Egyptian woman battles misogynistic religion

This woman’s story is truly remarkable – although in a sane world, it wouldn’t be.  Nawal El Saadawi is 79 years old and has spent much of her life fighting the wretched sexism and misogyny of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt, as well as other “cultural” traditions that often go hand in hand with Egyptian Islam, such as female genital mutilation. Nawal herself was subjected to the hideous practice, at the tender age of six, as related in a Guardian article, Nawal El Saadawi: Egypt’s radical feminist (4/15/10):

In [her book Daughter of Isis] she writes about the horror of female circumcision. “When I was six, the daya (midwife) came along holding a razor, pulled out my clitoris from between my thighs and cut it off. She said it was the will of God and she had done his will… I lay in a pool of blood. After a few days the bleeding stopped… But the pain was there like an abscess deep in my flesh… I did not know what other parts in my body there were that might need to be cut off in the same way.” Later, while working as a doctor, she saw for herself the terrible physical damage female genital mutilation could cause; she campaigned for 50 years, she says, for it to be banned in Egypt. A ban was finally instituted in 2008, but she says the practice “still happens – it is even increasing. Some religious leaders talk against it, but others are for it.”

The notion that this atrocity is increasing is beyond appalling: In this day and age, human beings remain so unevolved that they see nothing wrong with holding down a small child and cutting off one of the most sensitive parts of her body with a razor.  Indeed, the practitioners of this vile “tradition” are so distorted that they actually believe they are doing something “good” or even “holy!”

And this insult to the core of her being was not the end to what Nawal El Saadawi has had to endure, simply because she was born with female genitalia. In consideration of the barbarity of those who surrounded her, it is surprising she’s still alive. I might half-jokingly suggest that she is being protected by a guardian angel – Isis, perhaps?

Just a few short years later, Nawal again faced such barbarism as makes people of conscience cringe in shock and disbelief: She was about to be married off – in an area where it was customary to marry off girls of 10 or 11 – obviously against her will, as she was still a child. Clearly possessing a gentle and enlightened soul, she strenously objected and refused.

The rest of Nawal El Saadawi’s amazing story is quite long, but includes her becoming a medical doctor and seeing first hand the horrible, life-time effects of female genital mutilation. Her experience is so bitter, and she is so aware of the unbelievable sexism and misogyny within today’s popular religions, that she says she is “very critical of all religions”:

“I am very critical of all religions… We, as women, are oppressed by all these religions.” It is religious extremism, she believes, that is the biggest threat to women’s liberation today. “There is a backlash against feminism all over the world today because of the revival of religions,” she says. “We have had a global and religious fundamentalist movement.” She fears that the rise of religion is holding back progress regarding issues such as female circumcision, especially in Egypt.

If ever one has wondered why I do what I do, it is largely because of this issue as defined by Nawal. And then there is the environmental degradation, the immense injustice done to hundreds of millions worldwide who have been brutalized, raped, murdered and robbed in the name of religion, along with all other atrocities over the past several thousand years.

Concerning Nawal, The Guardian article continues:

Her work continues to be explosive. Her play, God Resigns in the Summit Meeting – in which God is questioned by Jewish, Muslim and Christian prophets and finally quits – proved so controversial that, she says, her Arabic publishers destroyed it under police duress. And recently her criticism of religion, primarily on the basis that it oppresses women, has prompted a flurry of court cases, including unsuccessful legal attempts both to strip her of her nationality and to forcibly dissolve her marriage.

My impression of this remarkable woman is that she is a living embodiment of the best of the ancient Egyptian spirit, bypassing the past 2,000 or so years of male-dominant religion in the region that eventually destroyed her original people, and reviving the divine feminine.

Further Reading

Nawal el Saadawi’s website


  1. Nawal

    A sad story, but with a promising outcome. I’m glad see she was able to overcome that tragic part of her young life, and become a doctor. This just proves how ridiculous and backward this religion is…to perform this hideous operation on female children…in the name of what? 🙁

  2. This reminds me of the eunuchs. I mean sure, maybe they were decent singers, but I think everyone knows that was an excuse rather than the real reason… jmo…

    1. I wish you would elucidate because I did not even no they were singers….I though eunuchs were people incapable of making babies. What is the real reason?

    I have fallen in love with this woman!
    Thanks for sharing! 😀

  4. Egytian Woman
    :Pinch: sigh!

  5. She’s currently exiled to the U.S. and under the protection of the U.S., at least last I knew. Also, there was an online petition circulated to save her life from prosecution from the Egyptian authorities a few years back too. I thought I had shared that back then with many of my groups.

