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Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid

Published on Oct 24, 2013 by Phyllis Chesler

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It's been a Whirlwind Week!

On October 24, 2013, The New York Times published a letter I wrote to them about a subject close to my heart—honor killings. This was in response to their recent article "Policing Village Moral Codes as Women Stream to India's Cities." Click here to read it.

Last week, the Middle East Forum appointed me as one of their Fellows – a great honor indeed!

While doing media for "An American Bride in Kabul," I have also been posting at FB like crazy. Here are some selected favorites.

  • · On October 21, I wrote a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia—no, he has not responded and men with scimitars have not come to my door.
  • · On October 16, I mused upon and posted a photo of a Lady in a Red Afghan Burqa, who is posed balancing caged birds on her head.
  • · On October 11, I practically wept at an image of a child bride—an all-too-common practice in Afghanistan and other central Asian and Middle Eastern countries; the photo has now been "seen" by almost 800 people so far.

I've also been involved with what's going on in Israel at the Kotel; I am one of the founders of Women of the Wall and do not want to see our original aim compromised. Along with 18 other founders and other supporters, I signed an open letter reiterating that. The Times of Israel, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and The Forward have been covering the issue.

But, sadly, I have had to set aside writing longer articles for a while. The media interest in An American Bride in Kabul has been overwhelming and has kept me hopping.

In the past week, I was live on MSNBC TV on "The Cycle," on BBC Radio, on "The Stephen Nolan Show" (recorded in the home-built studio of Larry Josephson, formerly of WBAI!), and on ABC's major late-night radio show in Australia, "Late Night Live with Phillip Adams."

I've also had an exceptionally warm reception in the Jewish and Israeli media: at Israel National News, The New Jersey Jewish Standard, on "The Dennis Prager Show," on Rabbi David Jay Kaufman's internet TV show "Understanding the World," and on Phil Fink's "Shalom America," which will air this weekend. In its October 25-November 1 weekly edition, The Jewish Connection carries a wonderful review of "Bride." There are more interviews scheduled.

All the journalists have been very friendly. I am so used to being challenged that admiration, respect, and friendliness always surprise as well as delight me.

When I've had a moment to breathe, I've relaxed with some gorgeous images of "Orientalist" paintings. (No I don't think this is a colonial venture. These painters have lovingly preserved places, people, and times that they treasure.) An Egyptian philanthropist agrees with me. These paintings are owned by a private collector, Shafik Gabr, who has generously shared them in a precious (and expensive) book. These "Orientalist" paintings do not, exoticize, or "otherize" the Islamic East. If anything, they are exquisitely worshipful paintings of the light, the colors, the materiality of life in the Middle East and North Africa in the nineteenth century. I have shared them on my FB page.

John Frederick Lewis's 1875 painting titled "A Cairo Bazaar. The Dellal," painted in 1875, is exceptional. Gabr quotes William Makepeace Thackeray: "There is a fortune to be made for painters in Cairo….(the) brilliant colour, the light and shade. There is a picture on every street, and at every bazaar stall." And there are Ladies in the picture, they are all face veiled, passively observing, also intent on the purchase.

Also entrancing is the very earthily erotic pose of "The Sultry Princess Nazili Hanum," painted by the nineteenth century female painter, Elisabet Jerichau-Baumann, sometime between 1869 and 1874. Only women had access to the harems. Western male painters painted landscapes, men, and prostituted women. Of course, this saddens me profoundly but the paintings are, nevertheless, beautiful, playful, erotic, emotional.

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