Smarmy Alligator

Politics, pop culture, and self-deprecation

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I have been immersed in all things Islam lately. Well, literarally, anyway. I just finished reading Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, the first book in the Cairo Trilogy. Reading this book sent me into culture shock, just sitting on my couch. I got so sucked into the story, the characters, and the strangeness of the traditional Islamic culture, that I would look up and forget that I was allowed to leave the house, despite being a woman.

Palace Walk was written in 1956, and maybe it’s just the translation, but the formality of the prose really contributes to the sense of antiquity, of stepping backward into another world, one I could not imagine being part of. It made me wonder, over and over, whether life in places like Iran, or Afghanistan, is still as stifled, as repressive, as the life depicted by Mahfouz in Cairo at the turn of the century.

To follow up on my foray into Islamic studies, I started Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. I’ve been looking foward to reading this book for months, and thus far, it’s living up to all my expectations. Nafisi relates what is was like living in Iran during the revolution, contextualizing her memories in her story about a clandestine reading group she led in the early 1990s. It’s fascinating.

All I ever hear about Islam, though, are these stories about fundamentalism, about its repressive side, its traditional side. I want a broader picture. I want to see the side that would make a Western woman, someone I’ve known since childhood, convert. I want to see the good things. I’m sure they exist.

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Written by laura k

June 8, 2004 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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