I was amazed to realize that for many Westerners, Scheherezade was considered a lovely but simple-minded entertainer, someone who relates innocuous tales and dresses fabulously. In our part of the world, Scheherezade is perceived as a courageous heroine and is one of our rare female mythological figures.
In Islamic societies, politicians can manipulate almost everything. But thus far, no fundamentalist leader has been able to convince his supporters to renounce Islam's central virtue - the principle of strict equality between human beings, regardless of sex, race, or creed.
While Muslim men describe themselves as insecure in their harems, real or imagined, Westerners describe themselves as self-assured heroes with no fears of women. The tragic dimension so present in Muslim harems - fear of women and male self-doubt - is missing in the Western harem.