“One sociologist, Dalal Al Bizri, sees a strong link between growing religious conservatism and sexual harassment.” This sociologist also blames Saudi influence, which is not untrue, but, of course, if this Agence France-Presse article properly discussed the Islamic underpinnings of those attitudes, and why Muslims in Egypt have been receptive to them, it certainly wouldn’t appear in the Khaleej Times’ “Women One” feature:
CAIRO – From lewd looks to inappropriate touching, experts say Egypt’s growing street harassment of women is a deep-rooted and largely ignored problem shackling the country”s progress.
Sexual harassment in public areas is not limited to a specific age category or social class, says the independent Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), which is spearheading a campaign against this “social cancer” in Egypt.
Nor does an outward expression of piety protect from sexual harassment, generally defined as “all unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, making women feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”
According to the state National Centre for Social and Criminal Research, sexual crimes are on the rise but while they give no official figures, ECWR says that two women are raped every hour in this country of 80 million and that 90 percent of offenders are jobless men.
There are many contributing factors to the increase in sexual harassment. Rising unemployment may push some men to display their machismo on the streets. The huge cost of marriage and the fact that sex outside marriage is forbidden may also explain the behaviour, experts say.
“Men take out their frustration, not just sexual, against women,” Engy Ghozlan, who runs the anti-harassment campaign at ECWR, told AFP.
But some men, who believe a woman’s job is to look after the home, say that those out on the street are fair game.
“When (a woman) walks out into the street in tight trousers and tight belts, she deserves what she gets,” said Mohamed Al Sayyed, 32, who works as an assistant at an upmarket hairdresser in Cairo.
“The women who come here are different from the ones in my village,” he said.
Sayyed grew up in a village near Menya, in the conservative Egyptian south. “My female relatives would never be seen swaying in the street like this,” he said, defensively explaining the occasional wolf whistles “and more” he directs at Cairene women.
One sociologist, Dalal Al Bizri, sees a strong link between growing religious conservatism and sexual harassment.
She told AFP that a puritan view of Islam brought over from religiously strict Saudi Arabia is partly responsible for the “culture of hate” against
“In the sermons of wahhabi (ultra-conservative) preachers on satellite television, we hear the worst things about women, like the fact that they should not be on the street but at home… that they have an inferior status,” Bizri said.
Did the Wahhabis make it up? No. How about an “army of Robert Spencer wannabes?” No, not them, either. A few examples:
The Prophet said, “I looked at Paradise and saw that the majority of its residents were the poor; and I looked at the (Hell) Fire and saw that the majority of its residents were women.” (Bukhari 7.62.126)
Once Allah’s Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) to ‘Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They
asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Bukhari 1.6.301)
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great. (Qur’an 4:34)
The article continues:
The damage is not only to women’s psyche but to the whole country”s economic development, according to ECWR.
However, one stumbling block is that authorities refuse to admit there is a problem, Ghozlan said. And when they do, it’s a question of “OK, it exists, but it’s very exaggerated in the media.”
According to her centre, of the 2,500 women who reported cases of sexual harassment to ECWR, only 12 percent went to the police with their complaint.
It is “a total lack of confidence in the police and judicial systems,” she said.
Following the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in 2006, women’s rights activists angrily spoke out against what they called authorities” acceptance of sexual harassment against women, after a mob of men openly molested women in central Cairo.
The incident was widely reported in the press, and some bloggers posted footage on their websites.
“They were touching women all over, the veiled ones and the non-veiled ones,” said Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger who witnessed the event.
The interior ministry at the time denied any mass harassment took place, saying it had not received any formal complaints.