  6. Islam is cultural filth to do this to women

  7. Islam actually does not require female circumcision. It is patriarchal cultural practice. They just do it in the name of religion because, as Nawal says, women will submit if God wants it.

    Of course we have little 13 yr old girls being married off in our various Christian offshoots, the most recent being Tony Alamo and then the polygamists with their 13 yr old brides and the “marriage bed” to consummate the marriage right in the church, just to further mess with the girl’s minds that God wants it. That church has now said it won’t marry them off until they are a few years older, but as far as I know they still don’t let the girls out of the compound. They are prisoners and have no free choice. They let some of the boys out to get work experience as the males run their million-dollar enterprises, and they reward them with their pick of women.

    I have an article about a tribe in Africa where the women traditionally pick the man they are going to marry. Some Christians went there and are telling the women that the men have to pick them because that is what God says. So one of the women interviewed says she must wait for a man to pick her, and her tradition is wrong. After all the years we in the west fought to choose freely whom we want to marry … so please listen to Nawal’s point, it is all religions, not just Islam. Even the Buddhist nuns in some places have to cook and clean for the monks, so go figure!

  8. Damn
    If I sound a bit cheery, it isn’t because of what this woman has been through, it is because I love her spirit. Imagine what a wonderfull world we would have if more women were like her. sigh

    This woman inspite of everything that has happened to her she never gave up. Shoot, here in the US women give up the fight sometimes over just words. We could all learn a LOT from this woman and I look foward to learning more about her.

  9. God bless us all
    I feel for you Dr El Saadawi and what you have been through…I have met you in Cairo years ago…I am proud of that…but female circumcision got nothing to do with Islam or any religions…it’s an African tradition…practised only in Africa…and the prove to that is all the Muslim Asian countries don’t have this inhuman practise…I do admire and respect Dr El Saadawi and what she stand for…I am originally from Alexandria ,Egypt, we don’t have female circumcision, it’s only among farmers and upper Egyptians….

    On the other hand…yes so many have miss interpreted religions…although profits were sent for our own good…and what they perished then has changed for the benefit of some minorities, the rich, men and power….so whatever women have inherited of wretched sexism and misogyny ,is nothing to do with religions or god…it’s man work…look at man did all through history ,torturing and killing by the name of god….,very shameful,that only can be evil work…nothing to do with almighty god.

    All the best Dr El Saadawi with your fight, we are all with you….and hope people who read her works..are mature enough to understand and realise who is the victim and who is the torturer…Thank you.

  10. Nawal el Saadawi
    Let’s not forget her message…..all religion is involved in the oppression of women not just Islam. There are Christian groups who practice female genital mutilation. This practice serves to ensure that women will not stray from their husbands. Why would they when it is so painful. There are some people here in australia who believe we do not have the right to interfere with another groups religion, tradition or culture. On the whole I agree from the point of view that we all should have the choice to practice what we choose. The issue of FGM is child abuse in that it is performed upon girls far too young to understand why. When harm is done to innocents then it is a human concern.

    1. And that is why Nawal wants me to write my book. I tell the Evangelical Fundamentalist Xian side of oppressing and dehumanizing women.

  11. All power to her in her fight.
    Freedom is something that will always be taken away and must be fought for vigilantly. I admire her because her fight is for freedom and not the fight of a group that wants to control, dominate or enslave another group.

  12. Then Why did God create women that way?
    Has anyone who commits these atrocities ever wondered why God would create women with heir genitalia as it is, in the first place?

    Did God make a mistake that only men can correct with a razor?

    The truth is, men have always been afraid of women’s sexuality, so the only solution is to destroy it. (The thought of enjoying it is beyond these men’s comprehension). How can men control women unless they mutilate, and degrade them first?

    God forbid a woman actually enjoy having sex. “Sex”…is this another evil creation of God, I guess?

    All in the name of “religion”.

  13. Dan, Islam does require female circumcision.
    In the haddiths mohummad said, that you can cut a little bit or alot and left it up to the people to choose.
    If mohummad said, than so be it for islam!

    1. Cut this!
      Really? How big of him to leave the amount to be cut up to the discretion of the cutter! (Yes, pun intended.) I wonder if he’d feel so generous if it was his penis and not merely female circumcision? No amount of female circumcision is ok- not even if Mohummed supposedly said it.

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