Rahila Gupta

How secular feminists are caught in the middle

The focus of this book is Pakistan but I was struck by the similarity of the ideological battles being fought between secular and Islamic feminists in Pakistan and in Britain. Of course, the contexts are very different. Secular spaces are much narrower and more dangerous places to inhabit in Pakistan – as anyone following the blasphemy case of Asia Bibi will recognise. This is therefore a brave book. However, Afiya Zia, the author, says that to some extent she is protected by academia and by the fact that these debates are conducted in English rather than Urdu. Equating liberalism and secularism with an English-speaking elite may sound reductive, but this is a reality that is mirrored in India too.

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