–By– Alexandra Kinias
Misogyny, practiced for thousands of years in patriarchal societies is still widely spread in Islamic countries where women are viewed and treated inferior to men. In Egypt, a country with male dominance, misogyny is deeply embedded in the culture and forms the base for women oppression. Not only practiced by men for control, but also by women against their own kind and well being. Brainwashed from a young age that inferiority is their source of empowerment, some women advocate for their own submissiveness.
On a televised religious show where audiences ask live questions, Suad Salah, Islamic scholar from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, explained that Allah granted Muslim men the permission to rape non-Muslim [infidel women], to “humiliate” them. She labeled women captured in legitimate wars as slaves. “To humiliate them, these women who are spoils of war become possessions of their captors who can enjoy them sexually.” She said.
Instead of denouncing the outdated medieval practice, Saleh defined a legitimate war, in today’s world, as one that Egypt would fight against an enemy like Israel, and thus the Israeli captive women can be enslaved and raped by the Egyptian soldiers. Saleh’s shameful justification is the base upon which ISIS troops enslaved the Yazidi women they captured.
Saleh’s incident is not an isolated one. Women who have experienced submission are often the best advocates for misogyny. Azza Al Garf, a parliament member during the Islamic government of the MB, was also an advocate for female misogyny.
A faithful member of the MB since the age of 15, Al Garf was a live product of her religious cult. Head of the Muslim brotherhood women’s committee, Al Garf’s priorities were to revoke the meager rights that women had fiercely fought for. She voted to shut down the offices of the Egyptian National Women Council that had been fighting for women’s issues for decades, which were viewed as a threat to their own conservative values. She also supported the repeal of the Kulw law that gave women the right to divorce, the ban on female genital mutilation and a bill proposed by the Salafist MPs to decrease the minimum marriage age for girls to 14 instead of 18. She refuted that women’s status in Egypt has degraded, especially in the political arena. And in spite of the official statistics that 98% of women are victims of sexual harassment, Al Garf denied to CNN that women in Egypt are subjected to harassment, and affirmed that such incidents, if occurred, are the fault of women for dressing indecently. Her enthusiasm to curb women’s rights only proves her loyalty to the rigid doctrine preached by the Brotherhood and not to her gender. Fortunately for the women of Egypt, the Islamic parliament was dissolved before any of their laws were drafted.
In 2005, years before the rise of MB to power, and amidst the struggles of women organizations to bring equality, rights, social and marital reforms to women, an anonymous Egyptian journalist Hayam Darbak launched “One woman is not enough,” a pro polygamy campaign. Darbak called on women to allow their husbands to take another wife and accused those who denied their husbands this religious right of selfishness. In an interview with Laha Magazine Online, on September 19, 2005, Darbak criticized women’s organizations fights over women’s rights since in her view women were already enjoying the rights granted to them by Islam.
“I’m calling for women’s rights: their right to get married even to a married man. Polygamy is a ‘license from God to stabilize society and solve its problems.’ Fighting the call for polygamy is a crime committed against women who missed their chance to marry. Polygamy is the answer to social injustice. It fights spinster-ship of other women.” She proceeded that God permitted men to remarry because He knows they needed more than one woman in their lives.
Darbak, an anonymous journalist, attracted wide attention to her name, by debating the issue on television. On the televised show she urged her husband to take another wife and claimed that she sought her son’s assistance to find a second wife for her husband who refused the idea entirely. She feared that with her busy schedule she was not properly attending to her husband’s needs.
Darbak claimed later that she was surprised that 95% of Egyptian women refused her initiative and labeled her as a house wrecker. But that didn’t deter her. In fact, with the name recognition she gained, she wrote articles and appeared on various television shows to promote her notorious cause.
Appearing on television to gain publicity by promoting and defending polygamy was a crime that would not have been allowed in countries that respect women and their rights. None-the-less, after gaining her moment of fame, the campaign died as suddenly as it started. Darbak vanished from sight to appear ten years later with another campaign to empower women and promote equality.
Many reasons drive women to practice misogyny against other women and unfortunately in societies where women are still struggling for their rights, this behavior further hinders their advancement.