Philobiblon: A brave woman

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A brave woman

Chapati mystery posts on a very brave woman, presumably a local, who tried to use a male disguise to preach at a major mosque in Bahrain.

One hates to think of how she is being treated right now; I think of the few brave women who tried to assert women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia in 1990, who reports at the time suggested were very harshly treated for this relative mild infraction. More on the driving issue here.

See also Amnesty International's report on the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia here. Bahrain's probably not as bad, but ...

The would-be imam is already being dismissed as "mad", such an easy label to apply to any woman who tries to fight for her rights in a direct way.

The immediate parallel that springs to mind is Lady Eleanor Davies, the Civil War prophet, who in a religious protest in the cathedral of Lichfield, in which she was accompanied by several other women, sat (shock, horror) on the bishop's throne, tore down "popish" hangings and threw dirty water over them. It was clearly a political action, but she ended up not in a jail, but in Bedlam.

So many other women, the meaning of whose actions can now never be recovered, must have suffered the same fate. It is surely beholden on us to look very hard for rational driving forces behind actions before accepting others' diagnoses of "madness".

There's little about Lady Eleanor on the net, but there is a short biog here.


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