Notable Feminist Fatema Mernissi

Moroccan feminist writer and notable sociologist Fatema Mernissi is currently a lecturer at Rabat’s Mohammed V University as well as being a research scholar at the University Institute for Scientific Research. Her first scholarly work, entitled Beyond the Veil, which focuses on women in the Arab World and Muslim societies, was published in 1975, with revised editions being published in Britain in 1985 and in the United States in 1987. Beyond the Veil has become a classic in the fields of sociology and anthropology relating to this segment of society. Her follow-up book, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Islam is a study of the role of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, and is considered to be her most famous book from an Islamic feminist point of view. It was published in 1987 in French and in 1991 it was translated into English.

Born into a middle-class family in the Moroccan city of Fez in 1940, Fatema Mernissi completed her basic schooling in Morocco before attending the Sorbonne (University of Paris) in France where she studied political science. She went on to earn her doctorate at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, USA. Mernissi returned to Morocco as a lecturer at the Mohammed V University where she taught methodology, psychosociology and family sociology between 1974 and 1981. Her work has included undertaking sociological research for the Moroccan authorities, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the ILO (International Labor Organization). Her research work has included conducting interviews throughout Morocco in order to map trends and attitudes relating to women and work, as well as contributing to articles analyzing Islam and women in Morocco from a historical and contemporary perspective.

In her role as an Islamic feminist, Mernissi has taken a great interest in women in Islam, as well as the development of Islamic views throughout history and modern times, particularly relating to how developments have affected women. In 2003 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in Spain. The award honors individuals and organizations around the world for noteworthy achievements in the humanities, sciences and public affairs. Other works published by Fatema Mernissi include Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women; Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World; Scheherazade Goes West; Islam, Gender and Social Change; and her personal memoirs Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood in which she describes her youth spent in a traditional harem in Fez and offers viewpoints on a variety of relevant topics, including Islamic feminism, French colonialism and Arab nationalism.