'Polygamy' soaps irk feminists in Egypt

'Polygamy' soaps irk feminists in Egypt:
Cairo: Egyptian pro-women groups are disappointed that several TV serials being shown on local and Arab TV feature polygamy as a recurrent theme. "I have been working in the field of women's welfare for more than 20 years and I have never seen so many polygamists in Egypt as portrayed in TV dramas," said Eman Beibers, the chairperson of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women. At least seven television serials with polygamists are on the air waves every night of Ramadan - when viewing rates in the Arab world peak. "These shows by no means reflect real life in Egypt where many young people cannot afford the spiralling cost of marriage," Beibers told Gulf News.
My TV isn't working well so I haven't had a chance to watch this year's soaps. But Beibers does seem to have a point about TV's obsession with polygamists...
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Saudi Religious Police Attacked by Girls

Saudi Religious Police Attacked by Girls:
Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat - Members of Khobar's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were the victims of an attack by two Saudi females, Asharq Al-Awsat can reveal. According to the head of the commission in Khobar, two girls pepper sprayed members of the commission after they had tried to offer them advice. Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province Dr. Mohamed bin Marshood al-Marshood, told Asharq Al Awsat that two of the Commission's employees were verbally insulted and attacked by two inappropriately-dressed females, in the old market in Prince Bandar street, an area usually crowded with shoppers during the month of Ramadan. According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to "politely" advise and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing. Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them. The Eastern Province's head of the commission also revealed that with the help of the police his two employees were able to control the situation. The two females were then escorted to the police station where they apologized for the attack, were cautioned and then released.
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New campaign for right to drive in Saudi

Saudi Women Petition for Right to Drive:
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 23 -- For the first time since a demonstration in 1990, a group of Saudi women is campaigning for the right to drive in this conservative kingdom, the only country in the world that prohibits female drivers. After spreading the idea through text messages and e-mails, the group's leaders said they collected more than 1,100 signatures online and at shopping malls for a petition sent to King Abdullah on Sunday. Wajeha al-Huwaider of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, co-founded a group urging that women be permitted to drive. The group sent King Abdullah a petition with more than 1,100 names. "We don't expect an answer right away," said Wajeha al-Huwaider, 45, an education analyst who co-founded the group. "But we will not stop campaigning until we get the right to drive."
Really, I don't even see why the (mostly American) press bothered to cover tiny "democratic" improvements in Saudi political life when this retard-run country doesn't even allow women to drive. Every time I am reminded of that ban I shudder at the thought that this is the most influential Arab country. If they have a lot of support, these women should give each other driving lessons and prepare for a wave of civil disobedience.
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Introducing Hatshepsut

This is a (very long overdue) announcement that the Arabist family has added another member. Please check out the blog Hatshepsut, which has been up and running for some time now, waiting to be officially unveiled. It contains some gems. Hatshepsut is dedicated to covering women's rights and issues, the history of feminism in Egypt, and pretty much anything else that strikes Hatshepsut's interest. While the (male-dominated) writers on the main Arabist blog have occasionally reported on women's issues, I have to admit that this hasn't been a strong suit of the blog and having someone dedicated to these issues (and with a journalistic and academic interest in them) is, in my opinion, a great and hopefully useful step. Please check out the archives, whether to scan the mini-biographies of notable and injustly forgotten Egyptian women (where you can also find out about the queen that this blog is named after); to read one of the many strange or insightful conversations Hatshepsut has overheard in Cairo; or to hear from Hatshepsut herself about what life for a young woman in Cairo is like. This is the first step in making some wider changes to Arabist.net. More news soon.
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Liberation through shopping

Ever since I read this New York Times article a few days back about the identitarian fashion issues of Muslim American women I've been trying to figure out exactly what bothers me about it. It's not just the article's utter naiveté (the New York Times discovers that Muslim women--even veiled ones--care about fashion!) or the trite dichotomies it sets up. Here's the lead, for example:
For Aysha Hussain, getting dressed each day is a fraught negotiation. Ms. Hussain, a 24-year-old magazine writer in New York, is devoted to her pipe-stem Levi’s and determined to incorporate their brash modernity into her wardrobe while adhering to the tenets of her Muslim faith.
(Wow, get it? Pipe-stem Levi's = "brash modernity." Muslim faith = the opposite.) And it's not just that it seems to be trying to turn a pretty mundane observation (what a Muslim woman chooses to wear “is a critical part of her identity," says one interviewee) into a sociological phenomenon that is unique to Muslim women. It's mostly the way the article seems to subscribe to a "liberation through shopping" theory. The title is "We, Myself and I." Presumably, in the outfits of the Muslim women interviewed, the "we" is exemplified by the veil and the modest long sleeves, and the "myself" by the brash, modern touches of Western coutoure. Theres' no questioning of the assumption that fashion and consumerism do anything but allow the individual woman to express herself.
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Fire that German judge

