Three decades after Iran's upheaval established Islamic clerical rule for the first time in 14 centuries, a quieter and more profound revolution is transforming the Muslim world. Dalia Ziada is a part of it.
When Ziada was 8, her mother told her to don a white party dress for a surprise celebration. It turned out to be a painful circumcision. But Ziada decided to fight back. The young Egyptian spent years arguing with her father and uncles against the genital mutilation of her sister and cousins, a campaign she eventually developed into a wider movement. She now champions everything from freedom of speech to women's rights and political prisoners. To promote civil disobedience, Ziada last year translated into Arabic a comic-book history about Martin Luther King Jr. and distributed 2,000 copies from Morocco to Yemen.
Now 26, Ziada organized Cairo's first human-rights film festival in November. The censorship board did not approve the films, so Ziada doorstopped its chairman at the elevator and rode up with him to plead her case. When the theater was suspiciously closed at the last minute, she rented a tourist boat on the Nile for opening night--waiting until it was offshore and beyond the arm of the law to start the movie.
Ziada shies away from little, including the grisly intimate details of her life. But she also wears a veil, a sign that her religious faith remains undimmed. "My ultimate interest," she wrote in her first blog entry, "is to please Allah with all I am doing in my own life."
That sentiment is echoed around the Muslim world. In many of the scores of countries that are predominantly Muslim, the latest generation of activists is redefining society in novel ways. This new soft revolution is distinct from three earlier waves of change--the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the rise of extremism in the 1980s and the growth of Muslim political parties in the 1990s.
Today's revolution is more vibrantly Islamic than ever.