Azar Nafisi: What are the biggest misconceptions of the Muslim woman?

Azar Nafisi: Well one thing about the world we live in today is that everything is simplified. I mean when I was . . . Before the Islamic Revolution, you never talked of all these countries that are as different from one another as Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. You did not lump them all together and reduce them all to one aspect of them, which is religion. Calling them the Muslim world – why don’t we call France, England, Germany, and United States the Christian world? I mean they have far more in common than Malaysia, and Iran, and Afghanistan do, you know? So that is one problem that I find to . . . And then you reduce a religion that is very different ...very, very strong believe . . . Muslim . . . strong Muslim women from Malaysia, for example, or Indonesia who never wear the veil, you know? So there are many interpretations of the religion. We have the Sufism, which is the gentlest of all Islamic interpretations. And the Sufis in Iran have been attacked, especially recently, very seriously. Their places . . . Their places of worship or where they gather have been demolished. They have been arrested. You know this is in an Islamic country. Nobody talks about that, you know? So that reductionism of the whole religion into one aspect of it, again, is what bothers me. And Muslim women have become the canaries in the mind. You want to know how people . . . how at least the political system thinks of freedom? Look at the situation of its women. So I think that it’s an exciting time for Muslim women because of the fact that they’re put in a position where they become the standards for freedom. And I . . . And unlike what people say sometimes, the critique of the way Muslim women are treated disempowers them. I think it is very empowering to think that just your body would change politics; that the way you look would mean that a political system exists or not. So that gives women a lot of power, and the men who are imposing these laws a great deal of vulnerability. You know so I think that women in Islam today . . . The way women in Iran are fighting, you know, they should be feeling empowered and they should ask for their rights. And they’re doing it in the Emirates and in other countries as well, you know?

Recorded on: 2/22/08

They aren't identical, Nafisi says.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

New alternative to Trump's wall would create jobs, renewable energy, and increase border security

A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Jorge Castillo Quiñones
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
  • The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
  • It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less