One of the great delights of my Arabic classes is encountering Arab writers and activists who are little known in the West. This delight is something akin to discovering cousins on the other side of the world–or, in the case of Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian doctor and lifelong activist for women’s medical rights, discovering a woman who could easily be my main character’s mentor (or my main character herself, plus about fifty years).
This morning I am reading her 1990 essay on women and Islamic fundamentalism, and I found a passage that really resonates with the sentiment behind the world I created for ROOM 100:
We know that our [women’s] battle is economic and political, against both external and internal exploiters. But those exploiters try to transform political and economic wars into religious ones. . . . The fundamentalist movements are a mask for other battles, and a distortion of all religions.
(From here, p. 98).