This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Modernizing Egyptian Society

"The decision bans them [Egyptian women] from wearing the niqab during working hours to protect patients' rights and interests."
Cairo University statement

"The law requires that the neck [below and including the collarbone], the upper arms [including the elbow] and the thighs and knees [when sitting or standing] of a married woman be covered both in public and within the confines of her own house."
"[Jewish law also requires that] a married woman may not appear in public with her hair uncovered. She is required to wear a head-covering that hides all her hair from view. It is proper to ensure that no hair protrudes from it."
Barbara Goldman Carrell, “Shattered Vessels that Contain Divine Sparks; Unveiling Hasidic Women’s Dress Code,” in The Veil: Women Writers on its History, Lore and Politics

"Yes, that’s why you see so many Jewish women wearing face veils. But labeling something “Jewish” in Egypt is likely to get more people to oppose it; that could be Amna Nosseir’s strategy. In reality, the niqab and burqa arise from the assumption underlying the idea that a woman must cover her hair. Muhammad did indeed only mandate that a woman must cover everything except her face and hands, but he did so based on the notion that it is the woman’s responsibility to keep men from being tempted by her. So if the face tempts a man, it has to be covered as well."
Robert Spencer, jihadwatch.org
A supporter of of Egypt's new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wears a full veil (niqab)
A supporter of of Egypt's new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wears a full veil (niqab) with a headband that reads "al-Sisi my president". (photo credit:REUTERS)

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is a reformer. He has aspirations to take Egypt into modernity, into a communion with other countries and societies in the 21st Century, and his vision includes a modernization of Islam, to make it less confrontational, condemnatory of other religions, and to bring Egyptians around to respecting the differences within its own society, and extending that respect outwardly toward other societies:
"We talk a lot about the importance of reforming religious discourse. In our schools, institutes and universities, do we teach and practice respect for the other?"
"We neither teach [respect for the other] or practice it. God did not create the world for the ‘ummah’ [Arabic for ‘nation’ or ‘community’] to be alone. [He didn’t create it] for one community, but for communities. [He didn’t create it] for one religion, but for religions", he stated last December.

Good luck on that. The Egyptian population has among its 80-million many who are open-hearted and generous people, but they have also been traditionally subject to hearing Muslim clerics expound from their mosques the extraordinary superiority of Islam over all other religions, and that only Islam has god's exclusive permission to represent the Almighty's tolerant and peaceful message to humankind. Exceptionalism and its belief does lead humans to excesses of intolerance, a predictable byproduct of the Islamic message.

An Egyptian parliamentarian was recently hounded and expelled from parliament until he agreed to apologize for inviting the newly-appointed Israeli ambassador to his home for dinner. The outrage expressed by Egyptians was fairly universal, that an Egyptian lawmaker would treat an Israeli diplomat as an equal, despite the two nations having signed a peace agreement. Egyptians regard Jews warily, distrust them and are outwardly hostile; so much for open-mindedness extolled by their president.

But in an effort to haul Egypt out of the dark ages, the President is in support as well of passing a law to make it unlawful for women to wear burqas and niqabs. When Turkey, under Kemal Ataturk, sought to moderate Islam's sway over the country's social contract those dress customs were outlawed there, almost a hundred years ago. But in the Middle East as well as other Muslim societies there has been a return to women wearing these face-and-body coverings in the name of Islamic 'modesty'.

Cairo University last year banned its professors and researchers from appearing in the classroom with niqabs after university administration received student complaints of the difficulties experienced in communications when the face-covering veil is worn. In Afghanistan, under Taliban rule even surgeons in the operating theatre were forced to wear burqas while attending to surgeries. The influence of the Muslim Brotherhood helped propel the new 'modesty' of the veil and the burqa.

And while the Muslim Brotherhood is now outlawed as a terrorist group in Egypt and elsewhere, the wearing of the niqab and the burqa prevail, and their use grows; it is prevalent in Parkistan and Afghanistan. One hundred Cairo University academics retained lawyers to file a court case to lift the ban that Cairo University put in place, but an Egyptian court in January upheld the university's decision.

The Egyptian lawmakers prepared to draft legislation making it illegal for women to wear the niqab in public areas or in government offices are set to proceed. Asma Nosseir, a member of parliament in support of the bill, has the opinion that the veil represents a Jewish tradition prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Islam. She is a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Cairo's Al-Azhar University.

The Koran, she explains, encourages modest clothing and the covering of the hair, not the face. The fact that the Koran grew out of Judaic tradition, when the Prophet Mohammad selected from the much earlierTorah what suited him for inclusion in his new religion for a Bedouin population of Arabs goes a long way to understanding where the prohibition of female attributes being flaunted in public comes from; in the Orthodox Jewish view of life, married women must cover their hair.

Ironically, in France, it is illegal for women to wear the niqab in public, as European countries struggle with the influence the influx of Muslims have had in converting indigenous social custom to Islamic traditions. In Canada recently government attempted to outlaw the wearing of a face covering when Muslims sought to obtain Canadian citizenship, while swearing the oath of citizenship wearing a niqab.

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