Friday, May 20, 2011

In the Land of Invisible Women--a story of life in The Kingdom

In the Land of Invisible Women is the memoir of a Pakistani-British doctor, trained in the USA who takes a short-contract position at the Saudi National Guard Hospital in the Kingdom's ultra-conservative capital cit, Riyadh. She knows, as a Muslim, that it will be a difficult time, but takes the risk. Along the way she goes to Mecca for the Hajj and rediscovers her faith--finding a few surprises along the journey that reminded me of the experience Malcolm X had when he rediscovered his Muslim faith surrounded by other pilgrims. Predictably, she chafes at the restrictions on women, but has her eyes opened at the many ways Saudi women, while "invisible" do manage to make themselves heard and do manage to make points toward progress. In the end she has an unexpected epiphany about how constrained the men are. Yes, the MEN. Read it, you'll see.
This book has many, many parallels to it's Western-Christian "kindred spirits" (I dare not say "soul mates"--do I?) the ultra-right wing Christian Patriarchy. Strictly limiting women's roles, forcing all to censor their own thoughts and rigidly conform to a school of thought that is NOT based in either Holy Book, but it a set of man-made rules and constraints. Such things punish everyone--man, women, child and probably even animals. They set shackles on the mind as much as shackles on behavior.

You'll also see that the Kingdom is rife with dissenters---remember while you read that dissenting religion started the first wave of immigration to what is today the United States. And, while this book shows the modern US in a favorable light, it fails to recognize the huge level of religious divide that we are living with. (Admittedly, the author has only lived in New York City.) Anyone who sincerely believes a Christian Theocracy is what our Enlightenment-Influenced Founding Fathers wanted would do very well to read this book, and others, about life in the Kingdom. (And do some reading, please on the Enlightenment and on the Founding Fathers.) Dr Ahmed's story would be very inspiring to daughters living under strict Patriarchal Father--the very girls who need the hope this book gives, but who will never see it.

The Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed


Jeanne said...

How interesting to read about Saudi from a muslim women's view! My husband worked in a Riyadh hospital for a number of years. His view would no doubt be very different!

Hopewell said...

I'd love to hear HIS story!!

hekates said...

Thanks - I've just about finished this book, and am struck by the similarities of the theocracy in the Saudi Kingdom, and what some of our Dominionist Christian people would like.

And I wonder if a man's view would be that much different - aside from not being veiled, the author does a striking version of how the culture hamstrings men from achieving their full potential. I can't imagine, for a Western man, to be so artificially separated from women.

Hopewell said...

Great observations, "hekates". Yes, I was struck,too, that she "got it" and that it constrains the men, too. Yes, there are SO MANY similarities between the Christian Patriarchy, Gothard, etc and "The Kingdom". Scary for Americans, scarier still when you consider how apathetic most Americans are today. The theocracy could happen here if we are not careful.