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Video: English professor explores the "Velvet Jihad" of female Muslim writers

September  07, 2012

Dr. Umme Al-wazedi's pre-tenure sabbatical report is pending publication in the
South Asian Review. Feel free to email her to read more about her research.

Augustana assistant professor of English Umme Al-wazedi uses the term "Velvet Jihad" to define the works of Muslim women writers who are working persistently to bring positive changes.

Al-wazedi has adopted the terminology from University of Texas professor Faegheh Shirazi, who borrowed Vetvet Jihad from the 1989 anti-communist Velvet Revolution of the Czechs and Slovaks, to draw parallels between the non-violent resistance and Muslim women activists living in the Muslim world. 

Muslim women writers have participated in "Velvet Jihads" throughout the centuries. These writers, who have declared jihad against the patriarchs and Mullahs, are courageous enough to resist the oppressive rules of Islamic fundamentalism in their homes and in the state through their writing which is always non-violent. Taslima Nasrin and Tehmina Durrani are also participating in this jihad. Social conditions in South Asian societies have compelled Nasrin and Durrani to engage in a struggle against religious oppression, a struggle waged largely in words, a velvet jihad and that is why it is important to re-read, reassess and reexamine the works of these writers against a new world order. 

However, when they published their works they were accused of "selling their stories" to the Western audience with the purpose of degrading Islam and their tradition and culture. Why is it that when a Muslim woman writes about the oppression of Islam she is accused of "selling her story?" What is their position in the discourse of Islam, gender and feminism in South Asia?