Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Friday, July 07, 2006

A Veil of Uncertainty

Shahnaz Taplin Chinoy of Salon News online reports that women living in Muslim states are more involved in politics than most Westerners would assume. Furthermore, many of the women involved in politics support the Islamist movements within their countries.

Such is the case of a group of women in Egypt who have a history of supporting the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. Although a large population of Egyptian women are weary of supporting them for fear of extremism under Sharia law, other women are drawn to the Muslim
Brotherhood because the group has included a women’s agenda in its “five-year-plan,” asserting that men and women are equals in Islam. Another reason women support the Brotherhood is its commitment to social services in the form of health care, education, welfare, and emergency services; Mubarak's secular regime currently in power has neglected such vital social services.

According to the article,

“[E]ven as political opportunities open up for women in Islamist parties, they can be impeded by the actions of existing regimes -- or even by women's own fears of reform. Consider what occurred in Egypt's elections last year.

“Makarem El Deiry was the only female candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood who ran for a legislative seat. When she won, her victory was quashed by a judge, who ruled in her opponent's favor apparently on the instructions of the regime. But that is only half the story. Professor Fadl told me the other half, which has been overlooked by the media. ‘The Brotherhood pushed 25 women to run for office, and they pushed us hard. All except one refused to run because we did not want to take the chance of being imprisoned and sexually harassed as all opposition candidates risk . . . Which Muslim woman will expose herself to that kind of humiliation?’

“The rights of Arab women, the future of nonviolence and the demand for democratic openings in the region are knotted together in the debate over the participation of Hamas and other Islamist parties in Arab governments. Women will play a major role in unraveling this snarl -- but it's far from clear today how their perspectives will be reflected in the new politics of the Arab world.”

To read this article in full, click here


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