Fatima Mernissi is a Moroccan sociologist and writer. She is also one of the few well-known Arab feminist around the world.
Fatima Mernissi was born in Fez to a middle-class family. As studied at the Mohammed V university in Rabat as well as at the university of Paris and at the Brandeis University, where she gained her doctorate. Afterwards, Mernissi returned to Morocco to lecture at the Mohammed V Univeristy, at the Faculté des Lettres.
She was mainly active in field work in Morocco, but would occasionally conduct sociological research for UNESCO, ILO, and the Moroccan authorities. Mernissi was awarded with the Prince of Asturias Award and the Erasmus Prize.
As a feminist, a strong believer of gender equality, she was mainly concerned with Islam and the role of the woman. In her works, she talks about gender, sexual identity and the status of women in Islam. She wants to undermine the systems that oppress Muslim women. However, her main focus was Moroccan society and culture. Mernissi’s works have gained recognition all over the world and have been translated to different languages, including Dutch and Japanese. Mernissi became a well-known sociologist and feminist, especially in Morocco and France.
There, they tell me to wear the veil. Here, they are telling me to put my hips in a little girl’s skirt, and I am this lovely full woman. You’ve got this Ph.D. and you’re worrying, ‘Am I skinny enough?’
The sociologist most famous work, The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Islam, was banned in Morocco, Iran, and Arab states of the Persian Gulf. This book critically analyses the Islamic law and tradition. She concluded that the original message of the Prophet Mohammed, equality between the sexes, has been changes by the political leaders and religious scholars over the years.
Her works are still important today, as there is still gender equality in the world. Recently, there has been a rise in feminist movements and organizations that are started by Muslim women. Many of them are inspired by Muslim or Arab feminists like Fatima Mernissi and Nawal al Saadawi.
Unfortunately, the famous Moroccan sociologist passed away two years ago, in Rabat.