Completely ridiculous story -- while Arab women fight to have such measures removed from their own legal system, a German judge refers to the Quran to justify domestic abuse:
German judge invokes Qur'an to deny abused wife a divorce A German judge who refused a Moroccan woman a fast-track divorce on the grounds that domestic violence was acceptable according to the Qur'an has been removed from the case following a nationwide outcry. The judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said the German woman of Moroccan descent would not be granted a divorce because she and her husband came from a "Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife," according to a statement she wrote that was issued by a Frankfurt court. "That's what the claimant had to reckon with when she married the defendant." The 26-year-old mother of two had been repeatedly beaten and threatened with death by her husband. When the woman protested against the judge's decision, Ms Datz-Winter invoked the Qur'an to support her argument. In the court she read from verse 34 of Sura four of the Qur'an, An-Nisa (Women), in which men are told to hit their wives as a final stage in dealing with disobedience. The verse reads: "... as to those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping places and beat them".
That judge should lose her job. And incidentally, there is (as always) a wide range of interpretations and thinking about this part of the Quran. Update: NYT story on alternate interpretation, by which a rebellious woman should be spurned rather than beaten as usually interpreted.
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The "burqini"

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I'm not trying to make fun of this -- people can wear what they want -- but why call it burqini? A burqa is a rather extreme form of fundamentalist gear that is not found in much of the Muslim world outside of Afghanistan and, to a much less degree, India and Pakistan. Is the Taliban what they want their product to be associated with? Incidentally, this "burqini" is now standard issue for Muslim female lifeguards in Australia.
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Mufti not against women presidents after all?

I got hold of a press release from Dar al-Iftaa saying that the Mufti was not in fact against women being president. The fatwa in fact referred only to barring women from being caliphs -- which is hardly relevant to modern politics. Or at least, if the Caliphate is ever restored, whether women can hold the position will be the least of our concerns. The fatwa obviously plays on the distinction between Sultans and Caliphs -- on a related note, I highly recommend Fatima Mernissi's The Forgotten Queens of Islam (in the original French Sultanes oubliées) on the history of Muslim sultanas. Since we were fairly negative about the earlier reports of the Mufti's fatwa, I'm reproducing the statement for Dar al-Iftaa below, after the jump. [Thanks, Paul] Update: Apparently the Mufti considers the Organization of the Islamic Conference to be the contemporary equivalent of the Caliphate, as opposed to the Salafi/MB "imperial" vision of a modern Caliphate. It's an interesting argument, within the confines of Islamic (ist?) discourse.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti: Women are Permitted to Lead Modern Nations “Women have equal political rights in Islam.”

In a landmark religious decision, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, has upheld a fatwa (religious opinion) he issued a year ago stating that, according to Islamic law, women have the right to become heads of state and lead nations. This ruling is supported by the legal reasoning of Imam al-Tabari which allows women to serve in political positions as well as judges.

The Grand Mufti, who is the highest ranking Islamic jurist in Egypt and one of the Muslim world’s most influential scholars, reiterated his position in response to reports published in the Egyptian and international press falsely claiming he issued a fatwa barring women from becoming heads of modern states. According to sources at Dar Al Ifta, Egypt’s supreme council responsible for issuing authoritative religious opinion, which is led by the Grand Mufti, the fatwa cited in the news reports referred to the historical role of the Caliph, a position that has not existed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the dissolution of the Caliphate in 1924.

Historically, traditional jurists ruled that a woman cannot fulfill the role of Caliph, but it is clear from the legal reasoning of the fatwa in question (Dar al-Ifta Fatwa # 4335, 2/26/2006) that this ruling does not refer to the head of a modern state. The fatwa states that a woman cannot be a Caliph since one of the roles of that office is to lead the believers in prayer, which is a function fulfilled by men, according to the agreed upon position in traditional Islamic jurisprudence.

