Q: A lot of your work and ideas focus on intersecting forms of oppression—class, patriarchy, colonialism. How do you overcome those oppressive forces? How can you convince someone to cede authority or resources?
Nawal-El-Saadwi-[Laughs.] Well, it’s very difficult. This is everyone’s struggle—whether against men in the family, or against capitalism. It’s power. I don’t think that people in power can be convinced by words or articles. They will never give it up by choice. Even a husband in the house, no—power has to be taken with power. Mubarak resigned because the people showed their power. If it had been only a few hundred protesters, he would never go, but because it was 20 million, the whole country, he had no choice. You can’t eradicate power with weakness. Knowledge and unity—these were power in the hands of the people.
Within a household, the individual woman must have power. It’s not easy—it means political rights, economic independence, knowledge. A lot of women are afraid of loneliness, so when they see a woman who can live alone, then they think, “Hmm, I can do that.” But you need an example, and that is why I am proud to say I have divorced three husbands.
What do you think about the Salman Rushdie case? Do you think a writer should have absolute freedom?
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I’ll tell you exactly what I think: Every society has its traditions, laws and religious beliefs, which it tries to preserve. From time to time individuals appear who demand changes. I believe that society has the right to defend itself, just as the individual has the right to attack that with which he disagrees. If a writer comes to the conclusion that his society’s laws or beliefs are no longer valid or even harmful, it is his duty to speak up. But he must be ready to pay the price for his outspokenness. If he is not ready to pay that price, he can choose to remain silent. History is full of people who went to prison or were burned at the stake for proclaiming their ideas. Society has always defended itself. Nowadays it does so with its police and its courts. I defend both the freedom of expression and society’s right to counter it. I must pay the price for differing. It is the natural way of things.
Source : https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2062/naguib-mahfouz-the-art-of-fiction-no-129-naguib-mahfouz