Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Egyptian 'Veiled Women Only' TV Channel Causes A Stir

Egypt is getting a satellite TV channel that will be run "exclusively" by women.  Sheikha Safaa, the station's general manager, says  men will have no say in the choice of content or 'editorial policies'.

Wow, you might think, what other country has a female run television station? How terribly forward thinking of them, except that these women will wear not just the Islamic veil, they will take it one step further into religious fanaticism by wearing the niqab- the veil that totally de-personalizes  a woman by revealing only her eyes. Only until you discover who actually owns the channel does it actually make any sense.  Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmad Abd Allah is an ultra religious Salafist (Islamist) who decided to call his channel Marya after Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah. An odd choice of name since Mariyah was apparently a concubine, and a Christian Copt to boot. She was given to Mohammad as a gift and was the mother of his child, Ibrahim.  Since it's his channel, the Sheikh will act as a consultant.  Apparently, he has “media and scholastic expertise.”

According to Safaa, one of the main reasons for creating the channel was to counteract the marginalization of veiled women.

“The work in operations of the channel will be handled by the sisters in charge of management, especially as women are the best one to talk about their needs,” she said, adding that the channel  “aims at lifting injustice” on veiled women who suffer from marginalization.

There are those who are not too happy about it, though.

In an interview with Masrawy, veteran Egyptian TV host Tarek Habib denounced the idea of a TV channel only for veiled women, saying the niqab, has repeatedly been used in crimes.

He said it was essential to know the identity and the gender of who goes on air and speaks to millions of viewers.

Egyptian actress Athar Al Hakim, meanwhile, was also quoted by women’s magazine Majalatouki as criticizing the channel.

“I have the right to know who is talking to me on the television screen,” she said.

“The issue of niqab is a national security one and it is unacceptable in Egyptian society despite the religious diversity.”

On May 17 the channel’s owner clashed with Egyptian writer Nabil Sharf Eddine during a discussion on Dream TV.

Sharf Eddine described the Sheikh’s Marya TV as “a channel of the accursed Satan.”

The Sheikh hit back by describing him as “uncivilized."

Personally, I think it's stupid that women feel the need to wear the niqab, and one has to wonder how much sponsorship they will get for such a niche channel. Then again, the Middle East, including Egypt is becoming progressively more religiously conservative. But I suppose they have the right to do whatever they want, and people offended by it needn't switch that station on, I know I wouldn't. However, it does become a problem if the government starts to force all television stations to follow suit.

Will this set a precedent? Who knows, I hope not for their sake.

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