Six candid interviews introduce readers to a class of Muslim women rarely acknowledged in the West. The book aims to shed light on the status, conflicts and social realities of educated Muslim women in Pakistan. They tell of the conflicts and compromises with family and community, while facing violence, archaic marriage rules and locally entrenched codes of conduct. They speak of human dignity and gender equality, economic deprivation and social justice, and of feminism and fundamentalism. Challenging prevalent stereotypes, the book aims to reveal the uniqueness of each woman and the diversity of Pakistani women's life experiences, their world views and the struggles to change their society. Each chapter explores a particular woman's life experiences and her attempts to reconcile her career with her personal life, providing examples of ways of resolving religious, cultural and political conflicts. Through their struggles, professional Pakistani women have become conscious of their own and other women's situations within their society. Because they exercise power and authority in their chose fields, they risk losing their family's support and antagonizing their community. The book offers a perspective to reflect on the changing circumstances of professional Pakistani women, as well as on the established patterns and structural constraints within Pakistan. On a broader level, it examines western misconceptions regarding Islam, a religion that crosses many borders and impacts differently on many cultures.
Shahla Haeri is the director of the Women's Studies Program at Boston University. She has published numerous articles and monographs including Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi'i Iran, also published by Syracuse University Press.