Even veiled ‘modest’ women are sexually harassed…

A new report has been released by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights which discusses issues of sexual harassment that women face in Egypt. The report concluded that most respondents who were victims of sexual harassment wore the hijab and regarded themselves as modestly dressed. Yet some even blamed themselves for being sexually harassed by men.

More findings include:

  • Sexual harassment by men was experienced by 83% of Egyptian women.
  • Sexual harassment by men experienced by 98% of foreign women visitors in Egypt.
  • 62% of Egyptian men admitted to sexually harassing women.
  • More than 60% of both male and female respondents suggested that a ‘scantily clad woman’ was most at risk.
  • 53% of Egyptian men blame women for ‘bringing it on’ [typical disgusting male attitude].
  • The attitudes of Western respondents differed to Egyptian respondents: Western women strongly believed in their entitlement to personal safety and freedom of movement whereas Egyptian respondent did not mention freedom of choice, movement or the right to legal protection, nor were they aware that harassment is a criminal behaviour, regardless of what clothes the victim is wearing.

From my experience, it does not matter what a women wears. In the Gulf, when I used to wear the the abaya, hijab and sometimes niqab I was still harassed by men.  When I made the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, obviously covered, I was again harassed. When I wore a top and jeans, I was harassed. Even when I wore no make-up and went out, I was harassed. Over here, I am still harassed by perverts. The point: if men want to be perverts, they will be perverts regardless of what you wear. The problem does not actually lie with what women wear but with men who think they have the right to treat women with disrespect.

So why should women define modesty based on what men think? Why am I any less modest than a woman who does wear the hijab and abaya? This report suggests that it makes no difference whatsoever! Modesty lies with a woman’s respect for herself regardless of what she wears. And for the men out there reading this, respect women instead of treating them as sexual objects ready to be screwed around with, groped or harassed whenever it pleases you, and then think you have done nothing wrong.

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32 Comments

  1. Hakeem
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    I used to live just up the road from these gals in Cairo and they do a fantastic job of highlighting the plight of Egyptian women. They work out of a very small, cramped office in Hadayek el-Maadi, not far from the Israeli Ambassador’s heavily fortified residence, the affluent homes of the majority of Cairo’s 50,000 strong ex-pat community and on the edge of one of Cairo’s most populous and poverty-stricken neighbourhoods, Dar es-Salaam. They all deserve more recognition than they get, but their feistiness and resolve has seen the ECWR punch far above its weight.

    Even in Cairo, probably 99% of Muslim women wear the higab (hijab) with the 1% consisting of girls from the tiny super-affluent class (usually AUC grads or girls working for modern, outward-looking companies). Almost invariably, if a girl is not wearing a scarf, then she’s probably Christian…or a tourist or ex-pat.

    Egyptian women love to dress fashionably and adorn themselves in the most vibrant colours; conforming to social norms and Islamic dress requirements need not mean a black ‘cloak’. There are several ways to wear the higab, with the ‘pirate’ look catching on of late (probably my least favourite from a male perspective).

    Most of the harassment in Cairo comes from taxi drivers, ‘naughty’ pubescent boys and the ubiquitous army and police cadets (often poor country lads conscripted for 3 years in some cases), who often make life hell for young girls and tourists.

    I will say this, and there is absolutely NO EXCUSE whatsoever for harassment, but many tourists (especially the notorious Russian girls who dress in Cairo as they would in Sharm and Marina) and even ex-pats who should definitely know better strut around in bikinis and short skirts. For men, as you know well, the male ‘awrah falls below the knees and shorts are a big no-no (a common remark by Egyptian men is “Have you forgotten your trousers?).

    Over the last 4 years, and with the launch of a host of Salafi-hosted satellite channels, ‘abayahs and niqabs have become more commonplace. Where once they were the preserve of Khaleegee women on holiday, more and more Egyptian women have chosen to cover their entire bodies; wearing gloves and even the face-veil. To read some of the inaccurate reports in the Western media though, you’d think Cairo was now abundant with conservatively dressed men and women; in reality, it depends where you go and the majority of munaqabahs and ‘beturbaned’, hirsute men are to be found in Nasr City, where most of the Arabic language institutes and Dar ul-Ulooms (inc. al-Azhar’s major faculties ) are situated and many foreigners studying Islam or Arabic can be found.

    Young Egyptian men and women mix freely at university and can be seen walking hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm in most urban areas (though not outside their parents’ houses, of course).

