New from the University Press
"Unbowed: An Algerian Woman Confronts Islamic Fundamentalism" by Khalida Messaoudi with Elisabeth Schemla, $14.95 paper; 184 pages
One of the most courageous, viligant and eloquent women's rights activists in Algeria, Khalida Messaoudi has lived under a fatwa, or death sentence issued by Islamic fundamentalists, since 1993. Messaoudi did not flee this threat by seeking refuge outside her country.
Instead, she went into hiding within Algeria, where she continues her fight for emancipation and independence from religious extremism. She has miraculously survived several assasination attempts and in 1997 was elected to the Algerian National Assembly.
"Unbowed" consists of interviews with Khalida Messaoudi conducted by Le Nouvel Observateur editor Elisabeth Schemla. What emerges is a rare first-hand perspective of the situation in Algeria. As Schemla discovered: "Everything Messaoudi represents defies the polarities that are ripping Algeria apart today.
"She is 'indigenous,' in that she is a Berber from Kabylia, yet she is also a highly educated intellectual; she is a lay Muslim in a society that is slowly reimposing religious constraints on every aspect of life, from the law to the smallest details of women's dress and behavior; she is a Francophone, Arabophone (classical and dialectal), and Berberphone in a post-colonial Algeria that seeks to stifle dissent by imposing a monolingual Arabic system of education."
Along with her desire to reinstitute democracy in Algeria, Messaoudi struggles with newly passed laws that dictate, among other things, that women are not legally adults and cannot travel without the consent of a male family member.
Publishers Weekly called the book "...a riveting account of the recent violent upheaval in Algeria....Implicit throughout this important, illuminating book are the dangers of politically empowered religious extremism to the lives of real people."
-- University of Pennsylvania PressFront page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page
Originally published on September 3, 1998