Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: Miniskirts, Mothers & Muslims by Christine A Mallouhi

Muslims are butt men. That's why to some conservative Muslims, women who wear trousers in public appear almost trashy. "Buttocks smouldering under slacks" is the phrase some Muslims use to describe sexy women.

This book manages the almost-impossible -- it's a thoroughly entertaining read as well as a serious scholarly study. It's used as a teaching tool by university professors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the US to Europe and Australia to help students and professionals alike understand the Muslim culture, especially as it relates to women.

It's actually a fairly slim volume, not at all intimidating to read. I really loved its non-academic and definitely non-stuffy approach. Although many of the concepts discussed are general (friendship, womanhood, family), Christine brings her advice alive with lots of real-life examples from her own experiences living in Muslim countries around the world, including Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.

Now you'll understand why women wear veils and how to navigate the tricky waters of male-female relations in the Muslim world. After reading this book, I can see how easy it would be for an uninformed Christian to unwittingly cause offense to Muslim friends, neighbors, or co-workers. Also useful, lots of side notes on how rules can vary depending on which country you're in, for example yellow-colored food is normal in some places but verbotten elsewhere.

You'll really appreciate this book if you:

- Are going to be living in a Muslim country or community and you want to get along with your new neighbors. Extremely useful for avoiding cross-cultural misunderstandings!

- Are a Western woman curious about the daily life and world that Muslim women live in -- especially about clothing restrictions.

- Are an evangelical Christian seeking to understand how to approach the Muslim world with even a slim chance of being taken seriously there.

- Love anthropology and getting a behind-the-scenes look at a foreign culture.

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