    Egyptian men get a bad press, quite rightly, for their whistling, hissing and filthy remarks. However, most Egyptian men take a dim view of sexual harassment and I have seen, on many occasions, the shrieks of a woman on public transport who’s been groped, draw the ire of their male, morally-upstanding fellow passengers.

    One possible reason for the rise in sexual harassment (if it could be called a ‘rise’, as likely no statistics exist beyond what the ECWR have recorded themselves over the last few years) is the difficulty many young men have in financing their marriage. Housing shortages over the last few years in certain areas coupled with rising inflation and the greedy demands of in-laws, have meant that many young Egyptian men on a poor salary are unable to find even the modest amount required to put down a deposit on a flat.

    Do continue to follow their work, Houriya[h], and bring it to the attention of a wider audience ;-)

    Thank you and gazak Allahu khayraan!

  2. Hakeem
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:03 AM | Permalink

    Here is their website by the way:

    http://ecwronline.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1&lang=english

    …though it seems as if neither the first nor this second report is available in Arabic or English…perhaps you can search and come up with something? Alternatively, email them for a copy…

  3. excusesexcuses
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

    Oh dear looks like Houriya is trying to justify her sin in not wearing hijab by coming out with this canard that “even women in hijab get harassed”.

    The solution to this problem is easy. The Egyptian government needs to come down HARD on the men doing this. I believe the Iranians may Allah bless them publically whip men who do such things.

    The solution to this major sin isnt for women wearing the hijab to commit a major sin and take it off and thus be fasiqa. No doubt this will be counter by saying “” but Islamists” (sic) say women wear hijab to protect themselves from men” but this is rubbish. Muslim women wear hijab for the same reason they pray or fast – because it is a religious obligation from their creator. Thats it, beggining to end.

    Arguments like “it protects women” are only put foreward to respond to attacks on hijab by non-Muslims and Muslim heretics. A person could argue this is the hikmah behind the ruling but this is debatable . The obligation of hijab isnt.

    Of course the sharia allows Muslims to leave faraid if there is danger to their lives and persons (dont wanna give the munafiqs at Spitoon ideas) – but dont see women being killed en masse for wearing hijab in Cairo or London – do you?

    The last paragraph is idiotic- who ever said modesty is based on what men think? Islam never did

    In fact the only one saying this is Houriya – she says
    “So why should women define modesty based on what men think? ”

    then does precisely the same thing:
    “This report suggests that it makes no difference whatsoever!”

    “Why am I any less modest than a woman who does wear the hijab and abaya? ”

    Because you are exposing your awra to non mehrem men and in a continual state of disobeying Allah (unless youre only with mehrems). Modesty isnt solely wearing hijab -its also in dealing with the opposite sex in a non flirtaious respectful business like manner – and it also applies to men. But a women not wearing hijab isnt modest.

    ” Modesty lies with a woman’s respect for herself regardless of what she wears”

    No modesty lies in following what God commands. How can anyone arguing from an Islamic viewpoint say otherwise.

  4. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:17 PM | Permalink

    Hakeem

    Thanks for your incredibly informative post. Very, very true.

    As a man, my interaction with all the usual suspects in Cairo tends to be restricted to being witness to the interminable fights of my Black and White cab driver along the way between A and B and the interjections of the cops in their Frank Spencer style berets. I do keep choosing cabbies from Giza, however, who always strike me as the most irascible in greater Cairo, so it’s possibly my own fault.

    Greetings from further down the Nile.

  5. dawood
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    [excusesexcuses]

    That was a Party Political Broadcast brought to you by the coaltition of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and the Muslim Brotherhood and sponsored by Islam Channel.

    Thank you.

  6. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    Next on “Excuses Excuses” why the women of Sudan deserve to be harassed, annoyed, stalked and raped by men because they walk about in public.

  7. excusesexcuses
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:36 PM | Permalink

    Abu Faris

    Next on “Excuses Excuses” why the women of Sudan deserve to be harassed, annoyed, stalked and raped by men because they walk about in public.

    Are you mentally ill ? or just a liar?

    “The solution to this problem is easy. The Egyptian government needs to come down HARD on the men doing this. I believe the Iranians may Allah bless them publically whip men who do such things.”

  8. excusesexcuses
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    dawood

    That was a Party Political Broadcast brought to you by the coaltition of the Jamaat-e-Islami party and the Muslim Brotherhood and sponsored by Islam Channel.

    Thank you.

    Right so the 99% of women in Cairo who wear hijab (CF Hakim) are Muslim Brotherhood are they?

    I thought you said they werent popular!

  9. dawood
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

    83% of those veiled Egyptian women are being hassled, groped and abused. That must be by 99% of men from the Muslim Brotherhood.

