Reform in Egypt must start with women

Only reform consistent with the Quran, which indisputably places great value on women, can bring prosperity to Egypt, its people, its government, and the Arab region – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Aylin Kocaman, April 19, 2013.

According to an article in The New York Times, Osama Yehia Abu Salama, the new Egyptian regime’s “family expert”, has summarised the place of women in Egypt by saying: “Women need to be confined within a framework that is controlled by the man of the house.” Statements about women by the Muslim Brotherhood regime have been criticised before. The regime has made it compulsory for women to obtain their husbands’ permission to travel, work or use birth control.  

Let us look at these decisions more closely. The collapse of the Mubarak dictatorship was a success for Egypt, and the coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood with a huge majority was a sign of stability. The Egyptian people rejoiced at their success in eliminating a dictatorship, and this act would now mean freedom for them. The people wanted a democratic order in which their voices could be heard. This had never happened before.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been in power for around a year now, but the Egyptian people are still in the street. Why? Because of a fear of radicalism. The Muslim Brotherhood’s past record is by no means spotless in this regard. Morsi’s radical statements when he first came to power were described in fearful terms in the world press. Was Egypt now an Islamist country? Morsi’s words that, “I support reform, I support change,” and the country’s adoption of an intermediary role along with Turkey in the Israel-Palestine conflict (a continuation of the Mubarak tradition), eased fears somewhat. But the policies did not satisfy the public; they are back on the streets again.

The danger of radicalism reveals itself in three main points: democratic weakness, intolerance of other faiths, and ideas on women. Let us look at the situation in terms of women.

Throughout history, women have long been regarded as inferior beings. The main reason was fundamentalism in the name of religion. This has happened in all religions, not just Islam. Nonsense was added onto faiths, and the main targets of this nonsense were women. The more women were despised, treated as second class citizens and pacified, the easier it would be for those seeking to spread their nonsensical ideas to control them. Over time, this became dogma, a form of barbarity and disgrace among some Islamists. New radicals were brought up to think, “women are the servants of the man of the house.” Nobody ever asked what made the man who needed to be served and to make all the decisions superior in the first place; everyone immediately signed up to this misguided radical logic, so much so that even those who agreed on the baselessness of this logic had no doubt that Islam enjoined this.

Women of course hated this policy, but the disturbing thing is that even they came to believe they were second-class citizens. That was where the greatest problem arose. People imagined that the logic that looked down on women stemmed from Islam, not from fundamentalism, and since they believe that, they imagine that the solution was to keep away from Islam … //

… As a first step, of course:

According to Islam, if there is to be reform, there has to be freedom of ideas, democracy, a love for other faiths and opinions and a policy of unification. That is what is compatible with the Quran. If reform is made proceeding from the radical mindset, this will continue to frighten the Egyptian people. And since people will regard these measures as part of Islam, they will continue to heed useless opinions. That would be the greatest tragedy for Egypt. But a reform based on the Quran will bring great freedom, secularism and joy, both to the Egyptian government and to its unhappy people. Love is needed. And that love cannot appear unless a concept of Islam compatible with the Quran is brought in.
It is impossible to bring forth such a concept with superstitions, fundamentalism and a radical worldview misconstrued as Islam. Neither the administration, nor the people, nor the Middle East will be happy under that.
(full text).

(The writer is a commentator and religious and political analyst on Turkish TV and also a peace activist).


Brothers target dissident imams, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Mohamed Abdel-Baky, April 17, 2013:
The Muslim Brotherhood stands accused of attempting to replicate the control once exercised by Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party over the Ministry of Religious Endowments

Access for Turkish Press: Court to Raffle Media Seats in Neo-Nazi Trial, on Spiegel Onine International, April 19, 2013: Responding to an order from above, a Munich court has reopened the media accreditation process for reporters covering the biggest neo-Nazi trial in German history. Seats will now be allotted by raffle, with several being reserved for the Turkish, Greek and other foreign press.

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