Fatema Mernissi

Laureate Erasmus Prize 2004

Theme: Religion and modernity

‘Religion and Modernity’ was the theme of the 2004 Erasmus Prize. With the award the Foundation wanted to demonstrate the multiplicity of views of modernity and people with different religious backgrounds, both in Europe and in Islamic countries. The choice of three laureates reflects the fact that issues of religion and modernity can be approached in many different ways. The three Islamic thinkers provide a sample of the many routes that can be taken. One of those thinkers was Fatema Mernissi.

The Moroccan author and sociologist Fatema Mernissi is considered an influential Islamic feminist. She has become a role model for generators of young women after her, in the Arab world and elsewhere.

Mernissi was born in Fez in 1940 and grew up in a harem, which she later wrote about in Dreams of Trespass. Tales of a Harem Girlhood (1994). In both her academic research and her novels, Mernissi studied and interpreted the living conditions and vision of the world of Muslim women. Because she had studied in the West, she was able to draw comparisons and to view both cultures critically. She argued that women must play a full role in the public domain.

Fatema Mernissi was the driving force behind the Caravane Civique, a large network of artists, intellectuals and activists who make their voices heard through this organization. She did sociological research for Unesco, the ILO and the Moroccan government and was associated with the Mohammed V University in Rabat. Fatema Mernissi passed away in 2015.