“This ruling does not refer to the head of a modern state,” Gomaa said, “but to the traditional role of Caliph as both secular head of state and Imam of the Muslims. Nation-states in the 21st century Islamic world are nationalist entities created during the 20th century. The head of state in a contemporary Muslim society, be he a president, prime minister or king, is no longer required or expected to lead Muslims in prayer. Therefore, it is permissible for women to hold the highest office in modern Muslim nations.”

The Grand Mufti added that he has been on record with this opinion for many years and admonished reporters for not checking their facts more thoroughly. “This is the position that I have always held,” he said, “which has been clearly stated in books I have written and lectures I have delivered. I would advise the press to be more responsible in researching their subjects thoroughly before publishing misleading stories, especially in these turbulent times.”

The Grand Mufti acknowledged that other religious scholars could issue opinions contrary to his Fatwa but made it clear that they these rulings would have to be based upon the ancient and traditional understanding of the political leader as the religious head of the Caliphate, not the leader of a modern political state.

“In my view, Islam extends equal political and social rights to both men and women. This is my opinion and belief, which is based upon thirty years of intensive study of Islamic law and research into the issue,” Gomaa said.

About Dar al-Ifta A fatwa is an official non-binding Islamic legal opinion issued by a qualified scholar in response to a question posed by a member of the public. The institution of Dar al-Ifta was established in 1895 with the purpose of issuing authoritative, accurate, and practical legal opinions. It is considered one of the few institutions authorized to issue fatwas in the Islamic world, and it issues over 5,000 fatwas a month in response to the questions it receives from all over the world by all forms of communication.

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Review: Golia on Hirsi Ali and Afzal-Khan

My friend Maria Golia, author of the most excellent Cairo: City of Sand, has written a review essay on two recent books that deal, broadly speaking, with women and Islam. One is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's popular and controversial The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam and the other is Shattering The Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out, a compilation of writings by Muslim-American women edited by Fawzia Afzal-Khan. The review recently appeared in the august Times Literary Supplement, but is not available online. As always, click on the covers or links above to buy them on Amazon.com and we get a little baksheesh.

