EGYPT

COUNTERING FUNDAMENTALIST STEREOTYPES OF WOMEN

Maher Gabra (podcast producer and host): What is at the core of the discourse of fundamentalists about women? From the point of view of many fundamentalists, a woman is always to blame. If she goes out to work, if she engages with men, if she puts on perfume: If she is harassed, she is to blame because she is the “source of seduction”. Even from her husband she will have to endure violence if he claims his abuse was based on “preserving the family structure”. A woman’s actions, beliefs and decisions are always criticized and questioned, especially if she tries to advance for better positions in her life.

Rabab Kamal (writer and researcher): There is a discourse that we call “the discourse of women and seduction.” It is that women are the cause of all problems and do not solve these problems, unless they return to sit at their houses, as they say. There are many interpretations, and fundamentalism is not on the heart of one man. In the sense that some fundamentalist interpretations may be less fundamental than others, to this day still some believe that women should not work at all. But the real problem is not with the idea of women working in high positions. The problem is the fundamentalist perception of women who walk on the street, women who live in the depths and roots of this society, and this is the real issue. Due to their views, many women suffer from harassment, in public as well as in their workplace. There is a very dangerous speech that I call "the letter of harassment for the sake of God". Some fanatics and fundamentalists instruct their followers that women who are not veiled or who laugh on the street deter them from what they are supposed to do which thus justifies harassing them. This represents a theory we describe as "harassment for the sake of God" which transforms an immoral act (harassment) into a moral act (putting women in their “correct” place).

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