Zeinab Radwan (1943 – 2013)
“We cannot talk about defending women’s rights when the socio-economic challenges are so harsh for the whole community, and when we know that whenever life gets tough it is the
women who end up sacrificing some of their rights to make ends meet for the family,” Zeinab Radwan once said in an interview at the beginning of the 2010 parliament.
Radwan passed away on 27 March after a fight with cancer. Born on 14 November in 1943, she graduated from Ain Shams University in Cairo in the 1960s and obtained a PhD from Alexandria University in the late 1970s. Always a tough parliamentarian, she was a kind mother to a daughter and a son and an exceptionally affectionate grandmother to her two granddaughters.
+The worth of women+
Radwan was a member of the pre-Revolution Parliament as well as dean of Cairo University’s Dar al-Ulum (Fayoum campus) and head of the philosophy department, a job she held from 1990. She graduated with a first-class honours degree from Ain Shams University’s department of social and philosophical studies in 1964. After obtaining a master’s degree in Islamic philosophy from Ain Shams, she immediately began work on a doctoral thesis, also at Ain Shams University, which she completed in 1972.
With a PhD in Islamic philosophy, Radwan was an authority on Islamic jurisprudence, especially where it pertains to women. She was motivated by a sense of the intrinsic worth of women. “That a Muslim woman must get permission to travel from her spouse and cannot travel without her husband’s consent is preposterous, unconstitutional and un-Islamic. It is designed to humiliate Muslim women,” she argued.
As a parliamentarian, Radwan worked hard towards taking the call for gender equality into the heart of the legislative process, She was best known for her firm support—”truly Islamic” she always argued—for eliminating the discriminatory family laws that have for years left women in a disadvantaged position in society. Talking in no uncertain terms, Radwan spoke out against all forms of violence against women and girls, including child marriage and female genital mutilation.
Radwan wrote several books, among which were ++Social Theory In Islamic Thought: Its Origins From The Qur’an and Sunnah++, ++Religious Education In Egypt++, and ++Women In The Islamic Perspective: Some Issues++.
She promoted the need to improve the quality of education in Egypt, working with the officials concerned with developing curricula that would promote healthy cross-gender and cross-faith relations.
Radwan represented Egypt as part of the official delegation at several women’s conferences including the Universal Decade of Women conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985 and the International Conference on Women and Islamic Legislation in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1996.
Radwan was described as a modern Muslim whose instinctive cultural reference was the Qur’an, but whose views were regarded by conservative Muslims as entirely unorthodox. In 1982 she delved deeply into the question of the ++hijab++, insisting that Islam did not require women to don the veil which had to be seen in the context of pre-Islamic Arabia, where women “were seen solely as sex objects.” She even advocated a law to ban women from wearing the ++niqab++ (the full face veil) because it hides the identity, and aids the spread of crime.
26 May 2013