Monday, November 23, 2009

Leo Africanus- Part 1

This book is a narrative account of a boy’s life growing up in the ancient city of Grenada. The story begins with the boy’s parents Muhammed and Salma who are engaged. Upon learning that Salma is unable to conceive, Muhammed finds a Christian slave, Warda, with whom to procreate. Salma is extremely unhappy with this turn of events and seeks a potion to enhance her fertility. Salma succeeds and is rewarded with a son, while her husband’s other wife, Wards bears a daughter. Salma pleases her husband with the birth of their son.

The story centers on primarily on themes of religion, war and gender roles. Grenada is a religiously diverse city that is home to people of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith. Because religion was a major reason for persecution and warfare in that era, the story of Muhammed, Salma, and Warda coexisting in a polygamous union despite disparate religions is quite interesting. What I found most interesting however is the role of women and the value that society placed on them. The first example we have of women’s inferiority is Muhammed’s ability and desire to find a new wife because his first wife was infertile.

Although this is not surprising to me, I find it very upsetting that women have been treated subserviently throughout history. Women’s inferiority is such a pervasive concept that is unfortunately still a problem that exists in today’s global society. The second example of this is the fact that male infants were seen as blessings while girl infants were not. This perspective is again very pervasive and is a large reason why the practice of infanticide exists. Again none of this is very shocking to me as it is not new to me. However women in many other cultures have improved their status within society and the same legal rights as men. With that in mind consider the oppression and honor killings that Muslim women are subjected to currently, do you think that their position in their society has improved at all since the 15th century or has it remained largely the same?

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