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Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt

Calls for a 'take off the veil' rally in Cairo are not the way to improve religious tolerance in Egypt

Nervana Mahmoud , Tuesday 21 Apr 2015
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Views: 5899

A call by Egyptian journalist Cherif Choubachy for veiled Muslim women to take off their headscarves (hijab) has stirred widespread controversy in Egypt.

Choubachy has also proposed a “take off the veil” rally to be held at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. While some have welcomed Choubachy’s proposal, others vehemently oppose the idea. A senior official at Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni Islamic institution rejected the call, stressing that the head-cover is a religious must for female Muslims once they reach puberty.

Heated discussions spread to talk shows, and social media, with pro- and anti-veil trading accusations and counter-accusations.

The responses to Choubachy’s proposal have exposed the shallow, mediocre approach to contentious, sensitive topics, and the inability of society to tackle different viewpoints in a constructive manner.

The debate about Islamic dress code for women is not new. On a personal level, as for any Egyptian female, this issue has been a regular facet of my life since childhood. Family friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers preached about the “mandatory” headscarf, even before I reached puberty.

At university, I was one of a small group of females who did not wear a veil. Dressing modestly in a non-revealing garment, avoiding tight jeans and make-up was not enough to protect me from the avalanche of criticism. Almost daily, I heard comments like, “Go and cover that hair,” “That wild hair will put you in hell.” Islamists used to offer non-veiled students books about the “right” dress code that were filled with threats of punishment in the afterlife for staying un-veiled.

I decided, however, that a dress code should not be allowed to shape my identity or the depth of my religiosity, and opted not to wear a headscarf. Social coercion is not pretty, but it is still manageable in Egypt; if the woman is willing to persevere and ignore the noise.

The wearing of an Islamic veil has fluctuated in popularity throughout the last few decades. In the seventies and eighties a strict Islamic dress code started to sweep society, with some popular female celebrities joining the wave and declaring their “repentance” for their past without the veil. Moreover, covering the face as well as the head (niqab) and long headscarves covering the chest (jilbab), mostly in dark plain colours started to also make a strong appearance in Egypt.

Later in the nineties, creativity dominated the scene with a flurry of various headscarves that started to appeal to younger generations.

During and after the January 2011 revolution, Egyptian women have displayed a wide variety of dress codes during protests, from no veil at all, to the full niqab.

This plurality in display was a healthy sign of a society embracing freedom and change.

In fact, the last few years of upheaval in Egypt have exposed the flawed line of demarcation between religion and politics in Egypt. Not all religiously conservative women have backed the Muslim Brotherhood and president Morsi.

In 2013, many women in strict Islamic dress joined anti-Morsi protests to the shock and dismay of the Islamists. On the other hand, the pro-Morsi camp was keen to demonstrate that some non-veiled women, albeit only a few, were among their supporters.

Nearly two years later, Egypt is still tense and polarised. The Muslim Brotherhood may have vanished from the political scene, but ordinary Egyptians are still feeling uneasy about their faith, which they care about dearly, and its place in public life. This is precisely why the bickering about headscarves is not helpful.

In Egypt, headscarves are not imposed by the state, therefore, the call for a rally to remove the scarves, even if it is well intentioned and with valid reasons, is misguided. President El-Sisi’s wife and daughters (who have only appeared in public during his inauguration) are religiously conservative and wear headscarves. Calls to remove the headscarves will only trigger resentment and elicit a stubborn response. In fact, it will provide Islamists with the victimhood environment that they desperately need to re-kindle their social popularity among conservative Egyptians.

With this said, it is also time for Egypt’s Muslim clerics to stop treating the way a woman dresses as if it is a fulcrum of the faith. It is not. This misplaced priority is rather alarming. Moreover, Islam has always been a faith with diverse views and interpretations of sacred text. The current totalitarian approach to any religious controversy needs to stop. Diversity and tolerance are the two essential ingredients for a healthy society.

