Feminists in Egypt are distressed over the escalating discrimination against women—discrimination which more often than not is cloaked in Islamic concepts, and which translates into rising violence and harassment against Egypt’s women
Feminists in Egypt are distressed over the escalating discrimination against women—discrimination which more often than not is cloaked in Islamic concepts, and which translates into rising violence and harassment against Egypt’s women.
Among the recent incidents which had women all in an uproar was one that involved the Media Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud and his alleged verbal harassment of Nada Mohamed, a journalist with news site Huqouk.
The incident occurred at an event organised by Akhbar al-Youm and Cairo University’s Faculty of Mass Media, during which Mohamed received recognition for her work. Mohamed claims than, when Mr Maqsoud applauded the freedom of the press at the event, she protested: “Mr Minister, where is this freedom you are talking of when journalists are beaten and are dying everywhere?”
The minister responded: “Come to me and I’ll tell you where,” which in Egyptian colloquial carries a sexual connotation.
Not the first of its kind
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) demanded that Prime Minister Hisham Qandil should issue a formal apology and dismiss his minister for the verbal assault.
The incident was not the first of its kind where Maqsoud is concerned. Last September, while appearing on Dubai TV with Syrian the presenter Zeina Yazigi, Maqsoud made the ill-advised comment that he hoped the comments she was about to play “are not as ‘hot’ as you are.”
ANHRI called for his immediate dismissal from his post, “especially since it is the second time that the minister has repeated words carrying connotations of sexual harassment.”
“The words used by the Media Minister are only used on the Egyptian street to harass women,” said the human rights group in its statement. “It is unacceptable that they should be used by the minister who sits at the head of the largest media institution in Egypt.”
The writer and journalist Sahar al-Gaar told Watani that Maqsoud belongs to a movement [the Muslim Brotherhood] which has proved itself to be against women; its sees them as no more than sexual objects. Ms Gaar said there was a campaign on Twitter that called for the dismissal of Mr Maqsoud. “The Media Minister’s words offend every Egyptian woman; they are in fact offensive to the entire community.”
Women’s role and rank in the Egyptian society, she says, should never be downplayed or belittled. Egyptian women are pioneers in many, many fields; and were vital players in the January 2011 Revolution.
Another liberal writer and journalist, Farida al-Shubaashi, told Watani that Mr Maqsoud’s language and gestures were a disgrace not only to himself but to all Egypt. “What are we to expect from a media managed by a failure of a minister like Maqsoud,” Shubaashi wondered.
For its part, the foundation of Egyptian women’s issues also demanded the dismissal of Maqsoud, after two serious blunders against women in a matter of less than six months.
The foundation condemned the minister’s irresponsible actions, and demanded that he should to be tried on charges of harassment. According to the Egyptian penal code: “whoever harasses a female—verbally or physically—in a public place should be imprisonment for no more than one year and fined no less than EGP200 and no more EGP1000.”
The foundation also demanded a formal apology from the Prime Minister for what the Media Minister did.
21 April 2013