Monday, November 14, 2011

Egyptian beaches closed to the bikini, violators to be "arrested"

This soon to be headline is closer than you think. As the "Arab Spring" changes to the "Islamic Winter" and Islamists take more control of Egyptian society, the banning of all things un-Islamic will increase. The burkini will replace the bikini and segregated beaches will be designed, all in the name of tolerance and "Islamic values"

From The Jerusalem Post November 14 by Joseph Mayton

Egyptian women fret as 'modesty' becomes election issue

CAIRO -- Marwa and Heba are polar opposites, at least outwardly. Both 23 years old, Marwa, a recent university graduate and unemployed, is veiled, while Heba displays her hair in a pony-tail uncovered. Both take drags from their shisha (water pipe) at a local café.

Yet, in spite of their appearance, both are frustrated at the campaign promises being touted by leading politicians over how women should dress and act. A lengthy elections season has begun in Egypt, with legislative polling starting November 28 and continuing in stages until March, followed by a presidential vote in 2013. And, freed from the strictures of the Mubarak era, politicians are pushing forward on an Islamic agenda.

“It’s so frustrating,” says Marwa, who told The Media Line that she wears the veil in part because her mother wants it and partly out of the conviction that “it was the right thing to do.” But at the same time she is critical of politicians “who would dare tell a woman what is appropriate. That is un-Islamic.”

No it isn't and that will be the very big crux of contention in the months ahead.

The two are typical young Egyptian women, who participated in the January and February uprising that forced out president Hosni Mubarak and put the country on the path toward democracy. But with elections just two weeks away, they are lamenting how women are being left out of the dialogue and discussion of the future of the country.

“We were at the front of the protests, getting beaten and supporting the future of Egypt,” recalls Heba. But now, she says, “Women are not being heard from and this is causing a lot of frustration among myself and my friends who want the ability to choose our lives and what we do.”

The role of women in Egypt's transitional government has been very limited, and no women were included on the committee that drafted Egypt's transitional constitutional declaration. The new elections law does away with the Mubarak-era quota, which allocated 64 seats in parliament for women. The new law requires that at least some candidates be women, but some have complained that their parties are assigning them spots on election lists that will make it hard for them to win a seat in parliament.

The controversy over the status of women in post-Mubarak Egypt came to a head at the start of November after Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail, a leading presidential candidate and Muslim cleric, gave two television interviews in which he outlined an Islamic future for the country that would impose Saudi Arabian-style dress and behavior on the public.

In an interview on the 90 Minutes television program, Abu Ismail said he supported what he called “Islamic dress” for women, meaning the hijab, or veil. Asked about what would happen to a woman wearing a bikini on the beach, he responded, “she would bearrested.”

Days later, he went on the Biladna Bil Masr program and lashed out at the show’s popular TV host, Reem Maged, and all other unveiled women in the country. He declared al-tabarouj (the failure to cover one’s hair and of wearing makeup) a “mortal sin” and said he would make such actions “criminal,” citing his interpretation of Islamic law.

(...)For Marwa, Heba and other women in the country, it is a fight for women’s rights. “We must stand against this sort of thing, whether we are veiled or not,” says Heba, “because freedom of choice is important for Egypt’s future.”

Good luck with that.

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