Sexual inequality is a prominent feature of both Western and Islamic societies, but the underlying concepts of female sexuality in Christian and Muslim traditions are very different. In this classic study, Fatema Mernissi argues that many Muslim scholars historically portrayed women as active and in possession of an aggressive sexuality. Such traditions as veiling and domestic isolation arose from a desire to control the potential threat posed to the social order by women's sexuality. The requisites of modernization, however, are incompatible with these traditional Islamic structures, and the ensuing contradictions w pervade nearly every Muslim country. Mernissi explores the historical links between the religion of Islam, the societal oppression of women, and the suppression of democracy in predominantly Muslim nations.
Fatema Mernissi is an internationally distinguished Moroccan feminist and sociologist. After completing a degree in Political Science at University Mohammed V, Mernissi was awarded a scholarship at the Sorbonne in Paris. She later moved to the United States to attend Brandeis University, where she earned a doctorate in Sociology. After completing her education, Mernissi returned to Morocco where she became a professor of Sociology at University Mohammed V in Rabat. Mernissi has served as a visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. She has written extensively on the status of women in Islam and the Arab world. As a leading advocate for women's rights in the Muslim world, Mernissi is praised for her insightful commentaries on the complex social and political realities of Islamic culture. Her works have been translated into thirty languages and include Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women's Rights in Islam and Women's Rebellion and Islamic Memory. In 2003, Mernissi was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature along with Susan Sontag.