Tuesday 31 January, 2023

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Secularism or Racial Discrimination: Why Has the Phenomenon of Anti-Hijab Spread in Egypt?

2022/08/28 18:08:00 | Nuha Yousef | Reports
Several places in Egypt banned the entrance of Hijabi girls and women.
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Since 2015, veiled Egyptian women have been using social media to complain of being discriminated against.

Mayar Omar, a 25-year-old research director living in Cairo, says she had frequent problems when she went to some high-end restaurants, where "a person wants to feel normal when he enters a place with no one imposing anything on them, or makes you feel like you're the cause of the problem for the place or for your friends. All of this can affect a human being without them feeling."

In social media groups related to the lifestyle of veiled women, BBC News Arabic inaugurated an investigation that found what appears to be an increasing trend, with women accusing many places of refusing to enter because they wear the hijab.

The report's team tried to book 15 high-end restaurants across Cairo, which have been hit online with the most accusations of discrimination against veiled women.

 

Discriminatory Laws

BBC News Arabia obtained evidence suggesting that La Vista, a large real estate development company, has imposed restrictions on veiled women wishing to buy apartments in tourist villages. The company has projects in Cairo as well as many high-end projects in coastal areas.

It has previously sold real estate to veiled women, but the report found plenty of posts on social media accusing La Vista of changing her policy now and placing restrictions on them.

A manager at a multinational company said how he contacted several real estate brokerages to buy a property in La Vista, but when he contacted them, they told him, "We're sorry, La Vista is a bit tough about the hijab."

We contacted eight major real estate brokerage firms, and a member of the report's team disguised himself as the husband of a veiled woman who wanted to buy a unit in the coastal project La Vista.

Six brokerage companies informed us that it was not possible to buy in La Vista and advised the journalists to look elsewhere. One of them told the disguised reporter: "Can I be honest with you? I'm definitely looking for an alternative." Another broker went on to say, "To be honest with you, they are racists with regard to the North Coast and Ain Sokhna."

One real estate broker explained how they worked: "They won't tell you, 'We're not going to sell you,' but they'll say, 'This project you've chosen is now closed, and we'll contact you when it opens.' But they won't call you."

When our disguised correspondent phoned La Vista and stated that his wife was veiled, he was told that his name would be put on the waiting list and that there were no properties available.

Amira Saber, an Egyptian member of parliament who is active in defending women's rights, said, "If we continue on this path to discriminate against each other, we will live in closed bubbles in a society where no one understands the other." She added that Egypt's constitution is clear, which is that this kind of discrimination is not allowed, "I will definitely use one of my parliamentary tools to ask government officials how we can ensure that this does not happen again. If it happens, the culprit must be punished."

"In most cases, the main reason is class," explains Nada Nashat, a lawyer and women's rights activist. "Unfortunately for people, the hijab has become a popular costume. But we also find discrimination against non-veiled lower- and middle-class women."

 

French Roots

One of the closest cases of this Egyptian case of discrimination against hijabis was of Margot Pommellet, a French artist from an Algerian father, a mother of two.

Margot works in the activation of dance and sports classes and workshops on enhancing self-confidence, and she's active in the fight against discrimination against Muslim women.

When Margot chose to wear the hijab in France, she experienced several forms of discrimination; because of her hijab, she could no longer go to clubs, while the nearby pools that allow wearing a burkini are costly.

When she worked at a public school, she had to hide her fasting during Ramadan because some teachers clearly expressed their "fear" of any girl wearing the hijab outside the school and were strict in treating pupils of Muslim and Arab origin.

"It's like I'm being required to be flawless, and I have to think all the time that no one would blame me," says Margo to BBC.

"Even when I got on the bus, I made sure my kids stood up and behaved well."

Now Margot is considering leaving her native France, where she was born and lived all her life.

Talk of a law "to promote the values of the republic" began in France in the fall of last year, when President Emmanuel Macron put forward his plan to combat "separatist tendencies."

