Historical roots of a modern debate
Social and intellectual change
• European colonial powers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
became overarching economic and political parameters of the
• For women in general the effects of European political and cultural
encroachment were complicated and in certain respects decidedly negative.
• From the start the treatment and status of women were intertwined with
other issues that these intellectual considers critically important to society,
including nationalism and the need for national advancement and for
political, social and cultural reform.
• The decision of women and reform was embedded in considerations of the
relative advancement of European societies and the need for Muslim societies
to catch up. As a result a new discourse of women emerged over laying
rather than displacing the old classical and religious formulations on gender
and often linking issues concerning women, nationalism and national
advancement, and cultural change. These issues were intricately connected.
• There is no necessary connection b/w the issue of women and the issue of
culture as the history of western feminism shows.
• Author says that adopting another culture as a general remedy for a heritage
of misogyny w/in a particular culture is not only absurd but its impossible.
o Also adds that misogynist (hatred for women) practices of the native
cultures in favour of the customs and beliefs of another culture – the
European became pronounced with colonial domination and it was in this
context that the links b/w the issue of women and the issues of
nationalism and culture were permanently forged.
o They were fused initially in the context of western economic and cultural
encroachment and finally and most forcefully in the context of its political
and discursive domination. A domination that was to precipitate new kinds
of class and cultural conflict.
o Progress or regress in the position and rights of women has often directly
depended on which side of the debates over nationalism and culture the
men holding or gaining political power espoused.
• Egypt and turkey and to less extent Syria, where European products first
entered the market, were in the vanguard, whereas the Arabian Peninsula
was less directly affected until well into the 20 century.
• Shaping the specific social and political outcome in each country was the
evolving political relation with European states- whether the Middle Eastern
country remained independent or became submerged in colonialism or
• The debate is charged with other issues the culture and nationalism, “western
vs. Indigenous or authentic values”.
• Europe and Egypt were trading goods with the expense of Ottoman empire
and in 18 century Europe underwent a technological revolution that
culminated in the industrial revolution techniques improved outstripping
in efficiency and economy the techniques of the middle east at the same
time middle east was going thru rough time by a devastating series of plagues and by political unrest all these factors played a role in declined
• Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt, took initiatives that are impetus to
economic, intellectual, cultural and educational developments important to
• Women were mostly involved in textile factories but it started to run down as
well, therefore women received about two-third of the wages received by
o Women only gained in small numbers
o Were also employed in other factories established by Muhammad Ali such
as sugar and tobacco factories.
• The influx of European goods had a negative impact on other areas of local
trade in ways that again harmed women and men.
• Male peasants were also subject to forcible recruitment into the army, women
and children with no other means of subsistence followed their men. Women
suffered in their men’s absence so they took over the agriculture tasks.
• Muhammad Ali really wanted to take over Europe so he sent student missions
to Europe to learn military and engineering sciences and technologies.
• Al-Tahtawi recommended that girls should be given the same education as
boys saying that this was the practice in strongest nations like European.
Muhammad Ali admired his recommendation.
• Among the middle and lower class