In 1992, the Somali-born author of The Caged Virgin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, arrived in Holland as a refugee. She was granted citizenship in 1997, and six years later elected to parliament, where she focused on immigration policy. Hirsi Ali collaborated with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, writing the screenplay for Submission 1, a film about women suffering from a repressive Islam. When Van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim in 2004, Hirsi Ali's life was threatened and her celebrity enhanced. In 2005, TIME magazine named her one of the 'world's 100 most influential people'. A photograph in the New York Review of Books (October 5, 2006) shows the attractive Hirsi Ali at a TIME-sponsored party chortling with fellow influential person, Condoleezza Rice. In the accompanying review, Timothy Garton Ash notes his 'enormous respect for her courage, sincerity and clarity.' The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a think-tank close to the Bush Administration, apparently feels the same way. They made Hirsi Ali a fellow following her abrupt withdrawal from Dutch politics. Hirsi Ali's resignation was owed in part to the controversy surrounding her falsification of personal data when requesting asylum, but also her opposition to Dutch tolerance and multiculturalism on the ground that it perpetuates 'backwardness', especially in Muslim immigrants. '[Muslim immigrants] only rarely take advantage of the opportunities offered in education and employment' she writes in The Caged Virgin, and a restrictive Islam is what is holding them back. 'By our Western standards, Mohammed is a perverse man. A tyrant. If you don't do as he says, you will end up in hell. That reminds me of those megalomaniac rulers, Bin Laden, Khomeni, Saddam…..You are shocked to hear me say these things…you forget where I am from. I used to be a Muslim; I know what I'm talking about." This credential may have impressed the AEI, but it falls somewhat short when attempting to prosecute a religion and the multifarious peoples that profess it. It's not that Hirsi Ali says outright that all Muslims are fundamentalists; she just attributes fundamentalist beliefs and practices to all Muslims. Hirsi Ali is tired of hearing 'ad nauseum' that 'a single Islam does not exist', implying she knows it is the dominant faith in 40 countries, and that Arabs constitute a quarter of all Muslims. Yet she finds it appropriate to make statements such as these: 'In a community of over 1.2 billion faithful, knowledge, progress and prosperity are not primary aspirations'. 'The cultural expressions of the majority of Muslims are still at the premodern stage of development'. 'Human curiosity in Muslims has been curtailed'. Although it is admittedly hard to footnote sprawling generalizations, Hirsi Ali cites her references infrequently. A favored source, however, is David Pryce-Jones, senior editor of the National Review, an influential publication in US neocon circles. Hirsi Ali echoes Pryce-Jones and the like-minded Bernard Lewis in her discussion of 'the mental world of Islam', a dark planet governed by 'tribal values' essentially at odds with the enlightened West's. In Hirsi Ali's mental world, the link between Islam and violence is clear, and she assumes perhaps all too correctly, that it is clear to the reader as well. 'Muslims were involved in two thirds of the 32 armed conflicts in the year 2000', she offers as proof, without further substantiation. Presumably the Muslims were either fighting themselves or some unsuspecting adversary. Ironically, being a 'fierce believer' in the rights of the individual, as she repeatedly describes herself, doesn’t prevent Hirsi Ali from painting all Muslims with the same bloody brush. She may abhor the lack of individual freedoms in many Muslim -majority countries, but the distinctions and interplay between religious and political control systems, as well as the repercussions of Western interventionism, do not interest her. Indeed, Hirsi Ali's politics are unencumbered by nuance. Predictably, her meatiest bone of contention is Islam's treatment of women, particularly the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Since she seems well versed in the topic, it is disingenuous not to have mentioned that FGM is neither pervasive in Muslim societies, nor practiced exclusively by Muslims. FGM occurs most widely across a swath of sub-Saharan Africa where it is a social custom long observed by Christians and Muslims alike. It is not practiced¸ for instance, in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, or South and South East Asia. According to Amnesty International, FGM was however used by doctors in England and the United States as recently as the 1950's, as a treatment for hysteria, lesbianism, masturbation and other perceived deviances in girls and women. The notion that sexism, not Islam per se, has made women vulnerable to all manner of abuse, is not entertained. Likewise, Hirsi Ali erroneously states that 'there is a strict taboo in Muslim families on talking about birth control, abortion and sexual violence.' Islam, like its Judeo-Christian antecedents, bans premarital sex, but not birth control. The Prophet Mohammed advocated coitus interruptus, not the most effective means of family planning, but in keeping with Islam's encouragement of sexual activity as a source of marital pleasure, not solely procreation. Egypt's state-sponsored birth control programs began in the 1960s. In Iran, condoms manufactured in a government-operated facility are distributed through clinics and state-sponsored family planning counseling centers. By contrast, the Vatican, which condemns birth control, recently announced that its ban on condoms may be lifted - for married people whose partner is HIV positive. Islam, like the Roman Catholic Church, permits abortion only under certain circumstances, but several former-Soviet union countries with Muslim constituencies, as well as Tunisia and Turkey, allow it. As for sexual violence, in Egypt at least, the topic is open for discussion. In presenting sexual violence as a pernicious side-effect of the Islamic faith, Hirsi Ali does not trouble herself with parallels or comparisons. It would have been interesting, for example, to learn if violence towards women in Muslim countries rivals its counterpart in the United States, where one in six women are victims of sexual assault annually, according to America's Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. This is not to say that women do not suffer violence, or are not grievously denied their rights in the name of Islam. Hirsi Ali's affirmation that 'Islam's biggest weakness is it treatment of women' is valid. But that treatment varies dramatically from place to place, family to family, as do the socio-economic and political factors that influence it. Hirsi Ali seems far more interested in indicting Islam than helping damaged women, whose horror stories she conveniently trots out whenever she needs to bludgeon home a broadsided point. Convinced that Muslims are incapable of the self-critique required to root out gender discrimination and other injustices, Hirsi Ali overlooks longstanding calls for political and social reform, with women today at the forefront of the demand for fresh interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence. She is at her most pretentious when appointing herself spokesperson for Muslim women 'unable to speak for themselves', while ignoring the extensive scholarship, field studies and literature authored by them. Women staff thousands of organizations throughout the Muslim world, dedicated to eradicating FGM and female illiteracy, and to raising women's awareness of health issues alongside that of their religious and legal rights. It is a long and painstaking process to change legislation and deeply entrenched attitudes, as local activists are aware, one that requires an understanding of context and coalition-building, not to mention compassion and subtlety. Hirsi Ali's proposal for eradicating FGM amongst immigrant Muslims consists of penalizing it, and subjecting girls to physical examinations to insure their parent's compliance. Paradoxically, this sort of institutionalized violence occurs in Turkey, where the state reserves the right to examine women to ascertain their virginity. By disregarding the ongoing struggle for women's rights - both the progress and set-backs - in Muslim-majority countries, Hirsi Ali does those committed to the cause, and consequently those she claims to want to help, a grave injustice. The very title of this book reinforces stereotypes while providing no new information about the evolving status of Muslim women in their own and adopted countries. It overlooks Muslim women's participation in economies, elections and government. Likewise, in discounting the contributions of fruitfully integrated first-generation Muslims and immigrants to their societies, she fuels the isolationism she claims to oppose. 'I do not despise Islam', she says, without offering a shred of evidence to the contrary. While acknowledging that her criticism has been called 'harsh, offensive and harmful', Hirsi Ali is undeterred. She has no patience for maundering liberals who prefer dialogue to diatribe. 'Murderers are being protected,' she shrieks. Although Hirsi Ali states that it was not her intention to provide Islamophobes with ammunition, this is exactly what her one-dimensional portrayal of Islam does. She would do well to read the second book under review, Shattering the Stereotypes, edited by scholar, professor and playwright Fawzia Afzal Khan, a collection of fiction, nonfiction, religious discourse, poetry and plays, authored by Muslim-American women from different ethnic and professional backgrounds. Their varied perspectives, and experiences in America and elsewhere, provide the sense of the individual so lacking in Hirsi Ali's monotone book. These women, mostly immigrants and first generation citizens, are articulate, questioning, and often humorous, in other words, human and humanizing. The range of genres assembled in Shattering the Stereotypes serves Afzal-Khan's aim of portraying 'the myriad realities and multiple allegiances' obscured by the label 'Muslim Woman', while amplifying the book's emotional and intellectual impact. The creative writing, exploring the dilemmas of faith and polity, helps personalize the issues, and diffuse the unwonted fear and mistrust arising from misinformation. For anyone genuinely interested in understanding a multiplicitous Islam, here is the mind-broadening equivalent of several books, and an enticement to read still more. It is noteworthy that Afzal-Khan was excluded from a year-long seminar at her university, entitled 'The Many Faces of the Muslim World', despite being the only Muslim faculty member. America's gathering undertow of anti-Muslim feeling is evident in several of the book's selections. The theme's recurrence suggests the ascendancy of divisive, biased rhetoric in press and media, and the corresponding need for more penetrating analysis. Always engaging, never strident, Shattering the Stereotypes is an inoculation against the banality of generalizations.
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It could happen to anyone we know

