With her book, Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression, Australian author Ida Lichter has created an anthology of inspiring stories surrounding female (and male) Muslim reformers from around the world—some who are prepared to challenge institutionalized Islamic persecution against women, thereby putting themselves at risk of everything from public ridicule, to arrest, to even death.
A recent positive review of the book, published by a contemporary UK feminism website, pointed out that what’s refreshing about Muslim Women Reformers is Lichter’s objectivity throughout, along with the use of a ‘large number of Arabic sources in translation from newspapers and Muslim reform websites rarely utilised by the mainstream media in the UK.’
I was recently able to be in touch with Lichter—who worked as a research psychiatrist before becoming an author—to ask her some questions about her work and related issues:
What do you hope your book will accomplish? Do you have any goals or aims attached to it?
Ida Lichter: In my research, I uncovered many women activists who are bravely working to overturn institutionalized gender discrimination in their societies. However, their voices are barely heard above the din of extremists. Some of them also face increasing state-controlled Internet restrictions. By amplifying their voices, I aimed to increase awareness of Muslim women reformers and their organisations, support their empowerment and provide a resource to stimulate further interest and research. Some researchers travelling to Afghanistan have actually approached me for assistance in making contact with reformers I profiled in my book.
Has your life changed since your book has been published?
IL: I don’t think life can be the same after my ‘journey’ with these reformers in their world of unimaginable restrictions. I’m still immersed in the subject, occupied with reading, speaking and writing on the subject.
You lived in London for a decade and there saw the increasing Islamisation which eventually led to writing the book. Is there a specific example of something that happened there that inspired Muslim Women Reformers?
IL: In the area of north London where I was living, I noticed an increasing number of women (some apparently converts to Islam), completely covered by the abaya, niqab and gloves. Proselytizing became common on the Kilburn High Road, where tables covered with white cloths were laden with pamphlets and books on Islam. Young, bearded men in white kaftans and beaming smiles enticed passers-by to discuss Islam as the fulfilment of Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus as a prophet of Islam.
On the same road, I saw two self-styled ‘religious police’ enter an Asian takeaway and demand that the owner remove a picture of a Hindu elephant god from the wall. Later, when I asked the owner about the incident, he said they’d come to his shop on other occasions and were demanding he remove the picture because it was offensive to Islam.
There were many examples of increasing Islamism in the public domain.
Tomorrow, I will have more from my interview with Lichter, where she shares her own frustrations on the issue, and hopes for the brave subjects of her book. More information on Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression can be found at: http://www.footprint.com.au/