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  • A Postmodern Christian-Muslim Feminist
  • Nawal El Saadawi

A British feminist visited me in Cairo in 1982. She was writing a book about Muslim feminists in the Middle East. "I am not a Muslim feminist and I live in Egypt, in North Africa, not the Middle East," I told her. "Where do you live?"

"I live in London. England is my country."

"So you are from the Middle West."

She laughed, it was funny to abolish the name England and put Middle West instead, but to abolish Egypt and put Middle East was not a joke, it was a serious reality.

Then she asked me, "If you are not a Muslim feminist, how do you describe yourself?"

I said, "Please describe yourself to me first."

"I am a Christian feminist."

"Do you believe in the Bible?"

"I have a different interpretation of the Bible," she said. "Eve was not a sinner and Christ was a black lesbian woman."

"So why do you call yourself Christian?"

"It's only a matter of culture, I mean my cultural identity, my authentic identity."

More than twenty years passed and I was walking in the Gezira Club in Cairo when a veiled woman stopped me. I didn't recognize her. It was the Christian feminist, having converted to Islam after marrying an Egyptian doctor. "I chose Islam and the veil of my own free will," she said. "I am a Muslim feminist and the veil is part of my Islamic identity. Did you read my new book about Muslim feminists in which I…?" [End Page 183]

"No," I interrupted.

"Oh, I must send you a copy. It was on the New York Times bestseller list, it was reviewed by a feminist Muslim celebrity in the US, it was discussed on CNN and the BBC and.… I believe in free choice, diversity, pluralism, multiculturalism.… Are you against free choice?"

I laughed and said, "Yes, and against free market too!"

That same day in the Gezira Club I met a young Egyptian woman. She had full postmodern makeup, eyelashes, kohl, seductive look and all. Her head was covered with a silk Islamic veil, and her upper belly was exposed above tight American jeans. She is another type of Muslim women; she obeys her god by wearing the veil and shops in the free market for whatever she likes, free choice, laissez-faire.

Books by Muslim Feminists

Books on Islam by Muslim feminists have become a profitable commodity in publishing and big media. Book covers with veiled women are attractive to consumers; they bring in more money. I never wanted a veiled woman on the cover of any of my books. I never used "Islam" or "Islamic Women" as a title for any of my books, but publishers do what they want without your knowledge. I was never consulted about the covers of my books. Publishers change the titles of your books without consulting with you. They omit parts or rearrange the chapters as they like. You have to stop work and devote time to fighting with publishers or taking them to court. Agents and lawyers can devour your time and money with little result. The free market has its visible and invisible powers that can lead you to stop writing at all. But we have to fight back and learn how to enforce our rights as writers, whether we are Muslims or non-Muslims.

The German publisher of my novel Woman at Point Zero changed my original title to a very bad one from the aesthetic point of view, which was, "I Spit on You." Is this a title to be put on a book? I asked the publisher and he said, "It's a good title in Germany, it sells well, German culture likes aggressive titles." The free market likes violence.

The American publisher (in Boston) cut my Introduction to The Hidden Face of Eve without my knowledge. When I asked her why she did that, she said because it was polemical. Which means political. And [End Page 184] publishers (even radical feminist publishers) do not want to take risks or lose money. The original Arabic title is "The Naked Face of Arab Women." Publishers...


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pp. 183-187
Launched on MUSE
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