This al-Masri al-Youm report highlighted by Hossam is truly terrifying:
Two police corporals are currently under investigation for attempting to rape a woman in Tahrir Square’s underground metro (Sadat Station) on Wednesday, Al-Masry Al-Youm reports. The woman approached a police corporal inside the underground station, asking him for directions to the nearest exit to KFC at 1:30pm. To her surprise, he pointed at the security office in the station, and told her that was her destination, before grabbing her to the office and attempting to rape her with the help of another police corporal. The woman managed to escape, in complete trauma with torn clothes.
This could happen to your sister or mother.
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Egyptian feminist blogs

Joseph Mayton writes about them in the Middle East Times:
Leading the charge is a young Egyptian female - preferring to remain anonymous due to the nature of the campaign - who has started an Arab-language feminist blog called Atralnada (morning dew). In a country where Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, and the status of women a subject of much debate, this young activist has made her struggle public, and her blog is empowering Egyptian women to speak out in turn. "I wanted to post about my personal experiences of being harassed," she says simply, adding that the events of the last Eid celebration had sparked something inside her, compelling her to begin expressing herself in such a fashion. Particularly galling to her has been the apparent callousness by Egyptian men regarding the assaults. "I am asking women to speak up and tell their stories since most of the men have denied anything [of this nature ever] happens in this country," she points out. "[Males] write disgusting comments on blogs telling us that we are using the forum to become famous - even though [posters have to be] anonymous - and ... to attract men," she says incredulously. Despite the odds, the forum's popularity is catching on, having become the mouthpiece of a fledgling feminist movement, which, unlike the majority of other movements in Egypt, can lay claim to a truly grassroots base.
Does anyone have a link to the blog? Nevermind.
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Arab Human Development Report 2005

UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report 2005 has been launched this week – this year it focuses on women in the Arab world. Next to a lot of valuable data and figures, it discusses progress and continuous discrimination of women. It makes some interesting points – for instance arguing that moderate Islamic groups with their increasing respect of human rights, minorities, internal democracy and good governance are balancing the noise that extremist Islamic groups are making in public. The report also criticizes some Arab states for claiming to have ratified international conventions, without adapting national legislation to an extent where women and men would be fully equal before the law. Overall, the report seems to argue that it is much less Islam but rather deep-rooted traditionalism in Middle Eastern societies which is responsible for the situation of Arab women.
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Rosa al-Youssef hits new rock bottom

It's unbelievable what Rosa al-Youssef is doing these days. The daily paper, which is regarded as close to Gamal Mubarak's NDP Policies' Secretariat, is launching a crusade against journalist/blogger and friend Wael Abbas for helping to expose the downtown Cairo molestation fiesta during Eid. The horrific incidents went unreported by the local media, except for Al-Masry Al-Youm which published an article about it yesterday based on the bloggers' testimonies. MP Mustafa Bakri has submitted questions to the government today about the incidents, while the Interior Ministry is claiming nothing happened, as always. Karam Gabr, the paper's editor is claiming Wael is fabricating the incidents using his "sick fantasies", and started the usual overdose of flag-waving with accusations of "defaming Egypt's image" BS. Gabr is the same guy who back in the summer was claiming that Mohamed Sharqawi was also fabricating stories about his torture and sexual abuse. Shame on you Rosa! And as for you Gabr, your seat in President Gamal Mubarak's Ministry of Truth is surely waiting...
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The 4:34 dance

An interesting article about Islam, the Quran, and wife-beating. The author tackles the kind of issue that is fundamentally difficult when talking about "liberal interpretation" of Islam: if it's written pretty unambiguously in the Quran, it's difficult to justify change. What these interpretations miss out however is that just because something is written in the Quran doesn't mean it's universally followed or even known about. Not to mention that certain patriarchal practices are probably more about traditional conservatism and misogyny (two traits certainly prevalent among both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians) than an understanding of religion.
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Saudi woman ecstatic over permission to ‘marry out’

From Arab News, quoting the Saudi Al-Madinah
Saudi Woman Ecstatic Over Permission to ‘Marry Out’ Arab News MAKKAH, 15 August 2006 — A court here ruled in favor of a Saudi woman seeking to marry a non-Saudi, causing the forty-something woman to emit thrilling cries of bliss that echoed through the chamber, the daily Al-Madinah reported yesterday. The woman, who had been petitioning the court to permit her to get married to a non-Saudi, was so ecstatic at the decision that she not only screamed in joy but also jumped about embracing her relatives. In Saudi Arabia it can be very difficult for Saudi women to marry non-Saudis, which, to some Saudi women, is a very unfortunate thing — especially to older Saudi women who live in a society where many men taken on younger second wives, or divorce their older wives, often viewing older women as “expired goods.�
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The cost of wanting to be white

A crave for skin-lightening cosmetics in Sudan is causing a rise of women with skin problems:
Millions of women throughout Africa use creams and soaps containing chemicals, like hydroquinone, to lighten the color of their skin. But the creams can cause long-term damage. Dermatologists say prolonged use of hydroquinone and mercury-based products, also found in some creams, destroys the skin's protective outer layer. Eventually the skin starts to burn, itch or blister, becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight and then turns even blacker than before. Prolonged use can damage the nerves or even lead to kidney failure or skin cancer and so prove fatal. "It's a very bad problem here. It sometimes kills the patient ... It's bad, bad news," said a doctor at a Khartoum hospital. He said the number of women coming to the dermatology department with problems caused by skin-whitening treatments had grown to at least one in four of all dermatology patients.
This attitude about skin color is common everywhere from Morocco to India, as far as I can tell. Probably beyond.
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Documentary on Moroccan women on PBS

There was a documentary on PBS about Moroccan women on last night (sorry to be only telling you now, but it might repeat.) It looks interesting, if generally buying into Moroccan govt. PR. I have a long article coming out soon about Adl wa Ihsan, the largest Moroccan Islamist movement. (It might be delayed a bit considering there's other priorities in the region right now.) When it comes out I'll publish a transcript of a long interview I did with Nadia Yassine, who is featured in the documentary. She makes for a very interesting Islamist.
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