Egypt and the Universal Rights of Women

Nina Burleigh
The Huffington Post
via The AHA Foundation

…The French in 1800 were among the first westerners to visit and write about the lives of modern Arabs in Egypt. Besides the great pyramids, what struck them most forcibly was the abominable treatment of women. And while the archaeological treasure has been studied and secured, two hundred years later, unfortunately, much remains the same with respect to women’s rights.

Ninety percent of Egyptian women are genitally mutilated, according to aid worker estimates. Although the practice was officially outlawed in 2007, gynecologists can still legally perform it “for health reasons.” Egyptian women can vote; they are significant part of the workforce and there were women in the recently disbanded Egyptian cabinet. But Egyptian women are not allowed to travel abroad without the permission of their husbands; they have difficulty initiating divorce; and they can’t become judges.

As Egyptians rise up to demonstrate for their civil rights, the world watches with bated breath, wondering what man (for surely it will be a man) will succeed Mubarak, and whether he will be moderate — that is “friendly to Israel and Western ideas and mores” or a fundamentalist, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose strict interpretation of the Koran and anti-Western political and cultural bias would turn the delicate global balance upside down.

What no one is talking about, though, is how deeply dangerous this time is for Egyptian women. The influence of extreme Islam has been growing there in recent years, so that for a bare-headed female to walk the streets of Cairo, even the tourist areas near the Egyptian Museum where I worked on my book about the French in Egypt in 2004, is to invite menacing looks, and muttered obscenities from men on the street.

Whatever happens in Egypt, there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s pink. Despite the years of discussion around our “War on Terror,” we have not focused on the fact that misogyny is a fundamental pillar on which radical Islam is based…

Read the complete article at The Huffington Post.

H/T Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Facebook

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