Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East

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Random House, 2010 - Social Science - 315 pages
Over the centuries and throughout the world, women have struggled for equality and basic rights. Their challenge in the Middle East has been intensified by the rise of a political Islam that too often condemns women’s empowerment as Western cultural imperialism or, worse, anti-Islamic. InParadise Beneath Her Feet, Isobel Coleman shows how Muslim women and men are fighting back with progressive interpretations of Islam to support women’s rights in a growing movement of Islamic feminism.

In this timely book, Coleman journeys through the strategic crescent of the greater Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan—to reveal how activists are working within the tenets of Islam to create economic, political, and educational opportunities for women. Coleman argues that these efforts are critical to bridging the conflict between those championing reform and those seeking to oppress women in the name of religious tradition. Success will bring greater stability and prosperity to the Middle East and stands to transform the region.
   
Coleman highlights a number of Muslim men and women who are among the most influential Islamic feminist thinkers, and brilliantly illuminates the on-the-ground experiences of women who are driving change: Sakena Yacoobi, an Afghan educator, runs more than forty women’s centers across Afghanistan, providing hundreds of thousands of women with literacy and health classes and teaching them about their rights within Islam. Madawi al-Hassoon, a successful businesswoman, is challenging conservative conventions to break new ground for Saudi professional women. Salama al-Khafaji, a devout dentist-turned-politician, relies on moderate interpretations of Islam to promote opportunities for women in Iraq’s religiously charged environment. These quiet revolutionaries are using Islamic feminism to change the terms of religious debate, to fight for women’s rights within Islam instead of against it.

There is no mistaking that women and women’s issues are very much on the front lines of a war that is taking place between advocates of innovation, tolerance, and plurality and those who use violence to reject modernity in Muslim communities around the world. Ultimately,  Paradise Beneath Her Feet offers a message of hope: Change is happening—and more often than not, it is being led by women.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - RebaRelishesReading - LibraryThing

Isobel Coleman is an expert on women's issues and on the Muslim world. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. First chapter in the book is "Why Women Matter" followed by chapters ... Read full review

PARADISE BENEATH HER FEET: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East

User Review  - Kirkus

A senior fellow at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations explores human-rights advances in the most conservative Muslim states.Western feminism, and with it, secularism as enforced in Muslim countries ... Read full review

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About the author (2010)

Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she also directs the council's Women and Foreign Policy program. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, and The Christian Science Monitor. She is a frequent speaker at academic, business, and policy conferences and a guest commentator on networks including CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera, and NPR. She lives in the New York area with her husband and children.
 

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