In sum, it is about time to respect the basic right of a woman to choose her own manner of dress without angry bickering and petty debates. Women with or without headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt. 

 

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25



SAWSAN MOSTAFA ALI
13-06-2015 08:03pm
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Very simple(Headscarf is not an islamic obligation)
Headscarf is not an islamic obligation.It is a custom. It was said by MB to divide the eg. society into moslem and christian women.I assure you it is neither in Quran nor in correct Sonna.
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24



BUTROS HANNA
05-05-2015 08:49am
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WOMEN WITH ORWITHOUT SCARVES
In 1923 HODA SHARAAWI Hanem, the daughter of SHAARAWI PASHA a rich Muslim landowner and prime minister, was returning from Paris with a delegation of 12 women where they attended an international conference. They were met at the Bab El-Hadid Railway Station by reporters from all the local Arabic, English, French, and Greek newspapers. HODA SHARAAWI, in a gesture of defiance, removed the veil that covered her hair only; her companions quickly joined her and removed theirs. And now, ninety years later, it is depressing to see the daughters of one of the oldest civilizations emulating the daughters of the bedouins of the Arabian Gulf and cover their faces with nikabs. Is there imported gold that is affecting our Egyptian civilization, our way of life, our culture of tolerance? Butros Hanna Naples, FL Lafrancaise, FRANCE Naples, FL, USA
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Shadia Amin, MD, internest (al-Kasr al Ayni)
05-05-2015 08:35pm
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We don't taske our religion from Huda Shaarawi, we take it from God
Muslim women prefer to obey Allah and His Prophet, not Huda Sharawi and her western mentors.
Hamza Abdel Ghaffar
05-05-2015 08:28pm
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Butrus: it is not emulation or imitation. They are folllowing their faith
Just as Chriustian nuns are following the example of Mary, Muslim women arte following the example of Fatema and A'isha. They are following the instructions of their faith just as Chritians are following the inbstruction of theirs. If you want to abandon your religion, you are free to do it. But you have no right to ask others to do the same. Secularism may be part of Christianity, but it is not part of Islam.
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very
01-05-2015 10:29am
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Issue ???
Is this the issue slowing Egypt's gradual decline into economic abyss!!
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22



Robert Bauval
30-04-2015 08:53am
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Well said. And very articulate.
Nervana Mahmoud is absolutely right. It's all about freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of choice, but all within the framework of the law. Being a woman or a man is just the gendre. Both are human beings with equal rights and thus must be treated equally under the law and by the society.
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21



