There is a revolution and everything around us is changing and we need to do the same. Everyone is keeping an eye on us now more than ever and with all emerging political powers, our critics are multiplying and we are being accused of all sorts of things that render our ideologies unfit for the democracy Egypt is supposed to become. Time is running out and we better act before we wake up one morning and find ourselves outnumbered, outdated, outlandish, and all those outs. Let us try to prove them wrong and do something that demonstrates we are no less democratic than they are. What is it they accuse us of most? Well, all sorts of things of course, but maybe we can pick the most controversial. Women? Yeah, why not?
The so-called liberals claim we are against gender equality and that the way we view gentler sex is against the principles of citizenship… or was that last one about Copts? It all gets mixed up because they lash out at anything that abides by the teachings of Islam and call that “democracy.” We hope they know they are the ones who would burn in hell, but it’s no good time for judgment day issues; that’s politics now and we need to focus. We can throw some big event that shows how we appreciate women and believe in the role they play in society. But like what? Not charity of course. This is too cliché and is not the in thing now that everyone is talking revolution and parties and constitution. We have to show that statements about us excluding women are blatant lies that only aim at tarnishing our image. We need to give the impression that the “brotherhood” is not just made up of men. Sounds a bit weird? Yes, a little bit. How can we avoid that? Well then… how about having a “sisterhood”?
Let us have all the Muslim “sisters” in one place, have the supreme leader give a speech on the importance of women, get a lot of media coverage, and we’re done. Maybe holding a conference is a good idea and maybe we can give it some catchy name like… let’s see… “Women from Revolution to Renaissance”… very creative indeed!
And equally misleading if I may add.
Maybe there was a part of the conference that was held behind the scenes and this was when they talked about “revolution” and/or “renaissance” unless staying at home and raising the kids and maybe occasionally doing some religious preaching is the Brotherhood’s or Sisterhood’s definition of those two words. When the supreme guide gave a speech that was supposed to chart the course of the “sisters” in the “coming phase,” it was things like political parties, women empowerment, elections, and those topics that follow such a drastic change in a country’s history that we expected to hear. However, I challenge anyone to detect the slightest difference between any of the phases, coming or going. The “sisters” are now assigned the epic mission of guess what? Teaching their children ethics and values—because other women don’t usually do that?—and raising them in accordance with Islamic principles—well, women who don’t do that last bit don’t deserve to be “sisters” maybe. Of course, the supreme guide did not miss the most important duty any woman should be dedicated to—obeying her husband. No need to mention the eternal connection made between donning the veil and morality—who dares accuse them of exclusionism?
To avoid being unfair, there is another equally daunting task all the “sisters” should unite to carry out: being aware and raising awareness about the “malignant” conspiracies weaved against Muslim women, said a top “sister” at the conference. The closing statement warned of the same menace that aims at making Muslim women “deviate from their Islamic values.” It was not clear, however, who exactly is behind those conspiracies. The West? Egyptian “non-sisters”? Or is this just a continuation of the eternal tradition of self-victimization that might have been justified at the time of a repressive regime but now sounds as hollow as the attempt to project a fake image of women rights advocacy. Actually, this self-victimization may be the only thing that both “brothers” and “sisters” will have equal shares of in the “coming phase.”
As hundreds of “sisters” turned up, one couldn’t help but wonder where they have all been before and why this stellar appearance now. The deputy supreme guide has the answer: they were being “protected” from the brutality of Egyptian authorities and which only men were capable of facing. Apparently, the “sisters” enjoy a great deal of freedom within the group and that is why they only show up when they are given permission to do so and would agree to stay in hiding for decades because they are too fragile to do men’s work. In this case, it is only logical to ask for details about the “sisters’” role in the revolution? Did they take to the streets starting January 25 onwards and shout “Down with Mubarak!” and risked pay their lives in return for the country’s freedom? Or did they wait and see before getting into trouble with the regime in vain? Well, their “brothers” opted for the second so no need to give the matter too much thought anyway.
Ask me what I love about the Muslim Brotherhood—I am not being sarcastic this time—and I will tell you their unequalled ability at accusing others of tarnishing their image while no one does a better job than they do. Since the ouster of the regime, the MB has been offered a golden opportunity at exposing themselves to the public like never before and while thinking the revolution is helping them they overlooked the fact that it has so far been helping no one but their opponents who now have countless pieces of evidence that the group’s “justice” and “freedom”—the two words they used for their party—proclamations prove self-destructive the moment they come to the light.
Ask the “brothers” to issue a booklet detailing the requirements a woman should meet in order to be considered for membership of the “sisterhood” and those will be enough to sum up what I am trying to say. After that ask yourself how come a group that openly objects to women becoming presidents can have any respect for that entire sex or can really believe they have any role to play outside their household chores or independent from the men they have to obey.
Then let us all ask ourselves what the future of the country would look like if only “brothers” and “sisters” are eligible for citizenship.
Then let me be a bit selfish and ask myself whether in this case, I would prefer to be a “sister” and stay or remain a whatever-they-will-choose-to-label-me… and also stay!
(Sonia Farid, Ph.D., of Al Arabiya also teaches English Literature at Cairo University. She can be reached at: email@example.com)