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Thursday, November 10, 2011

In the Land of Invisible Women, by Qanta Ahmed, MD

Doctor Ahmed grew up in Britain, and trained in the US to become a doctor. When her visa to remain in the States was denied, she decided to go practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. She assumed that because she was Muslim, she would fit right in. This book recounts her experiences living and working in a country where women are not allowed to drive, where women are required to be completely veiled whenever in mixed society, where it has been suggested that women shouldn't even wear seat belts because the belts define the woman's cleavage, where married couples carry their marriage licenses with them when they go out in public because they may need to show proof that they're married.

I really liked this book. I appreciated the half-insider, half-outsider view that the author brought to her subject. She is a Muslim with Western, liberal views. She valued some of the ways in which people in the Kingdom strive to live according to Islam, and denounced some of the other ways. She records her disgust at the gleeful reactions of her Saudi coworkers to the news of 9/11, and to their reflexive anti-Semitism. She discusses Islamic principles at length, concluding that anti-Semitism and Wahabiism are not in line with a true understanding of Islam.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Saudi Arabia, women in Saudi Arabia, or Islam.

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