↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Qasim Amin - 1863-1908

Robert Fulford wrote about Qasim Amin, one of the founders of Cario Univeristy over 100 years ago. He died at a young age of 45. The last line of his column sums it up - "A century after his death, Amin remains a man ahead of his time." On a personal note, I suspect Qasim Amin may be great great grandfather of my friend Yasmin from Cairo.


Advocates of even mild feminism were thin on the ground in 19th-century Egypt. But in 1899, the Cairo newspapers announced the appearance of at least one citizen who held outlandishly modern opinions on the subject. His much-reviled book, The Liberation of Women, created a controversy that remains alive today in certain corners of Islam.The heretic in question, Qasim Amin (1863-1908), a young judge from a prominent family, was hard to ignore. He was well connected among Egyptian intellectuals and a founder of Cairo University...he insisted that the independent Egypt of his generation’s dreams would need a new kind of woman, educated and (relatively) free.Today, no one would call him a feminist. The author also claimed that freedom for adult women would make them happier spouses. He wanted fair divorce laws; he felt women should be less burdened by the demand to veil themselves; and he even suggested they should be able to go out of their houses unescorted. Robert Fulford: Islam's original feminist


An account of the " six-day conference, which convened in Cairo on October 23, 1999, hosted 40 sessions, 14 round tables, and 10 workshops attended by more than 150 scholars and writers from Arab countries and around the world."

The conference and the papers delivered have generated substantial interest mainly from the outside, particularly in the commentary elicited from Arab intellectuals as expressed in the Arab press. Given this interest, we will explore two distinct facets of the conference. The first is the historical relevance of Qasim Amin and his society to ours, including the way in which selective messages of “Tahrir” are appropriated to serve state feminism and governmental planning pertaining to women. Second is the attempt of women intellectuals and feminists to reflect on the past century, probing into their own history, struggles, and setbacks, and assessing future challenges. The conferees devoted much of their efforts to the discussion of women's confrontations with salafi (ancestral traditionalism), usuli (fundamentalist), islahi (reformist) and ijtihadi (interpretive) Islamism (often treated as one uniform entity); the two-edged sword of shari'a interpretation; the gendered struggle over legal frontiers; state policies on women; women's educational and occupational progress; links between Arab and Western feminism; and the merits and likelihood of eliminating gender from literature and language. A Century After Qasim Amin: BY MALEK ABISAAB and RULA JURDI ABISAAB


The Liberation of Women and The New Woman
Two Documents in the History of Egyptian Feminism
Qasim Amin
Translated by Samiha Sidhom Peterson
Mar 2000
224pp. Paperback
12.50 x 23.00 cm
LE 60.00
ISBN 978 977 424 567 1
For sale worldwide
Qasim Amin (1863–1908), an Egyptian lawyer, is best known for his advocacy of women’s emancipation in Egypt, through a number of works including The Liberation of Women and The New Woman. In the first of these important books in 1899, he started from the premise that the liberation of women was an essential prerequisite for the liberation of Egyptian society from foreign domination, and used arguments based on Islam to call for an improvement in the status of women. In doing so, he promoted the debate on women in Egypt from a side issue to a major national concern, but he also subjected himself to severe criticism from the khedival palace, as well as from religious leaders, journalists, and writers. In response he wrote The New Woman, published in 1900, in which he defended his position and took some of his ideas further. In The New Woman, Amin relies less on arguments based on the Quran and Sayings of the Prophet, and more openly espouses a Western model of development. Although published a century ago, these two books continue to be a source of controversy and debate in the Arab world and remain key works for understanding the Arab feminist movement. The Liberation of Women and The New Woman appear here in English translation for the first time in one volume.
The translator, Samiha Sidhom Peterson, is a professor of sociology at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.


Post a Comment

<< Home