Her warm smile, white-haired ponytail and gentle demeanor make Egyptian novelist Nawal El Saadawi seem more like a grandma than a condemned political activist.
Until she speaks -- and she's not afraid to speak. At least not when talking about oppression to a crowd at University of Michigan-Flint on Friday in a discussion that included her views on why she's a notorious thorn in the side of religious fundamentalists.
"I never accepted the fixed religious verse, the fixed religious book," the petite, spry doctor, 75, said passionately of being tagged a troublemaker in her home country.
"My father used to tell me 'God does not come out of a printing machine. God is justice, freedom and love.' "I was exposing how governments ... were using God, the fixed word of God, its backward interpretation, to justify injustices."
Prison, exile and death threats haven't stopped El Saadawi, described as the "spokesperson of women's struggles in the Arab world," from being vocal about her views of equality. And El Saadawi, a native of a poor Nile-side village, definitely didn't hold anything back when she spoke at the annual "African-Writer's Series" hosted by UM-Flint's Department of Africana Studies and the Flint Public Library.
From calling President Bush and Osama bin Laden "twins" for what she said were fundamentalist policies that served each other, to blaming patriarchy for female genitalia mutilation, El Saadawi openly scorned what she sees as oppressive systems all over the globe."There are moments in life when you feel contradictory.
In one part of the world you're condemned and you're the devil and in another part of the world, you're OK," the feminist who has been called "Un-Islamic," said, drawing laughs from an audience that gave her a standing ovation.