Australian writer Geraldine Brooks is now known internationally for her bestselling novels, but as a foreign correspondent Geraldine spent six years covering the Middle East. And when her poised and sophisticated assistant at the Cairo bureau of the Wall Street Journal suddenly 'adopted the uniform of a Muslim fundamentalist', Geraldine Brooks set out to discover the truth about women and Islam.
Sometimes adopting a chador as camouflage, she was granted meetings (and often astonishingly intimate insights) by everyone from Queen Noor of Jordan to former Iranian President Rafsanjani's daughter. She met with Palestinians protesting about 'honour killings' for adultery and sheltered girls transformed into warriors by the Emirates' armed forces. Throughout the Middle East, Brooks was invited into the homes and lives of these women where she found real stories that overturn western stereotypes.
This beautiful new edition includes a powerful new Afterword by the author.
The prophet Mohammed loathed sexual repression. In fact, throughout Islamic teachings, he and his closest disciples extol women's sexuality and their right to sexual pleasure. Even Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law and the founder of Shilte Islam, said: "Almighty God created sexual desire in ten parts, then he gave nine parts to women and one to man".
Yet in no other culture are women more repressed; sexually and otherwise. Despite Mohammed's original intent, women are veiled, secluded, and mutilated - all in the name of Islam. In the bold investigation, Geraldine Brooks uncovered a host of unexplainable customs that directly contradict Islamic teachings. She shatters myths and shares startling discoveries in this bestselling book which has become a classic of the genre. Nine Parts of Desire is an intimate portrait that lifts the veil on modern Muslim women.
Geraldine Brooks throught she had seen it all. As the Wall Street Journal's foreign correspondent, she had spent six years covering wars, insurrections and resurgent fundamentalism in Middle East. But in the midst of political upheaval, the award-winning reporter watched a more intriguing story unfold before her eyes.
After Brook's first year in Egypt, her vivacious Egyptian translator, Sahar, suddenly and unexpectedly exchanged her Western ideas and wardrobe fro Islamic posture and dress "hijab." Trading her elaborate coffure, makeup and Western dress for a severe blue scarf and dowdy sack, the Egyptian adopted the uniform of a Muslim fundamentalist.
"It was like watching a nature film run in reverse: she had crumpled her bright wings and folded herself into a dull cocoon." said a confused Brooks. Furthermore, the adoption of hijab signified Sahar's acceptance of:
* a legal code that valued her testimony at half the worth of a man's;
* an inheritance system that allotted her half the legacy of her brother.
* a future of domestic life in which her husband could beat her if she disobeyed him, make her share his attentions with three more wives, divorce her at whim and get absolute custody of her children.
Sahar's stunning transformatin - from liberated, Harvard educated sophisticate to enshrouded, deferential fundamentalist - launched Brooks on a mission to understand what hs perceived to be a giant step backward. Was it possible to reclaim the positive messages of the Koran and devise some kind of Muslim feminism? Could Muslim fundamentalists co-exist with Western liberals? Nine Parts of Desire records Brooks search for answers.
Wrapped in her chador, Brooks stopped at nothing in her investigation, including;
* wrangling an invitation in Iran to have tea with the Ayatollah's widow where she discovered that the seventy-five-year-ol Mrs Khomeini dyes her hair bright red.
* eludding Saudi Arabia's severe segregation of the sexes at a bacchanal, revealiing the blatant hypocrisy of this male-dominated society.
* training and performing as a bellydancer in Cairo to probe a livelihood under attac from Egytian militants.
* accompanying Jordan's Queen Noor through the darkest days of Gulf War to experience the tightrope public women walk in the Muslim world.
What she uncovered was shocking. Nine Parts of Desire probes this intensely private world in which:
*one in five Muslim girls fall victim to brutal genital mutilation; later in life, one if five births will end in a mother's death due to scars.
* convicted Saudi Arabian adulterers are stoned to death in public rituals.
* hundreds of women suspected of premarital or extramarital sex are murdered each year; these 'honour killings', carried out by a father or brother to 'clear the family name', elevate the killer to the status of local hero.
* Iraqui soldiers are unashamedly employed as rapists in prisons; justified by a chapter in the Koran which speaks of the spoils of holy war, woman are systematically raped in order to break the spirit of their men.
"It is hard to imagine a more perverse appropriation of religion," writes Brooks. Such twisted interpretations of the Koran are not limited to wartime atrocities; daily life is governed by a host of customs that ignore true Islamic teachings. Genital mutilation, done to reduce female sexual pleasure, directly contradicts the teachings of Mohammed.
In case after case, male pride and power have warped the original messages of a once-liberating faith. But despite suffocating restrictions imposed on the female half of the Muslim population, Nine Parts of Desire reveals an unlikely form of feminism that has take shape beneath the heavy shroud of the chador, protected and nurtured within the walls of private homes.
Ironically, Brooks witnessed "the brightest hope of positive change" among the black chadors of devout Iranian woman. Conspicuous adherence to religious rules has provided a high ground from which to make their case for women's rights. Slowly and cautiously they work to make safe havens for women in the name of Islam.Geraldine Brooks
is the Australian-born author of the bestselling novels Year of Wonders and March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006. Her eagerly-awaited third novel, People of the Book, will be published in 2008. She is also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence, both published in Australia by Bantam. A graduate of Sydney University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Brooks was a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East. She lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their son.
Random House Australia
Author: Geraldine Brooks
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