Bad Girls of the Arab World. Edited by Nadia Yaqub and Rula Quawas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017. 256 pp. $27.95.
The essay collection, Bad Girls of the Arab World, describes women whose perspectives and transgressive behavior have challenged norms in the Muslim-majority Arab states. The book highlights many examples including a video campaign against sexual harassment by students of the late Jordanian academic and women's advocate Rula Quawas, and the dissent of three Sudanese women singers, Setona, Rasha, and Alsarah, who used the internet to circumvent the ban on female singing under Sudan's Islamic laws.
Unfortunately, Bad Girls totally ignores the role of Islamism in the persecution of women, labeling those who address this topic as "Islamophobes" and blaming "colonial and neocolonial encounters with the West" and "the pressure of neoliberal capitalism and globalizing," which has "directly affected gender relations and the lived experience of Arab women." Not surprisingly, the editors blame Israel for an alleged "campaign of mother blaming" to "dehumanize Palestinians and deflect responsibility from the murder of children away from the soldiers who do the shooting."
And by way of adding insult to injury, Bad Girls ignores the real "bad girls" of the Middle East: women of religious minorities (Christians, Jews, Yazidis, et al.) who defy Islamism by their mere existence and who endure daily harassment and persecution.
It is disappointing to see the University of Texas Press push a false Islamist narrative. Bad Girls of the Arab World is a poor attempt to whitewash bad laws, bad culture, bad doctrines, and bad theology by using the bad colonial bogeyman. Even worse, it slanders those who attempt to start an honest discussion as "Islamophobes."
Cynthia Farahat, Middle East Forum