There is a lot of discussion over women who wear the niqab, or full Islamic face veil. Is it freedom for them, or have they bought into the patriarchal Islamic culture and impose these restrictions on themselves in a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome.
I tend to see it as the latter.
A YouTube video gives us a preview of Maria TV, a new Egyptian station that features women who wear the niqab.
According to the station manager, it marks a new age of freedom for women.
Station manager Ahmed Abdallah: “This is a victory for women who wear the niqab after many years of suffering political, social, moral and cultural exclusion by the secularists and under the umbrella of democracy. This prejudiced treatment, that went on for 50, 60, 70 years, is now over. I hereby announce a new free era for women who wear the niqab.”
The channel’s female stars, dressed from head to toe in long black robes and scarves with black gloves to match, are distinguishable only by their voices and the tiny sliver of their eyes. While some scholars say that the niqab is not mandatory in Islam, the practice has many devoted followers in Egypt.
Station director Heba Serag El Din: “I applied to many TV stations to work as a director and they told me that they cannot hire a woman wearing a full face veil. I said that I work behind the scenes as a director and not a presenter but they told me that the policy was not to hire women in a niqab.”
The launch of Maria TV mirrors the rise of ultra-conservative Muslims in Egypt since the fall of former leader Hosni Mubarak last year. Public dress is beginning to reflect the political trend, something not everyone feels is suitable for a modern, inclusive democracy.
Why the name Maria TV?
Maria TV is named after a Coptic Christian slave who according to the Quran was given to the Prophet Muhammad, who he then married and freed. The station’s manager says he chose the name because he feels it represents the freedom which women feel when being allowed to follow strict Islamic doctrine.
Strict Islamic doctrine is the antithesis of freedom for women. It seems that women must be shown their proper place in Egyptian society, and that place is well behind the men.
via Maryam Namazie