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Qasim Amin (1863–1908) was an Egyptian jurist and one of the founders of the Egyptian national movement and Cairo University. Born to an Upper Egyptian mother and an Ottoman-Turkish father who had served as an administrator in Kurdistan and then in Egypt,[1] Amin is perhaps most noted as an early advocate of women's rights in Egyptian society. His 1899 book The Liberation of Women (Tahrir al mara’a) and its 1900 sequel The New Woman (al mara’a al jadida) examined the question of why Egypt had fallen under European power, despite centuries of Egyptian learning and civilisation, and concluded that the explanation was the low social and educational standing of Egyptian women.

Amin pointed out the plight of aristocratic Egyptian women who could be kept as a "prisoner in her own house and worse off than a slave".[2] He made this criticism from a basis of Islamic scholarship and said that women should develop intellectually in order to be competent to bring up the nation's children. This would happen only if they were freed from the seclusion (purdah) which was forced upon them by "the man's decision to imprison his wife" and given the chance to become educated.[3]

Some contemporary feminist scholars, notably Leila Ahmed, have challenged his status as the supposed "father of Egyptian feminism". Ahmed points out that in the gender-segregated society of the time, Amin could have had very little contact with Egyptian women other than immediate family, servants, and possibly prostitutes. His portrait of Egyptian women as backward, ignorant, and lagging behind their European "sisters" was therefore based on very limited evidence.[4]

Books by Qasim Amin

  • The Liberation of Women
  • The New Woman

See also

References

  1. ^ Amin, Qasim. The Liberation of Women: Two Documents in the History of Egyptian feminism. Tr. Samiha Sidhom Peterson. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2000, p. xi.
  2. ^ Qasim Amin by Ted Thornton, from History of the Middle East Database, retrieved 29 December 2004.
  3. ^ A Century After Qasim Amin: Fictive Kinship and Historical Uses of “Tahrir al-Mara '”, Malek Abisaab and Rula Jurdi Abisaab, Al Jadid, Vol. 6, no. 32 (Summer 2000), retrieved 29 December 2004.
  4. ^ Ahmed (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05583-8.  
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