Ellen Anne McLarney’s Soft Force, Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening stands out as in depth study by a Western scholar, which places women and their contribution to Islamic revivalism centre stage. She thereby challenges conventional Western impressions of Muslim women in Islamic activism and gives voice to ideas well known in the Muslim world, but not often heard in other countries. Through her eloquent, sophisticated and careful analysis, McLarney offers a very important but somewhat overlooked contribution to the in depth understanding of the various roles of women in the historical and current developments within the Muslim world.
The book focusses on the soft force of women’s influence on the Islamic public sphere in the decades leading up to the 2011 revolution in Egypt. To support her analysis, McLarney primarily uses writings (ranging from fatwas to sermons; and from lectures, theses, essays and newspaper articles to social media) as well as visual actions, taken by a variety of influential women to support the advance of Islamic awareness and revivalism in Egypt. These include professors (Bint al-Shati’), preachers (Ni’mat Sidqi), journalists (Iman Mustafa), theatre critics (Safinaz Kazim), activists (Heba Raouf Ezzat), actresses (Shams al-Barudi) and television personalities (Kariman Hamza). The book thereby brings together the work of very different women, who, while working independently, contribute as an entity to social and cultural transformation.
How to Cite:
Ranharter, K. (2016) review of Soft Force, Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening, Ellen Anne McLarney, Journal of Global Analysis, 6, no. 2: 223-224.