Muslim Feminists Have Been Denouncing Islamic Fundamentalism for Years, But the World Pays Them No Heed

December 07, 2001

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times last month, acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie tells the world that "highly motivated organizations of Muslim men" whom he labels "Islamists" have been engaged in radical political movements all over the Islamic world, that have been systematically destroying their own societies, with much of their venom focused on the female citizenry. In a parenthetical aside, Rushdie sighs, "Oh, for the voices of Muslim women to be heard!"

The short documentary film A Tajik Woman by Iranian filmmaker Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, is one reflection of a Muslim immigrant woman. In it she reflects on war and revolution, loss of homeland and conflict with fundamentalist Islamic values. A picture of an unknown Tajik woman found in a Russian book on Tajikistan encouraged Saeed-Vafa to reflect on issues of exile and cultural conflict for Muslim women from Afghanistan and Iran living in the United States. Interviews with four women, including the director’s mother, are interwoven with personal observations, images of the Tajik woman and footage of Iran and Muslim culture in the US.


  • Dr. Fawzia Afzal-Khan, professor at Montclair State University, in studio.
  • Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, filmmaker and professor at the department of Film & Video at Columbia College, Chicago. She taught film at the school of Television and Cinema in Tehran in the late seventies. Mehrnaz has made number of short films including The Silent Majority, Ruins Within, and her award winning documentary A Tajik Woman.


  • A Tajik Woman, made in 1994

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