Madcaps, Screwballs, and Conwomen: The Female Trickster in American Culture

Khalida Messaoudi, Author, Elisabeth Schemla, Author, Lori Landay, Author University of Pennsylvania Press $35 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8122-3449-7
One of the most courageous, vigilant and eloquent women's rights activists in Algeria, Messaouidi has lived under a fatwa, or death sentence issued by Islamic fundamentalists, since 1993. She has rather miraculously survived several assassination attempts and in 1997, was elected to the National Assembly. In 1995, the former math teacher was interviewed extensively by French journalist Schemla, and those conversations--compiled here in question-and-answer form--comprise a lucid and riveting account of the recent violent upheaval in Algeria. Messaouidi supports constitutional democracy in a country currently torn by a totalitarian military regime (the National Liberation Front) on the one hand, and, on the other, a fundamentalist organization (the Islamic Salvation Front) that has killed tens of thousands of Algerians in an attempt to overthrow the government. Messaouidi proves an intelligent, candid and good-humored speaker, noting briskly that Islamic extremists view women as ""evil,"" relying on skewed readings of the Koran. She points out that the systematic rape and murder of women who, like Messaouidi, live alone, wear makeup, and/or appear in public without a veil, are, in some way, the logical fallout of The Family Code passed by the supposedly secular FLN government in 1980. These laws state, among other things, that women are not legally considered adults, and cannot choose or divorce their husbands. Implicit throughout this important, illuminating book are the dangers of politically empowered religious extremism to the lives of real people. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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