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.

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