Beyond the Veil: At Play in the Bed of the Prophet
The Judaeo-Christian West has long orientalized the Muslim East through romanticized images of sensuous harem girls. More recently, a more secularized West still orients a more foreboding Islam through dimwitted, even Disneyized, media nostalgia of the Arabian Nights. From the black-and-white “I Dream of Jeannie” to the childlike coloring of “Aladdin,” the “Oriental” woman is easily recognizable. In such ethnocentric views the Muslim woman is depicted as especially oppressed, screened off by the whim of tribalized males from her all too alienable rights as a modern female.2 The various academic discourses on women and Islam have evolved from Orientalist to feminist on the outside and range from conservative apologetic to moderately confrontational on the inside. Western feminists have often defined Islam in the Middle East as a paradigmatic case of patriarchy, one of the more visible blips in the ongoing history of male domination. Yet many Muslims suggest with missionary zeal that Islam is the ultimate liberation for women. Not surprisingly, there is no dearth of recent literature, popular and academic, on gender and Islam.3
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