Karima Bennoune’s book Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism (W.W. Norton & Company) has been awarded the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction. The award “honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding.” As noted in the press release, previous honorees include Wendell Berry, Taylor Branch, Geraldine Brooks, Barbara Kingsolver, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Tim O’Brien, Studs Terkel, and Elie Wiesel. Of Karima’s book, the awards committee wrote:
In Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, Karima Bennoune walks a tightrope between, on the one hand, the tragic consequences of Islamist fundamentalism and, on the other, the West’s inability to imagine Muslims as anything more than terrorists or passive victims.
Her solution is to tell us the stories that disturb both of these stereotypes, vividly presenting us the experiences of individuals from a vast array of identities and social positions — as women, as journalists, as educators, as makers of and keepers of cultural tradition. . . . [T]he portraits in Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here find Muslims on the front lines against the fundamentalists.
On being notified of the award, Bennoune wrote:
Given the mission of the prize, there is no other award that would mean more to me or to so many of those in the book – victims of terror who organized against its perpetrators, women who filled bomb craters with flowers, journalists who defied machine guns armed only with pens, artists who could not be censored by death threats (or worse), feminists who demanded the right to have human rights, secularists who spoke out, mullahs who risked their lives to revive the enlightened Islam of our grandparents. I share the prize with all of them. For me, the award is ultimately a much-needed recognition that fundamentalism is a threat to peace, and that those who challenge extremism and jihadist violence in their own communities are waging a battle for true peace, and deserve global recognition and support.
Heartfelt congratulations, Karima!