Behind the Veil – Women Writers of the Islamic World: Nadifa Mohamed, Bejan Matur, Shereen el Feki and Fariba Hachtroudi in conversation with Urvashi Bhutalia at the Jaipur Literature Festival
The session witnessed four different voices of women writers interpreting the world behind the “veil” of their Islamic culture. Shereen, author of Sex and the Citadel, held sex as her lens and brought the politics of sexuality into the picture. She traced the tradition of erotic fiction created by women writers of the Arabic world. She put the ‘politics in the bedroom’ as a source to the politics practiced outside it. She drew a strong argument about the power politics saying that it is important to understand the power in the personal life in order to achieve it in the public sphere. Fariba, who travelled back to Iran from France, brought a different face behind the veil into the view, bringing Islamic world into the focus. Her book ‘L’ Exilee’ (translated as ‘The Exiled’) portrays her journey.
She stated how important it was for women to be free in their body in order to be free in their mind. Both Fariba and Shereen looked back towards their roots to understand themselves better. Nadifa turned the session towards the Somalian women, their loneliness, their oppressions and shared how women’s bodies are used as a tool to impose ‘veil’ upon them. Bejan Matur, author of the book How Abraham Abandoned Me, moved the discussion, very interestingly to a hope that things are changing and will change further in the years to come “behind the veil”, with the help of technology, internet and most importantly confidence and an understanding of women’s own self. The session that witnessed a packed venue, unfortunately had to oblige the clock.
An hour seemed too short to capture the nuances of such an interesting subject.
By M.S. Suman @ Jaipur Literature Festival