Egypt's Islamists: Much to Prove on Women's Rights
A few days before the runoff elections that brought the Muslim Brotherhood candidate to the presidency, I was invited along with other civil activists to meet Mohamed Morsi. He did not show up, but his top advisers were present. After the long speech they gave about how Morsi will empower the civil society and that the Muslim Brotherhood will respect human rights including women's rights, a colleague of mine raised his hand to ask a question.
"I saw in your booklet that you respect human rights and women rights according to Sharia," my colleague asked. "Is it different from the rights mentioned in the international conventions that Egypt has signed?"
The answer given by one of the leader of Morsi's campaign was shocking. "Sharia values women more than the international conventions," the Morsi adviser said. "Do you know that according to Sharia the woman may choose not to breastfeed her child or clean the house until her husband pays her for doing this?" he added confidently, to much laughter in the room.
This simple conversation, more than anything, sums up how the Muslim Brotherhood views women's rights and what the status of women is likely to be under its rule. For while it may use the same terminology that we do, its perception of what those terms mean is completely different to that of liberal activists like me. They cannot see a woman outside the biological stereotypes as a mother, child-bearer, and housewife.
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