999
28-04-2015 08:40pm
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The secular establishment ruled Egypt since 1952
And the result was a disaster, after disaster, after disaster. Most Islamists are educated, but most secularists are illiterate or semi-illiterate. Muhammed Mursi has a Ph.D. in pysics, whereas Abdul Fatah al Sissican can hardly speak a few Arabic sentences without making many mistakes. The Islamists, especially the MB, may not be angels, But they are the crème de la crème of society. This is the uncomfortable truth the atheists and secularists can't come to terms with.
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Masry
05-05-2015 04:27am
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Expat you're either misinformed or have a prejudice
The bible has been used as a weapon of discrimination and a tool to murder and oppress almost since its conception. Hitler used it to murder millions of people. The kkk used the bible to murder and discrimination . Uganda uses the Bible for the death penalty to against homosexuals with the help of American evangelicals. The state of Israel one on the most educated prosperous counties on earth use the Torah as an excuse to oppress a nation kill women and children based on the fairytale that God gave them this land. Power hungry people have used ALL religions as a tool to murder and discriminate. You need to make fair comparisons. Let's compare Muslim Americans to Christian Americans for example. Muslim Americans are more educated make more money commit less crimes particularly violent crimes. Unfortunately these terrorists have given bigots ample excuses for thier bigotry. The the facts are a lot different.
expat
04-05-2015 05:30pm
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its no mystery...
its the systematical set up of this khoran,which makes it exploitable for anyone smart enough not to show his will to rule too soon...it is a BIG difference to any other abrahamic religion that the "prophet" tried to tell his flock,all but his followers were subhumans(dhimmis/khuffar) and worth to be killed or enslaved. The MB uses brainwashing just the same way and their flock is running into the fire just as any totally believing soldier of the prophet..they got promised the virgins,so why staying in the terrible here and now?
Masry
03-05-2015 09:00pm
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Wow? Arrogant about ignorance.
The ikhwani terrorists are educated? Calling for girls to be we'd at 9? You can have a PHD and still be ignorant. You can memorize the entire Quran and not understand Islam. These so called Islamist are a cancer on society. They try and force their warped ignorant understanding of our great merciful compassionate religion into a cancer. How educated men and women can blindly follow immoral unmercifull illogical commands from their terrorist leaders is the real mystery
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Farida
28-04-2015 06:50pm
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Just leave us alone
Imposing your opinions on us is riduculous. Leave us the hell alone. We don't attack you (men) for wearing shorts! The Quran says be modest. That doesn't mean be forced to cover your hair, face, head, shroud yourself in black. And I don't care if someone is walking down the streen in a swim suit! Mind your own business. There are more problems in your own house. Fix those! My relationship with Allah is exactly that. MINE! When women start snapping the necks of their attackers then maybe you will see.
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Hanadi Abdul Halim
28-04-2015 08:44pm
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In that sense, even Brook Shields would be mosest
Farida, you must be a great interpreter of the Quran....!
Nabila Murad
28-04-2015 08:28pm
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Farida is right....a woman has the right to show off her breasts as well
This makes her desirable to men...and the Quran doesn't say a woman has to cover her breastds. It is really interesting to seehow ignoramuses interpret the Quran.
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Sam Enslow
27-04-2015 09:42am
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Article about personal choice- not religion
In a democracy, the rights of the minorities are protected. Any individual is allowed to follow his personal religious beliefs as long as he is not imposing his values on others. There are here attacks on Islam citing Salafi beliefs. But Islam also produced Mowlana Jalaloddin Balk I (Rum I). Christianity produced Kahlil Gribran and Pat Robertson. If one disagrees with an 'Islamic' position use the literature of Islam to refute it, the same with Christian or any other beliefs. The US civil rights movement was lead by members of Christian churches. It was fought by members of other Christian churches. Religious teachings can be twisted to 'prove' most anything. Egypt is being destroyed by sectarian hatreds often encouraged by the institutions claiming to represent different faiths. It is time for clerics of all faiths to work in villages to bring the peoples of all faiths together. So much time is spent debating the Nature of the messengers, we forgot the message. Religion should uplift.
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Egyptian-Canadian
28-04-2015 08:49pm
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Personal choice- not religion
You said it perfectly::" Egypt is being destroyed"
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Sam Enslow
27-04-2015 09:42am
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Article about personal choice- not religion
