Nachruf: A tribute to Fatima Mernissi

I MET FATIMA MERNISSI in the late 80s on an assignment for BRIGITTE magazine in Casablanca. It was an Algerian-Moroccan conference of Arab feminist women. The Moroccan women were supporting their Algerian sisters who were suffering under a double repression, from the military as well as muslim hardliners. Mernissi, the Moroccan sociologist, scholar and restless fighter for women rights, died recently, in November, 2015 at the age of 75 – on my fb-page you’ll find a beautiful obituary on her from the „Daily News Egypt“.

I remember very vividly how I walked into that workshop room in a modern hotel in Casablanca on a very cold January day. I had long contemplated what to wear and chosen some Hippie-dresses from Ibiza – long, loose and covering everything – which I still had in my wardrobe. So I walk in there in my crazy dress – and see all women partcipants including Professor Mernissi with perfect make-up and meticulously dressed-up in tight, taliored business suites and costumes. „Do you wear that nowadays in Germany“, they asked me pointing at my long shapeless Hippie dress. „No“, I said, “ I thought….“.


My favourite book of Fatima Mernissi, „Dreams of Trespass“ published in 1994, about her upbringing in an Moroccan harem. I believe the book is still available. Chapter 22 reads „Henna, clay, and men’s stares“ – now that’s a headline!

„Andrea“, the Arab feminists said to me, „we do not do this. This is why we are here. We do not cover-up in anticipating obedience.“ In German: „Wir verschleiern uns nicht in vorauseilendem Gehorsam.“

And then we went shopping together, Fatima Mernissi and me, in some Casablanca boutiques, bought tight (and warm) beautiful women business dresses which I still have up to today. This episode has shaped my entire understanding of Arab women and Arab femininism and now, that Mernissi died, I wish to pay a tribute to her and to other exceptional great Muslim free-thinking intellectuals such as her, namely Hirsi Ali, Mona Etahawy, Taslima Nasreen (writer and feminist from Bangladesh), but also writers such as Amma Darko from Ghana, Mariama Ba („So long a letter“) from Senegal, Nedjma („L’Amande‘), Allaa Al Aswany („The Yacoubian Building“) from Cairo and Hugh Miles („Playing card in Cairo“).

All you wonderful, enlightened, courageous free-thinkers in the world are my Bowie-like heroes. R.I.P., Fatima Mernissi.

Fatima Mernissi, geboren 1940, marokkanische Soziologin, Feministin und Autorin, starb am 30.November 2015 in Rabat, Marokko