When religion is used not practiced

by christinem on August 31, 2013 - 5:05pm

 On the 14th of April 2013, journalist and reporter Nada Mohamed was verbally and publically harassed by minister of information and member of the Muslim brotherhood Salah Abdel Maqsoud. In a conference that was diffused on national TV, the reporter asked the minister a question that he did not seem to appreciate. She said: “Mr. Minister, where is the freedom [you are talking about], when journalists are dying and getting beaten everywhere?” Maqsoud answered laughing without any hesitation “Come here and I'll show you”. When employed in such a context, this phrase has a very sexual and inappropriate connotation in Arabic. In fact, according to an article written by Aleem Maqbool and published on the BBC news website on the 4th of May 2013, a survey conducted by the UN among Egyptian women suggested that “99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced harassment of one form or another. Sixty percent of those asked said they had been touched inappropriately”. The purpose of this survey was not to prove that since the beginning of the Muslim brotherhood reign, women are being harassed, but to show that the rate of harassment rose quite surprisingly. Dina Zakariya, television presenter and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, confirms that there is not an existing correlation between this harassment and the reign of president Morsi. She even asserts that president Morsi supports women rights and wants to meet their demands. However, her assertions can be very easily contradicted. Many clerics who appear on daily shows diffused on national TV send direct and clear messages about women’s harassment. A very common example of these messages would be “if a woman doesn’t wear the veil and is wearing makeup men have the right to harass her because she is the one seeking their attention while being a great temptation that encourage them to sin”. Someyya Hussein, a university student, has been sexually assaulted twice in public places. She says in an interview with the BBC that "Clerics appear on TV inciting people, telling men they have the right to touch a girl if she is not 'properly' covered up. They should be stopped and brought to account but they are not". She also explains that "It may not be their direct message that harassing women is OK, but when the government keeps silent about these issues, it makes things worse." However what makes this situation quite ironic is that both Someyya and Nada (TV reporter) wore the veil at the time of their harassment. As an Egyptian girl, I believe that this is unacceptable. I lived in Egypt before the reign of president Morsi and I am perfectly conscious that women were harassed. However, I went to Egypt recently and things are not the same anymore. It is extremely hard to go on the streets and notice a woman who is not wearing the veil or the Niqab (veil that covers the entire face). My parents insisted on the fact that I must wear long sleeves ample clothes during this infernal Egyptian summer. I never wore anything provocative and I have been verbally harassed in a very vulgar way. The fact that the government puts the blame on women is incredibly unfair and disrespectful. Stating that the solution is to wear the veil (Muslim religious sign) is completely ignoring the existence of us Christians who live in Egypt because the Hijab is not part of our religion. Also, what I find critical about this issue is the fact that we are losing our values and using our religions to justify our actions. The veil is before anything a choice that a woman makes because she wants to strengthen and deepen her spirituality. It is a sign of modesty and discretion that women choose to adopt only if they believe in it and they have the set of values and behavior that this lifestyle requires. Promoting the veil as a solution is imposing it, erasing all its religious meaning, and mostly, removing women’s right to make the decision themselves. I have watched numerous Egyptian TV shows, in which religious figures are promoting women’s silence and discretion and clearly stating that it is entirely their fault if they are assaulted in public. In one of these shows, a male journalist asked a cleric about his view on the harassment of women in demonstrations. His answer was: “they deserve it.  If a woman goes to such demonstrations, it is because she seeks sexuality and her parents failed to raise her properly”. In the link below you will find a video about this issue, in which men are interviewed about women’s harassment. Unfortunately, their answers are the living proof of this misconception about sexual harassment. I believe that the government needs to change his conception of women. Campaigns must be started to spread awareness about women’s rights and value. Also, religious figures shall deepen their knowledge about their own religion and learn to not use it to justify their gender’s actions. Islam is not a religion that preaches hate and disrespect. Islam is a religion of love and understanding and this is why I find it truly sad that their figures are reflecting the wrong image of it.

Link to article + video: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22402053