But what began as a debate about the integration of Muslims into society and France's fears of funding some associations and mosques from abroad turned months later into a debate about the hijab.

The history of France, with legislation related to the hijab, is ancient. On October 2 last year, Macron announced France's intention to counter what he called "Islamic isolationism," seeking to "build a parallel order and deny the republic," outlining the "anti-separatist" bill specifically targeting "political Islam."

After a wave of outrage involving Muslims in France and around the world, the name of the bill was amended as "the bill aimed at promoting secularism and strengthening the values of the Republic," following the murder of history professor Samuel Patti after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in mid-October by a student of Chechen origin.

Proponents of the project saw it as a basis for integrating Muslims, supporting "enlightened Islam," and strengthening the state's ability to combat terrorist groups that use Muslim neighborhoods as their bulwark. His opponents saw him as carrying a colonial and racist legacy against a religious minority in France under the guise of secularism.

Over the past months, the French Senate has passed a series of amendments to the bill, including banning public officials from expressing their religious beliefs or political opinions, training teachers in secular values, as well as prohibiting teaching at home unless it is in the best interest of the child.

 

Sisi's 'Anti-Islamism'

The discriminatory practices in Egypt are not far from Sisi's regime's plan to abolish the roots of religiosity in Egypt.

The term "drying up the springs" dates back to deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and his idea is that the fight against so-called "political Islam" cannot succeed without drying up the springs of religiosity in society.

Ben Ali launched it in the early nineties against the background of his conflict with the Renaissance Party (Islamist) and imprisoned its members and leaders.

In his first interview with the Washington Post, one month after his military coup, Sisi assured journalist Lily Weymouth that he had only come to power to abort the Islamic project that President Mohamed Morsi wanted.

He said: "If the coup had been against him for his failure, we would have been patient with him for the end of his term, but he wanted to revive the Islamic project and the caliphate."

A whole year after this dialogue, in an interview with the secular-oriented Al-Arabiya satellite channel, he said: "Egypt will not have religious leaders, and I will not allow it. I am responsible for morals, values, and principles," and then continued, "And the religion too," and here the presenter interrupted him wondering: "The religion too?!" Sisi reiterated his idea: "And about religion as well."

Sisi's anti-Islamic moves included shutting down all Islamic TV channels except those that propagate Sufism. Then, a law was passed sentencing anyone who practiced Islamic preaching without a government license to one year in prison and a hefty fine.

He began his presidential term with the Da'wah and Public Speaking Law, which caused the closure of more than twenty thousand mosques, and also set a distance of 500 meters between each mosque.

He also standardized the Friday sermon and punished those who deviated from the specific subject by investigation and removal from office, canceled Taraweeh prayers in many major mosques in Egypt, and prohibited the Itikaf except under strict conditions.

Under Sisi, for the first time, mosques such as Rabaa al-Adawiya were burned, besieged, and desecrated by thugs such as al-Fatah Mosque, and others were closed indefinitely, and dozens of them were demolished, either under the pretext of establishing a buffer zone in Sinai, or establishing investment projects in a number of governorates.

While al-Azhar has long been a beacon for all students of the Islamic curriculum from Egypt and abroad, no one, no matter what, throughout the ages, even from successive occupation powers, dared to close the mosque or prevent prayers in it.

Sisi was the only one who dared to do this on July 2013 when the Egyptian army and security forces prevented the holding of noon prayers in it and closed the mosque after many sheiks and students of al-Azhar al-Sharif called for a march starting from al-Azhar Mosque to Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

 


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References:

1

The Hijab in Egypt: Companies and Restaurants Refuse Entry to Women with Hijab [Arabic]

2

The Hijab: An Endless Debate in France [Arabic]

3

What is between you and Islam, Sisi?! [Arabic]

Tags :

egypt france islamophobia racial discrimination sisi