It is important to understand that Merinissi came from a privileged background- one that allowed her to receive great educations and live in a large home.
She died in November 30, 2015 at 75 years old. One of her last articles she wrote, published on her website, http://www.mernissi.net/index.html , is about globalization and Morocco. I am currently taking a class called Globalization & Social Justice and so this article of hers intrigued me immensely. She wrote this in 2007, which is now more than 10 years ago, but many of her claims still ring true today. She talks about globalization in the context of Islam. She talks a lot about Islam, and certain oral traditions (like the Yoruba creation stories we read on the first day of HST116!) But she talks about the fear of globalization, where travel is a privilege, and we have the opportunity to travel to other countries and cultures. In Islam specifically, she says, “Allah made the earth a carpet for you so you can travel…” She spoke about Islamophobia and the fear of the ‘other’. She poses these questions for us to ponder- “How to transform globalization into a voyage free of anxiety and fear? And why does the danger that spoils globalization take the form of a Moslem who can be either a terrorist or a clandestine migrant?” These are important questions for us to ask and consider in a post 9/11 world. Her posing of these questions also reveals a lot of Moroccan feminist culture. They are completely aware that the Western world is ‘otherizing’ them as a result of a few actions of bad people who certainly do not represent the Islamic religion.
This article she wrote is extremely intriguing and I encourage everyone to go read it. The rest of her work, including a book about the sexual politics of her childhood in a harem called “Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood,” are groundbreaking and speak to a long tradition of women in Africa speaking out against sexism and injustice they faced. She spoke about how women in Morocco were likely not to be jailed for expressing their feminist opinions like those would be in other Muslim countries. Her voice and activism was transformative in Islamic feminism.