Vigilant optimism amid metastazation of fundamentalism

A courageous woman is Karima Bennoune professor of international law, who wrote a book about the horrors of fundamentalist terror in Islamic countries over the past fifty years. Equally brave, even more courageous are the women and men whose untold stories she has recorded under the title “Your Fatwa does not apply here”. (Norton paperback 2015) Born in Algeria, Karima fled the country to America because of terror in her country in her youth. After her studies she undertook to travel to places from her youth and to comparable places in the Muslim world, from North and Central Africa, the Middle East, to Afghanistan, in order to listen to relatives of the victims of the terror. Often these relatives who themselves has sufferd severely, have found each other and have started movements to openly draw attention to the murdered women and men. Not only is this attention necessary because honest research has never been carried out and perpetrators have not been prosecuted. In many cases, however, the victims are journalists, judges and local politicians who stood up for freedom and did not keep their mouths shut despite the threat. Their voice should not be throttled by their brutal death. Not even of the countless disappeared people who were randomly killed, because they were schoolteacher or students, or because their clothes and love for music and dance did not please the fundamentalists.
Karima herself is of Islamic descent. She grew up in a liberal environment, in which Muslims lived together in peace with Jews and Christians, and believers left each other alone. As a woman, she pays special attention to the position of women who has deteriorated in many of the Islamic countries in the past half century. No freedom of clothing, many obstacles to study and to lead an independent life, hardly any government action against sexual and domestic violence.
Karima gives the floor to a crowd of women and men who, despite the injustice done to them, their family and friends, do not give up courage and keep and pass on hope. Fundamentalists, with their reign of terror,have only one purpose to paralyze everyone through fear. She points out that, despite attacks in the West and without diminishing the atrocity of 9/11 in New York, the vast majority of victims have fallen and fall are the Muslim population in the countries where fundamentalism is prevalent. The question throughout the book: how can bearded men call themselves Muslim if they kill countless brothers and sisters in the name of Allah? How can they kill their fellow humans who are also their brothers and sisters? Real Muslims don’t do that.
Karima and her fellow human rights defenders, and women’s rights as a testcase, deserve our admiration and support. Here we touch on something that clearly hurts the writer. How is it that organizations for freedom and equality and human rights like Amnesty International in the West show so little solidarity with the women’s movements in Islamic countries. They even abandon them when they point out that the culture in these countries is simply different from that in the West.
Although “Your Fatwa does not apply here” gives the floor to people who have experienced horrific things, the book is serene. A smile is certainly not lacking. What particularly impresses is the conviction that if we don’t give fear the last word, hope gives unsuspected courage in the form of “Vigilant optimism”.
When will the Dutch translation appear?

A couple of months ago I read two books that I stumbled on in my bookstore, also both by female authors. Black Wave, a journalistic and breathtaking book about the atrocities in the Middle-East as a result of the conflict between  Iran en Saud Arabia; and a novel by Nazanine Hozar about a woman growing up in Iran before en during the so called Revolution 1979.
Together with “Your Fatwa doesnot apply here” by Karima Bennoune these three books written by modern, intelligent and courageous women, inspire us not to turn our backs on the people of conflict areas but to empathize with them and support them and keep the torch of hope burning with them

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