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The Moroccan writer and sociologist Fatima Mernissi, known for her pioneering work in the field of Islamic feminism, has died.
Her work also touched on broader issues of human rights and democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Her best known work, Beyond the Veil, examines Islam from a feminist perspective and critiques traditional, male-dominated interpretations.
The writer, 75, reportedly died in a clinic in the capital Rabat.
Fellow Moroccan sociologist Sumaya Naaman Guesus told the Efe news agency that Mernissi was "the first woman to have the great courage to take up various themes considered taboo around the interpretation of the Koran and the texts of the Islamic tradition".
Moroccan-American author Laila Lalami was among many others who paid tribute to Mernissi, writing that "in addition to being a wonderful scholar, Fatema Mernissi was a kind and generous human being. A rare combination."
Mernissi's work drew attention to the active political role played by women in the early history of Islam, for example in her book The Forgotten Queens of Islam.
She contrasted this with claims of some conservative Islamists that the idea of a female political leader was un-Islamic after Pakistan elected its first female Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, in 1988.
Novelist Assia Djebar, an ardent defender of women’s rights in her native Algeria, has died aged 78, state radio said Saturday.
The French-language author and filmmaker, who was seen as a contender for the Nobel literature prize in recent years, died on Friday in a hospital in Paris.
She will be buried in her native home of Cherchell, a Berber coastal town west of Algiers, the radio said.
Djebar, whose real name was Fatima Zohra Imalyene, was elected in 2005 to the Academie Francaise, France’s top literary institution.
She wrote more than 15 novels in French as well as poetry and short stories, receiving widespread acclaim for her treatment of Muslim women and their struggle for emancipation.
Her books have been translated into 23 languages, including English, and she divided her time between Paris and the United States where she taught graduate studies at New York University.
She moved to France to study at the age of 18 and became the first Algerian woman to be admitted to the country’s top literary university, the Ecole Normale Superieure.
Djebar rose to fame after publishing her first book in 1957.
The novel, “La Soif” -- literally “the thirst” but translated into English as “The Mischief” -- was compared favorably to its best-selling contemporary, Francoise Sagan’s “Bonjour Tristesse”.
It was published under her real name before she adopted Assia Djebar as her pen name.
La Soif’s protagonist Nadia is a westernized French-Algerian girl who lives a carefree life, and tries to seduce her friend’s husband in order to make her own boyfriend jealous.
The book was condemned in Algeria for ignoring the politics of the day.
In 1977, Djebar directed her first film, “La Nouba des femmes du mont Chenoua”, (The Song of the Women of Mount Chenoua) about a female engineer who returns to Algeria after many years in Western exile.
She won the International Critics’ Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1979 for that work.
Her documentary film chronicling life in North Africa during the first half of the 20th century, “La Zerda ou les chants de l’oubli”, (Zerda or the Forgotten Songs) won the special prize for the best historical film of the Berlinale in 1982.
Courageous Egyptian writer, academic and translator known for her Granada trilogy
The Guardian: Monday 8 December 2014
Radwa Ashour was a powerful voice among Egyptian writers of the postwar generation and a writer of exceptional integrity and courage. Her work consistently engages with her country’s history and reflects passionately upon it. “I am an Arab woman and a citizen of the third world,” she declared, in an essay for the anthology The View from Within (1994), “and my heritage in both cases is stifled ... I write in self-defence and in defence of countless others with whom I identify or who are like me.”
Through a series of novels, memoirs, and literary studies, Ashour, who has died aged 68 after suffering from cancer, recorded the unending turbulence of her times, as she and her contemporaries struggled for freedoms, from the end of British influence to the recent Arab uprising and its aftermath.
Born in Cairo, Radwa came from a literary and scholarly family: her father, Mustafa Ashour, was a lawyer but had strong literary interests, while her mother, Mai Azzam, was a poet and artist. Radwa evoked in her writing how she was raised to recite the poetic corpus of Arabic literature by her grandfather Abdelwahab Azzam, a diplomat and professor of oriental studies and literature at Cairo University, who first translated the classic Persian Book of Kings (Shahnama) into Arabic, as well as other Oriental classics.
A student of comparative literature, she attended Cairo University during the ferment of the late 1960s and early 70s, attaining her MA in 1972. She then went on to do a PhD at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; in accordance with her concern for human rights and independence, she worked on African-American literature, receiving her doctorate in 1975. She then returned to Cairo, to Ain Shams University, where she taught – in conditions that were often difficult internally and externally – with immense dedication throughout her career, becoming professor of English and comparative literature in 1986, and serving as head of the department of English language and literature from 1990 to 1993.
Political activism was embedded in her academic career; as President Anwar Sadat argued for normalisation with Israel, Ashour helped found the National Committee Against Zionism in Egyptian Universities. Later, as Hosni Mubarak’s police state pushed into academic life, she helped found the March 9 Group for the independence of universities.
"I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time," Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it's hilarious.) "I'm like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali." With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.
Writer, actor, comedian, Maysoon Zayid is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. Full bio »
Watch her talk here.