In Khaled Hosseini’s soul-piercing novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, the character Nana, a poor, unwed mother, tells her five-year-old daughter, Mariam: “Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”
Hosseini’s best-selling novel was about life in Afghanistan, but in the 30 words above he sums up the way men govern the lives of women across much of the Muslim world. Like Mariam, millions of Muslim girls are told very early in life by their mothers that their place in society is one of submission; submission not to God, but to man.