In this new Next Page column, Maihan Wali, Class of 2018 and winner of this year’s Silent Leader Award, shares which writers have inspired her interests and activism in human rights and social justice issues, what she would ask author Khaled Hosseini if given the chance, which book she is looking forward to reading next, and much more.
This fall, you were awarded the 2017 Silent Leader Award. Congratulations! What book or article has recently inspired you to take action?
The book Beyond the Veil by Fatima Mernissi. This book asks questions such as: Does Islam as a religion oppress women? Is Islam against democracy?, which are significant because does any religion oppress any certain group? I was inspired by the author’s argument that what oppresses women is political manipulation of religion by power-seeking, archaic Muslim male elites. In other words, this book gives a lesson that it is not the religion, but the people who oppress one another. This inspired my activism. I started to advocate for human rights and fight against traditions that oppress women or any other groups in a society.
What book/article/blog have you recently recommended to a friend to read? Why?
The book A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini because this book is an example of the life that women are having in Afghanistan, the struggle and the challenges that women are facing and how these women are dealing with it. Sometimes we take things for granted and this book makes us realize that there are people in the world who don’t have the same privileges that many of us do.
As a Political Science major with a double minor in Middle East and Islamic Studies and Peace & Justice Studies, is there a particular writer who has influenced your interests in these areas?
There have been multiple books and authors, such as Jocelyne Cesari’s The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
Khaled Hosseini, who is an Afghan-born American novelist and physician. He is the author of The Kite Runner, a very popular book. I would want to know what motivated him in the first place to start writing and especially writing a book which is very critical of prejudice against one of the country’s ethnic minorities.
Do you have a favorite book or literary character or from your childhood?
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho because it has very strong points to make or lessons to give. One of my favorite lessons from the book is that a person may not have a destiny he expects or even desires, but if that person acts in accordance with his own desires, he will serve a purpose greater than himself.
What do you plan to read next?
Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti.