Internationally known Egyptian feminist, human rights activist, psychiatrist and writer, Dr. Nawal El Saadawi spoke at Mills Monday night on religious fundamentalism, globalization and women.
Attendants of the speech were impressed, and gave Sadaawi two standing ovations.
Sadaawi, introduced by President Janet Holmgren, began her speech by addressing the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We are now living in a critical period,” Saadawi said. “We have to understand that without politics, there would be no terrorism.”
“I am against Osama bin Laden, but I am also against the United States government and the Bush administration who also terrorize.”
She said that she stands against the war in Afghanistan, and considers it a continuation of the Gulf War, and an economic war.
“I think that American people are lovely and we have to differentiate between American people and United States foreign policy,” Saadawi said.
Saadawi also spoke about feminism, and the group that she founded and presides over, the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. Her group considers themselves “historical socialist feminists,” Saadawi said.
“History is biased, and women’s struggle in history is ignored,” Saadawi said. “For that reason we are historical.”
“We call ourselves socialists because we are in social and gender oppression,” Saadawi said. “The group insists on all three and goes by all three.”
Saadawi spent a lot of time talking about religion as a political entity. All religions talk about talk about love and morality, but all three monotheistic faiths are not fair to women, said Saadawi.
“If you compare the Koran to the Old Testament to the New Testament, they are very similar,” Saadawi said. “There is one religion, one God, and three holy books.”
Any religion can be racist or fascist depending on how the government uses it, Saadawi said.
“I do not think that religion has a future,” said Saadawi. “The logic of religion is being exposed. Religion is invading the mind so that you don’t know what is going to happen.”
In the third question of the question and answer period, Saadawi was asked if there is a relationship between looking at religion critically and still practice it spiritually without being blind.
“I am critical of spirituality,” Saadawi said. “I am speaking in the name of justice. I am ready to die for freedom and justice in any country.”
The only topic that the majority of attendants did not agree with, was Saadawi’s view on homosexuality in the public sphere of life.
“I believe we are bisexual in nature,” Saadawi said. “Like religion, you have to choose your partner and you have to choose your God.”
Like religion, Saadawi suggests that you choose for yourself but practice in your home. She said that people are making sexual orientation a political problem.
Dr. Saadawi came to the college on a personal invitation from Brinda Mehta, professor of modern languages.
In 1998, Mehta was asked to introduce Saadawi at the African American Association Conference in New York. They spent time together at the conference and kept in touch afterwards, Mehta said.
“When I found out she was in the United States, I wrote her a note and asked her if she would want to come to Mills,” Mehta said. “She said that she would love to come.”
“It was a powerful presentation from a woman of courage and great moral authority. We’re very fortunate to have her here and to have a free exchange with room for disagreement on the issues of greatest importance,” Holmgren said after the speech.
“She speaks the truth. She sees things the way they are, without pretense and hypocrisy. She sees with the heart and spirit,” Mehta said. “It takes courage, honesty and fortitude for her to be out and be around.”
Saadawi has a Masters of Public Health from Columbis University, and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Cairo University. She is a psychiatrist, although she is not currently practicing. “I hate being a doctor,” Saadawi said. “I am critical of the medical world.”
Saadawi is currently a visiting professor at Montclair State University and head of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. In 1981, President Sadat put her in prison for several months. It wasn’t until after his assassination that she was released.
She is constantly producing; she has published eleven novels, with one currently in progress. In addition, she has written countless essays, plays, and news articles, Mehta said. All of her books were originally written in Arabic, but many of them are translated to other languages and printed in many countries.
She spoke at University of California at Berkeley Sunday night, in a private event with 250 people present.
She returned to New Jersey Monday night after her speech at Mills.