Monthly Archives: April 2013

Women of Egypt: Victories and Defeats in the Last 100 Years – Part Two

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Students of Al Azhar University, Cairo – Egypt, prior to the Wahaby Invasion

Article written by: Alexandra Kinias

The six day war in 1967 between Egypt and the State of Israel changed the course of Nasser’s leadership, the map of the ME, the fate of Egypt, and subsequently her women. The turmoil in the Egyptian society had been brewing for a long time prior to that, and to be precise, the road to change started in 1928 with the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

Nasser came to power with the blessings of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952. They supported his coup d’état and in return they anticipated that Nasser would run the country in alliance to their Islamic agenda. For Nasser, a hard core socialist leaning towards the Soviet Union and the iron curtain countries, his perfect society was not founded on religion. In their eternal battle against the West, the Muslim Brotherhood demanded President Nasser implements reforms in the educational system that promoted their doctrine. Failing to see eye to eye with the MB and their demands to Islamize the society and enforce veil on women, as they openly demanded Nasser to do, he became their adversary. [1]

A failed attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member gave Nasser the green light to eradicate them. [2] The organization was banned and arrest warrants were issued to its members nationwide. This move forced its members to go undercover and to flee the country on self-exile. They were welcomed like heroes by the Saudi government that was in dispute with Nasser whose government supported numerous revolutionary groups against the monarchs in the Middle East including the Saudi regime. [3]

The loss of Sinai in the six day war while it was humiliating to Egyptians, it was celebrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. [4] Losing the war was justified as God’s punishment to Nasser and the Egyptian people for adopting secular beliefs. It was their golden chance to call on the believers to return back to the true path of Islam and abandon the foreign ideologies. Depressed and ridiculed over the loss of land and dignity, these calls resonated with a lot of people. [5]

Living in the shadows of Nasser and without much popularity, Sadat came to power on shaky grounds when Nasser died in 1971. Not wanting to follow in Nasser’s footsteps, Sadat made truce with the Muslim Brotherhood. He released their members from jails and invited those who were in exile to return back. [6]

The next four decades witnessed multiple factors that caused the dramatic change which shifted the society towards religion and caused women’s issues to decline.

With the surge of oil prices after the 1973 embargo, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries were left with unexpected excess of cash that came to be known as Petro-dollars. Millions of Egyptians migrated to help build the newly developed countries. [7], [8] They settled, made a lot of money and a new generation of children was born, raised and attended school there. On their return to their homeland, they brought back not just their wealth, but also cultural habits, beliefs and traditions alien to the Egyptian society. The invasion of Wahhabism into the Egyptian society was first visible in the style of clothing adopted from the Gulf States. Women wore long black dresses and head covers and men grew beards. New businesses opened to accommodate this new transformation. Restaurants and coffee shops served non-alcoholic beverages, and boutiques sold exclusively clothing and headscarves for veiled women.

It is important to note that even after it was banned, the Muslim Brotherhood organization never vanished from the political scene in Egypt. While keeping their eyes on their ultimate goal, its members went underground, regrouped, recruited, reorganized and expanded; Ironically, Sadat was assassinated by the hands of the Jihadist’s group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. [9]

After Sadat’s assassination, Mubarak had the power and the support to curb the influence of the Islamists; a perfect, but wasted chance to clear the country from their influence. But instead, Mubarak methodically encouraged them to grow. He used the Salafies to fight the Muslim Brotherhood and used them both to manipulate the West. [10] He allowed them to mushroom and invade every household through their ultra-conservative TV channels. Unqualified Sheikhs spread their venom in mosques to the pious and illiterate believers. Among their warped ideology, these misogynist sheikhs promoted and encouraged violence against women. This process of brainwashing was gradual and continued for three decades.

During Mubarak’s thirty years of governing, Egypt slid back into the dark ages. The rate of poverty, corruption and illiteracy soared. Women witnessed a severe decline in their status that was the worst since the turn of the twentieth century.

So the question now is what role did Mubarak’s politics play to reverse the achievements that women gained over the years?

End of Part Two

[1] Muslim Brotherhood ask Nasser to veil women (video)

[2] Mother Jones, Robert Dreyfuss, Feb 2011

[3] History Today, Robert Stephens, 1981

[4] Middle East Forum, Adeed Dawisha, Winter 2003

[5] Martin Kramer, “Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity,

[6] History Today, Robert Stephens, 1981

[7] Migration Policy Institute, By Divya Pakkiasamy

[8] Ahram Online, July 2012

[9] Egyptian Islamic Jihad

[10] Egypt’s Islamists: The big bad wolf, By Eric Walberg, April 19, 2011

 

 

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