Below is a CNN editorial calling for a women’s “revolution” in Egypt, following the incident in which CBS reporter Lara Logan was savagely assaulted to cries of “Jew! Jew!” The author blames the situation on the broader problem for “human rights” in Egypt (which full-bore Sharia isn’t going to help), but that is nowhere near the whole story.
The notion of women as lesser beings (“Allah hath made one [gender] to excel the other,” morally and mentally according to this hadith) and the idea that it is acceptable to use violence against disobedient women are found in Qur’an 4:34. That verse defines women as possessions of men, and ties their value to obedience and “guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded” — including Islam’s expectations on attire and the separation of the sexes.
The creation of any second class in society places a greater burden on the underclass to keep the peace by showing they know their place and avoiding any “provocation,” making it easy for those with power to blame the victim for not doing enough to preserve a social order that artificially suppresses their rights. This is true for the concept of dhimmitude, as well as for women’s rights in Islamic societies.
One will recall the comments of Arab News readers on an earlier story about sexual harassment in Egypt:
ADIL SHAKEEL – Oct 26, 2010 10:45 – The Problem is not with Guys it is with Modernism girls or womens should strictly follow Proper hijab […]
IROSPTZ -Oct 26, 2010 23:53 – if i see girls like these ( in this photo ) i’ll will be also in one of the guys who harassing these girls. So girls first try to behave and dress yourself …. i’m giving 100% surety to you that you can go anywhere without the disturbances from these guys…….
Yes, in a broader sense, it is about a lack of respect for “human rights,” but on a much deeper level, that will be much harder to oust from Egyptian society than Mubarak’s regime. “Egypt’s harassed women need their own revolution,” by Mary Rogers for CNN, February 16:
Several months before the revolution, I wrote a piece for CNN.com on the sexual harassment of women in Cairo.
News of the chilling attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan, as well as other sexual assaults against women during Egypt’s uprising, show that attacks against women have not gone away.
I speak from experience. While most of my days covering Tahrir Square during the last few weeks were free from harassment, there was one day when I was groped. Another colleague almost had her pants ripped off by a gang of thugs.
If you are a woman living in Cairo, chances are you have been sexually harassed. It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor’s office.
According to a 2008 survey of 1,010 women conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed.
I was walking home from dinner recently when a carload of young men raced by me and screamed out “Sharmouta” (whore in Arabic.)
These are the people whom it is hoped will usher in a bright new day of democracy and human rights in Egypt. But democracy does not dictate values. Values dictate the success or failure of a democracy to defend human rights.
Before I could respond, they were gone, but I noticed policemen nearby bursting with laughter. I am old enough to be those boys’ mother, I thought.
This incident was minor compared to what happened in 1994, shortly after I moved here. It was winter, and I was walking home from the office, dressed in a big, baggy sweater, and jacket. A man walked up to me, reached out, and casually grabbed my breast.
In a flash, I understood what the expression to “see red” meant. I grabbed him by the collar and punched him hard in the face. I held on to him, and let out a stream of expletives. His face grew pale, and he started to shake. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he whispered.
But the satisfaction of striking back quickly dissipated. By the time I walked away, I was feeling dirty and humiliated. After a couple of years enduring this kind harassment, I pretty much stopped walking to and from work.
Of course, harassment comes in many forms. It can be nasty words, groping, being followed or stalked, lewd, lascivious looks, and indecent exposure.
At times it can be dangerous. This is what a friend told me happened to her: “I remember I was walking on the street, when a car came hurtling towards me. Aiming for me! At the last minute he swerved, then stopped, and finally laughed at me. I learned later that it was a form of flirting.”
Why is sexual harassment in Egypt so rampant? There could be any number of reasons, but many point to disregard for human rights.