Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Literature  No.3 October, 2015                 Pp. 5-17

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Biblical Proximity and Women: The Image of Arabs in Victorian Works of Religious Nature

May A. Witwit
  University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom

The pro-suffrage campaign to elevate the Oriental female did not give emphasis to Arab women; however, they were vividly presented in religious literature and romances of a religious nature. The inferior position and the victimisation of Arab women, attributed to Islam, delivered a political and a religious message that helped steer the Victorian reader’s opinion towards a desired effect. The paper will focus on the image of the Arab woman in some of these publications to highlight that the use of the biblical element of the Middle East was employed to reinforce Christianity and combat Ottomans. The image of the victimised Arab woman also prepared the public for a future military involvement in the Middle East. The paper suggests that the Victorian depiction of the Arab female may well be the precursor of present-day use of Islam-phobic slogans that trigger sorrow easily transformed into anger at the men, culture and the religion that victimise women.
Keywords: Arabs in British Nineteenth Century periodicals, Arab proximity to Bible, Arab Women, Revival of mediaeval polemic, Victorian perception of Arabs


Dr May Witwit is a research fellow at the University of Bedfordshire and Associate Member of
Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS). Her research interest includes
Victorian literature, Victorians’ translation of ancient Arabian poetry, Victorian anti-suffrage and
the policy of British Empire. Her current research (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) looks on the
representation of Arab women in the British press 1850-1939 and whether the impressions
recorded and published by British nineteenth century travellers and colonial administrators form
the basis of today‟s Islam-phobia and the stereotyping of Arab women.