Brotherhood presidential candidate Morsi attempts to mollify women's fears

Sarah El-Rashidi, Tuesday 5 Jun 2012

Less than two weeks before the runoffs that will determine Egypt's next president, Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi affirms his commitment to women's equal rights

Presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi (Photo: Sarah El-Rashidi)

Less than two week before the presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi attempted to dampen fears about the implications of Islamist rule for women, by talking about women’s pivotal societal role, saying that: “Legally, women have the same rights as men in Egypt.”

In a televised press conference held today, Morsi emphasised gender equality and guaranteed that women’s rights will be upheld under his presidency. Sceptics in the crowd or those wanting further reassurances raised controversial topics such as underage marriage, khula (wives' right to request divorce), and female genital mutilation. Inas Mubarak, a dental professor from Cairo University listed such concerns, demanding Morsi’s public response.

"Laws protecting women are already in place. I am not going to make any modifications in terms of the issues just raised: the legal age for marriage, khula, female genital mutilation."  

Aware of cynics' distrust, Morsi guaranteed: "My convictions concerning women’s rights are not related to the presidential elections."

In a different speech, Morsi praised Egyptian women, but he also made a remark for which he was immediately criticised: "In Egypt we do not have child abuse or other social problems such as illegitimate children or people living together before marriage; these are western customs."

In an instant counter-attack, female members of the audience condemned such remarks as incorrect, asserting the need to accept the existence of such issues. Instantly correcting himself, Morsi admitted that such social concerns do exist in Egypt. Khaled El-Qazzas, the Freedom and Justice Party's (FJP) media chief and party coordinator further elaborated to Ahram Online.

"Dr Morsi rectified the situation, explaining that Western social norms are not socially accepted within Egyptian society."

Young advocates of the Morsi campaign and members of the Muslim Brotherhood further vouched for the leading candidate.

"I trust Dr Morsi will succeed in upholding and preserving women’s rights through implementation of the sharia (Islamic law),” affirmed Nada Abdel Halim, a recent graduate of Ain Shams University.

This sentiment was echoed by other young attendees. "My father is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood; I was nevertheless free to choose my own philosophy and here I am today backing Dr Morsi, which speaks volumes," said young pharmacist Sara Osama.

Prominent female participants included Amal and Sana El-Banna, daughters of the famed Hassan El-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also in attendance was FJP MP Sabah El-Sakari, as well as Islamic researcher on women's issues Asma Ziada, media celebrity and physician Heba Qotb, and journalist Heba Basha. 

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