Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian writer, activist, phsyician and psychiatrists. She has written extensively on the subject of women in Islam with particular atention on female genital mutilation in her society.
Born in 1930 in a small village, her family was at once traditional and progressive. At age 6, she was “circumcised” (otherwise known as female genital mutilation, a non-medical practice that is illegal in many parts of the world), but her father also insisted that all his children be educated. Her father campaigned against the British occupation during the 1919 revolution which resulted in being exiled to a small town in the Nile Delta and being denied promotions in his Ministry of Education job. Through it all, he encoraged his daughter to study and speak her mind.
Saadawi graduated with an MD in 1955. Through her practice, she observed women’s physical and psychological problems and connected them with oppressive cultural, patriarchal, class and imperialistic oppression. In 1972, she published Al-Mar’a wa Al-Jins (Woman and Sex) confronting the various aggressions against women’s bodies. This book became a foundational text of second-wave feminism and led to her being dismissed from her position with the Ministry of Health and other public health positions. She was imprisoned in September 1981 after publishing a feminist magazine called Confrontation, but was released a month after Anwar Sadat’s assassination. She has written books and memoirs based on her own experiences as well as those of women she met in prison.
She was forced to fell Egypt in 1988 when threatened by Islamist and political persecution. Between then and 1996, she held positions at various universities in the US and France before returning to Egypt to continue her activism. She was among the protesters in Tahrir Square in 2011, and has called for the abolition of religious instruction in Egyptian schools. She was a devout muslim, expresses the view that women are oppressed by the larger partriarchal religions, but also states that the root of the oppression of women lies in the post-modern capitalist system that is supported by religions.
For today, here are two quotes of very different sentiment from Saadawi: “Danger has been a part of my life ever since I picked up a pen and wrote. Nothing is more perilous than truth in a world that lies” and “Love has made me a different person. It has made the world a beautiful place”