Saadawi on women and the presidency

Nawal Saadawi, potential candidate in the Egyptian presidential election, had an amusing column in Al Hayat a few days ago that has been translated:

News about nominating myself for the presidency in Egypt initiated a debate within all popular circles and political and religious authorities until Sheikh Al-Azhar Mohamad Sayyed Tantawi issued his Fatwa (religious edict), allowing a woman to become a president. Thus Al-Azhar scholars were divided, some opposed him and others supported him, including the Islamic Research Academy Secretary General Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Fayoumi. He announced his support to Sheikh Tantawi's Fatwa and assured that Islam does not discriminate between men and women in the workplace, but the choice of work is left to how much it suits the nature of each.    


The expression "the nature of each" opens the door for many questions: what is human nature? Is it something constant that does not change over the centuries? Does the man have a different nature than that of the woman? Is the difference in the mental, physical, biological, psychological or other differences? Is the nature of an American or European woman different than that of an Egyptian or Arab woman?


Why then did Margaret Thatcher rule Britain for a number of years with an iron hand? I used to see her walking with her head up, proud, and surrounded with Arab rulers and other Presidents, Kings, or Sultans in the so-called Arab world. They used to walk behind her, with bowed heads, bent backs, or broken noses, surrendering to her English colonial decisions.


It's over the top, as things tend to be with Saadawi, but worth reading.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.