In a democracy, the rights of the minorities are protected. Any individual is allowed to follow his personal religious beliefs as long as he is not imposing his values on others. There are here attacks on Islam citing Salafi beliefs. But Islam also produced Mowlana Jalaloddin Balk I (Rum I). Christianity produced Kahlil Gribran and Pat Robertson. If one disagrees with an 'Islamic' position use the literature of Islam to refute it, the same with Christian or any other beliefs. The US civil rights movement was lead by members of Christian churches. It was fought by members of other Christian churches. Religious teachings can be twisted to 'prove' most anything. Egypt is being destroyed by sectarian hatreds often encouraged by the institutions claiming to represent different faiths. It is time for clerics of all faiths to work in villages to bring the peoples of all faiths together. So much time is spent debating the Nature of the messengers, we forgot the message. Religion should uplift.
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Hani Azzam
28-04-2015 03:46pm
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Hijab is not the real issue
The real problem is between those who believe in Islam and those who don't. Secularists, atheists, liberals, etc. can not be Muslims. They reject everything Islamic, not just the Hijab.
Hasan Hanafi, Cairo
28-04-2015 03:26pm
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Sam, the problem is secular fascism, not Islam
Secularism is only "democratic" when the secularists win, but when Muslims win, the secularists become fascists and abandon democracy. We saw what happened in Egypt.
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Sam Enslow
27-04-2015 09:42am
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Article about personal choice- not religion
In a democracy, the rights of the minorities are protected. Any individual is allowed to follow his personal religious beliefs as long as he is not imposing his values on others. There are here attacks on Islam citing Salafi beliefs. But Islam also produced Mowlana Jalaloddin Balk I (Rum I). Christianity produced Kahlil Gribran and Pat Robertson. If one disagrees with an 'Islamic' position use the literature of Islam to refute it, the same with Christian or any other beliefs. The US civil rights movement was lead by members of Christian churches. It was fought by members of other Christian churches. Religious teachings can be twisted to 'prove' most anything. Egypt is being destroyed by sectarian hatreds often encouraged by the institutions claiming to represent different faiths. It is time for clerics of all faiths to work in villages to bring the peoples of all faiths together. So much time is spent debating the Nature of the messengers, we forgot the message. Religion should uplift.
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999
28-04-2015 03:29pm
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Democracy is the solution
But most Egyptians would vote for the Islamists. Hence secularism's rejection of democracy.
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Linda Tomson, Sydney
26-04-2015 08:46pm
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Islasmists sound more convincing, secularists irate, spasmodic, intolerant
It is sad that some secularists here are using sexist (and sexual) insinuations to attack Muslims, especially, European reverts. Most of us who chose to adopt Islam as our way of life did so out of the firm conviction that Islam is the true religion of God. It is sad that so many Christian Arabs as well as secular "Muslims" can not bring themselves to accept this simple truth. Well, what can I do for you? I just say one thing "Lakum Deenukum wa lea Din." "To you be your religion, and to me mine." As-salamu alaikum
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Makram Fouad
28-04-2015 03:32pm
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Aly Sadeq....keep your fascism for yourself
If you hate Islam, you shouldn't expect that everyone else does the same. Islam will be the main religion in our world in a few decades.
Allen
28-04-2015 12:10am
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Bingo Ali, you got that right.
It's a common feature of the brotherhood to hide behind fake western names, fake world locations, and fake doctorates or professorships. Only the very feeble would buy it as they are mostly illiterate and just parroting what their terrorist masters feed them as information . For laughs they actually use terms such as intolerance or democracy, all ideals totally absent in terrorists idea of a lifestyle
expat
27-04-2015 04:23pm
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you just try to negate the obvious...
i give you a little secret to share....ALL Youths oppose the live style of their parents and think,they are more bright,more smart and for sure more moralistic than them....the same spirit brought millions towards fascism, after that millions to followship of the US,after that,with the first migrants from the middle east/turkey....thousands run after the islam...why? deep inside themselfes,they want to do the biggest shocking thing towards their parents imaginable. ok,normally,this period lasts arround 5-10 Years,after this not totally brainwashed people start to set up families and get real...but YOU and YOUR kin have effectivly seperated yourselfs from society,which you are still living in(Sydney)inside yourself hating your "khuffar" neighbors,some more open,some more conceiled. with all the news of freak-convertits going on rampage(from britain to australia,from spain to the US)...the air gets thinner and thinner for your kind of needed "tolerance" of the surrounding society arround
Ali Sadeq - Sydney
27-04-2015 01:57am
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"Linda Thomoson" - MB
Your analysis, language and thoughts sound very much like this Guy from the MB who keeps choosing Western names and cities to hide his true twisted failing arguments. Maybe it is time to come out of the closet and join your MB losers!
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