Shahla Haeri, Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002. 454 pages.
Shahla Haeri’s groundbreaking work could not have emerged at a more desperately needed time. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the war on Iraq, the western media have worked feverishly to bombard the West with images and messages about Muslim women and Islam. Whether it is the image of Afghanistan’s burqa-clad women or Iraq’s veiled women, the message has been the same: All Muslim women are speechless, powerless, and often invisible victims of an oppressive monolithic Islam.
In No Shame for the Sun: Lives of Professional Pakistani Women, Haeri presents the reader with an insightful and poignant look at the lives of six educated, middle-class and upper-middle class, professional Pakistani women. Situated against Pakistan’s changing social, political, economic, cultural, and religious landscapes, their successes, costs, and struggles “challenge the notion of a ‘hegemonic’ and monolithic Islam that victimizes Muslim women” (p. xi).
The book’s preface spells out its main purpose: to render visible the experiences of professional Pakistani women within the larger goal of disrupting the dominant western stereotypes and beliefs of Muslim women. In the introduction, Haeri situates herself by raising a series of questions emerging from her own experiences as an Iranian-born, middle-class, educated, professional Muslim woman living and working in the United States. Namely, she questions her own invisibility resulting from the persistence of western stereotypical images and beliefs of women in the Muslim world and then offers an overview of the theoretical and historical rationale for their persistence.