Deen, Hanifa

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Deen, Hanifa


Born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Australia. Education: Attended the University of Western Australia.


Home—Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Agent—Jenny Darling & Associates Pty Ltd., P.O. Box 413, Toorak, Victoria 3142, Australia. E-mail—[email protected].


Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission of Western Australia, deputy commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia, hearing commissioner. Monash University, Victoria, Australia, senior research fellow with the Centre for Muslim Minorities and Islamic Policy. Served on the board of directors of Special Broadcasting Services.


New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, 1996, for Caravanserai: Journey among Australian Muslims.


Caravanserai: Journey among Australian Muslims, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1995, revised edition, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia), 2003.

Broken Bangles, Doubleday/Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Crescent and the Pen: The Strange Journey of Taslima Nasreen, Praeger (Westport, CT), 2006.

The Jihad Seminar, Scribe (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2007.


Hanifa Deen is a third-generation Australian who is of Pakistani descent. A human rights activist and social commentator, she wrote Caravanserai: Journey among Australian Muslims after the start of the Gulf War and revised it to reflect sentiment following the tragedy of September 11, 2001. She saw the changes that occurred in the Australian Muslim community. While they were earlier embraced as Australians first, 9/11 cast suspicion on its Muslim citizens. The word "caravanserai" means the central court of an inn where the covered wagons of a caravan stop for the night. It indicates shelter, but Muslims experienced only increasing hostility as the undefined "war on terror" expanded and opinions turned even more negative. New Internationalist reviewer Julie Young wrote: "Much has gone wrong and Hanifa Deen's vignettes give us many powerful examples from those who bear the brunt of such ostracism and marginalization."

Broken Bangles is the result of Deen's travels studying the lives of Muslim women in Bangladesh and Pakistan. She reveals that in many Islamic communities, Muslim society has political subsets much the same as exist in other countries. Although their left, middle-of-the-road, and right may reflect differing degrees of liberalism or conservatism, they do exist. She also notes that the burqa, the head covering worn by Muslim women in Bangladesh and other countries, which is so frowned upon by the West, is typically worn by the middle class, because the fabric could interfere with work. She writes that the fundamentalist treatment of women comes largely from a need to control them financially and not because of their sex or any behavior that might be blamed.

The title of the book refers to the bangles a woman collects throughout her life, beginning with those given to her by her in-laws on her wedding day. When her husband dies, the wife breaks her bangles and becomes socially deprived without the protection of her husband, which is why Muslim women often hoard what they can to prepare for such a time. Deen presents the lives of Muslim women through a myriad of voices, including well-known writers, rural women, social workers, expatriates, and others. Dana de Zoysa reviewed the volume for the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, writing: "Ms. Deen's ability to elevate the particular to the level of the general without directly saying so raises Broken Bangles to the quality of a good novel."

"The idea of bangles provides a vivid metaphor for the unbroken cycle of patriarchal control that draws together this diverse range of stories," wrote Maria Degabriele for Intersections. "Indeed, the metaphor of brokenness suggests sites of women's resistance and increasing visibility. Nevertheless, the author never imposes the metaphor on the life of the stories themselves."

Taslima Nasreen is a Bangladeshi writer, physician, and activist who in 1993 was accused by the government of damaging religious sentiment. She had spoken out against male oppression, repression of free speech, and fanaticism. A fatwa was issued against her by a fundamentalist group after publication of her book Lajja, which translates as "Shame," the same title given by Salman Rushdie to his fictionalized history of the partition of the subcontinent. Nasreen fled Bangladesh and went into hiding. Deen heard the story but could not understand why the women of Bangladesh had not taken a stand on Nasreen's behalf. Deen wrote The Crescent and the Pen: The Strange Journey of Taslima Nasreen after five years of research and interviews conducted in Bangladesh and other locations to discover the truth behind the story. Booklist reviewer David Pitt concluded that The Crescent and the Pen is "timely and extremely relevant in the post-9/11 climate."



Booklist, January 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of The Crescent and the Pen: The Strange Journey of Taslima Nasreen, p. 41.

Choice, May 1, 2007, J.C. Richards, review of The Crescent and the Pen, p. 1531.

New Internationalist, December 1, 2003, Julie Young, review of Caravanserai: Journey among Australian Muslims, p. 31.

Overland, September 22, 2004, "Muslim Appearances, Western Gaze," p. 133.

Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2004, review of Caravanserai, revised edition, p. 46; February 1, 2007, review of The Crescent and the Pen.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation Web site, (September 24, 2003), Rachel Kohn, "Travels among Australian Muslims," interview ("The Ark on Radio National" transcript).

Center for Muslim States and Societies, University of Western Australia Web site, (August 14, 2007), brief author biography.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (August 14, 2007), Dana de Zoysa, review of Broken Bangles.

Curtin University of Technology Web site, (August 14, 2007), brief author biography.

Intersections (online journal of Murdoch University), (August 14, 2007), Maria Degabriele, review of Broken Bangles.

Monash University Web site, (August 14, 2007), brief author biography.