Obituary: Fatema Mernissi leaves a legacy of feminism
Casablanca - Fatema Mernissi, a sociologist and writer who was considered one of Morocco’s most powerful and intellectual women, died November 30th in Rabat at age 75.
Author of many books, including The Political Harem: The Prophet and Women and Sheharazade Goes West, Mernissi received the Princess of Asturias literature prize in 2003.
In Sheharazade Goes West, Mernissi called on women of both the East and the West to act with the words to counter violence against them. She evoked her childhood in Fez, where she was born in 1940, in her best-selling Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood.
Mernissi went to the Sorbonne University in 1974 in Paris following her literature studies in Rabat. She earned a sociology doctorate at Brandeis University in Massachusetts in the United States. The following year, she published her first book, Beyond the Veil, which quickly became a classic in cultural studies in the United States.
Mernissi returned to Morocco to teach sociology at Mohammed V University in Rabat. In 1987, The Political Harem was published, which she said she considered her most important work as she looked into links between Islam, oppression of women and the suppression of democracy in predominately Muslim countries.
In the 1990s, she became involved in charity work in Morocco. She took part in many workshops with human rights activists, former prisoners of the “years of lead” (les années de plomb in the 1960s through the 1980s) and journalists.
Mernissi exposed how male power managed from the earliest days of Islam to obscure the political role of women. She was one of the first Moroccan feminists to denounce patriarchy in Muslim culture.
Soumaya Naamane Guessous, a Moroccan sociologist and university professor, paid tribute to Mernissi on Facebook, writing: “Fatema Mernissi radiated through her writings, her positions, courage, commitment and contribution to the emancipation of Moroccan women and has trained several generations to criticism, analysis and rigour.”