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Women in the Middle East: Tradition and Change

Women in the Middle East: Tradition and Change

by Ramsay M. Harik, Elsa Marston

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Images of Middle Eastern women that come to mind are typically of repressed, veiled women, living under the oppression of a patriarchal society. This common stereotype is a misleading one. It is true that today's women of the Middle East live enshrouded in tradition. However, they are caught between their devotion to a fundamental belief system and an ever-changing


Images of Middle Eastern women that come to mind are typically of repressed, veiled women, living under the oppression of a patriarchal society. This common stereotype is a misleading one. It is true that today's women of the Middle East live enshrouded in tradition. However, they are caught between their devotion to a fundamental belief system and an ever-changing world. The life of today's Middle Eastern women is varied. It is one bound by a domestic and traditionally rooted belief system, yet the women wish for a modern and progressive way of life. They are students, doctors, teachers, athletes, and soldiers. Some prefer domestic roles, while others assert their independence and search for a more fulfilling life that breaks the ties of age-old traditions. In this revised edition of Women in the Middle East, Ramsay Harik and Elsa Marston discuss current social issues and present updated information on the topics of religion, veiling, and political participation. Also new to this edition are two chapters that cover the experience of the women of Afghanistan and women's health issues. Through personal experience, interviews, and research, Harik and Marston have compiled a book that presents a comprehensive look at the women behind the veil and their struggle to incorporate both tradition and change in their everyday lives.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The opening photograph shows two women walking arm in arm in Morocco, one fully veiled with only slits for her eyes, the other in a brightly colored jump suit with no head covering at all. These choices and the contrasts are the subject of this updated edition of Women in the Middle East. The update primarily includes a new chapter on the Taliban in Afghanistan. There are quotes from the Quran that elevate women and their opportunities in society ("The seeking of knowledge is a duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman") and there are ancient proverbs that suggest that Islam was sometimes a liberating force for women, not an oppressive one ("Every daughter is a handful of trouble"). Some chapters are a dry recitation of differing social customs in different countries but others offer discussions of the relative influence of cultural tradition versus religion on marriage customs, veiling and a woman's role in society. There are also fascinating chapters on the ways women express themselves even when rules are oppressive�regular gatherings of women writers in Egypt at the turn of the 20th century, political organizations, efforts to educate women and girls, even secretly if necessary. Black-and-white photographs show the range of women's dress and activity. There are ample footnotes, a thorough index and bibliography and a short glossary. This is a valuable research volume for high school students and above, and interesting reading for anyone who seeks a broader understanding of one of the most misunderstood aspects of Middle Eastern and Islamic life. 2003, Franklin Watts,
— Karen Leggett
World conditions make this revised edition (Watts, 1996/VOYA April 1997) even more necessary for public and school libraries. As in the earlier edition, the authors look at the traditions, religious beliefs, and the pressures to change, both in the direction of the modern world and toward the past, that affect women in the Middle East, from Morocco to Pakistan, through all stages of life. This edition brings the material current to 2002, adding information about health, groups promoting literacy and better conditions for women, and women in Afghanistan under the Taliban and after the military campaign that removed them. The authors describe the variety of beliefs within Islamic countries, the growth of Islamism or society based on strictly religious values and beliefs, and the varying interpretations of the Qur'an-"it encourages men to treat women with respect, justice, and sensitivity. Yet it contains many reminders of the male-dominated culture that Muhammad lived in." The book remains quite attractive, with many photos, an eye-catching cover that is repeated at the top of each chapter, well-chosen fonts, and good spacing. This new edition is a fascinating and vital work that informs and promotes understanding. A few criticisms are that there are missing words on the bottom of one page and in the last sentence about AIDS awareness, and Palestine is listed as a country on another page. Glossary. Index. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Scholastic, 192p, Levine
VOYA - Susan H. Levine
Combining research and personal experience, the authors, a mother-son duo, have written a social history of women in the Middle East, concentrating on Muslim women and, to a much lesser extent, Christian and Druze women. They do not include Israel because of its more European lifestyle, but Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are covered. From Morocco to Iran, the book emphasizes the great diversity among women, and conflicts they face between strongly entrenched traditions and economic and political changes. It focuses on the daily lives of young girls, married and unmarried adult women, and the status of older women; religion and traditions; education; the family; the workplace; and arts and athletics. Each chapter starts with a regional proverb or two or a quotation from the Koran, some of which reflect conflicting views. The authors' point-of-view is obviously Western, but while criticizing the unequal and sometimes cruel treatment of women and stressing the great need to improve living conditions, they also point out concerns about changes affecting the positive Middle Eastern traditions, such as the centrality of home and family, and women's femininity. The book is easy to read and informative, and will be read to satisfy an interest in the subject as opposed to finding answers to an assignment. Part of the attractive Women Then-Women Now series, it has good photographs and pleasing page arrangements of font style and spacing. On a minor note, I question the description of chewing qat, a mild stimulant, as a custom only found in Yemen. I assume khat, which was a problem during the Persian Gulf War and the Somali operation, is the same leaf. The authors work hard to dispel stereotypes of Middle Eastern women. They bring us up-to-date with women's progress in the region, the continuing need for many changes, and new concerns that growing fundamentalism has turned back the clock on some of these advances. Glossary. Index. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Source Notes VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P J S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-A fine and timely revision of a title published in 1996. Harik and Marston have produced a remarkable look at the diversity and changes in the lives of contemporary Middle Eastern women. While marriage and family are still very important forces, the authors also discuss women's place in the arts; in public life; and as scholars, athletes, and professionals. "Middle East" is defined as the generally accepted Muslim countries as well as the Northern African countries, an area that includes nearly 300 million people. While this edition retains many of the black-and-white photographs of the original, they effectively enhance the text. Numerous additions include images from the Arab Women's Summit in 2001 and demonstrations held in conjunction with International Women's Day in 2002. A new chapter on health allows for a more complete picture of very different cultural mores and a better explanation of the seldom-understood practice of female circumcision. Another focuses on the ongoing issues concerning Afghanistan and the resulting problems of the aftermath of September 11, 2001. A colorful and inviting new dust jacket along with a well-researched and well-written text combine to make this an important purchase for general readers and student researchers alike.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Scholastic Library Publishing
Publication date:
Women Then - Women Now Series
Product dimensions:
6.26(w) x 9.33(h) x 0.84(d)
1240L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

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