  10. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    Are you mentally ill ? or just a liar?

    Neither. Although I have strong doubts about your grip on reality. I happen to live in this Islamist “paradise” of woman abuse.

    Let me guess… you also blog under the nicknames “Muslim”, “Blah” and latterly, “Bleh”?

    Or is abuse a common feature of Islamist “debate”?

  11. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 1:49 PM | Permalink

    Excuses_for_more_Sock_Puppets,

    Don’t you think you would be happier at MPACuk forum?

  12. excusesexcuses
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    Abu Fasiq

    Neither. Although I have strong doubts about your grip on reality. I happen to live in this Islamist “paradise” of woman abuse.

    Er… but Egypt isnt an Islamic state its a secular one -so its clearly a failure of secular governance. If you are you are talking about the Sudan why are you using “this”? I seriously doubt 83% of Sudanese women have been sexually harrased. And the fact you choose to live in “Islamist” Sudan while having a British passport kind of destroys your whole argument.

  13. excusesexcuses
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Abu Faris

    Don’t you think you would be happier at MPACuk forum?

    Wouldnt you be happy at JihadWatch?

  14. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

    Abu Fasiq

    It’s Muslim/Blah/Bleh… QED.

    I seriously doubt 83% of Sudanese women have been sexually harrased.

    Show me where I wrote 83% of Sudanese women had been sexually harrassed. I did not. You made that up.

    And the fact you choose to live in “Islamist” Sudan while having a British passport kind of destroys your whole argument.

    That I have British passport has nothing to do with my place of residence, nor my reasons for being where I am. So I fail to understand how it “destroys” any argument, Bleh.

    Oh, and Sudan is an Islamist state and women are systematically harassed here.

  15. Houriya
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:48 PM | Permalink

    Though women no doubt get sexually abused and harassed in the UK, most of the sexual harassment I experienced and saw happened while I was living in the Gulf, where most women cover up. And the police would hardly care or do anything. I do not see how the problem would be solved if there were harsher punishments for just for men, as this is mainly a societal problem and needs to be addressed as such. No doubt in places like Egypt, the consqeunces would have to be implemented for harassers but it is also an attitude problem. It is the idea that such men think they can treat women as sexual objects, regardless of what they wear, and have the right to grope them. Shouldn’t women be regarded as human beings, again regardless of what they wear?

    Thanks hakeem for providing the link – should have done that myself!!!! ECWR seem to be doing really good work, but I would have loved to have read their latest report in full! If you get a hold of it pass it on :)

    Abu Faris, is it true that in Khartoum, Sudanese (not foreign) girls cannot smoke shisha in public places or go swimming in public pools? And how strict is society towards Sudanese women with regards to hijab? Is it a social requirement, legal? If it social, is it as free as the Emirati or Bahraini girls or not? Im very interested to know, as I have many Sudanese friends in the Gulf and I always wondered how life was like in Sudan for women, as they seem to be alot freerer in some Gulf countries.

  16. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:21 PM | Permalink

    is it true that in Khartoum, Sudanese (not foreign) girls cannot smoke shisha in public places or go swimming in public pools?

    Absolutely. There have emerged a few women-only cafes in Khartoum where women do enjoy a shisha – in fact, it is a bit of a fashion, at the moment, amongst women here. Certainly, public swimming is absolutely out-of-the-question for women here. There are only a few pools, mostly at hotels and some of the international clubs and then there is very strictly enforced segregation of swimming days for men and women.

    I asked my wife about this and she was at a loss to explain what the penalties would be if women were caught smoking even cigarettes on the street, or swimming in a pool with men present: because, as she said, it simply is not done. She suggests that at the very least there would be a lot of shouting from the “morality police”, the POP (Public Order Police) and possibly a beating.

    And how strict is society towards Sudanese women with regards to hijab? Is it a social requirement, legal? If it social, is it as free as the Emirati or Bahraini girls or not?

    If one is a Muslim woman, then the Penal Code of 1991 has chapters dedicated to “proper” or “decent” attire – and then there is the pressure exerted by the likes of POP. One of the charges made against Lubna Hussayn in the recent “wrong trousers” farrago here was that she did not have her hair covered properly. Whilst the daughters of the elite may get away without a hijab (in that if they get stopped by POP or other state functionaries, they can mention their father’s name and all problems will disappear), the vast majority of women cover-up to avoid the attentions of such officers of state.

    Certainly, it was less free than the strictures upon some Gulf women – and then it loosened up. Presently, there are worrying signs of a concerted crack-down, however.

    Thanks for the questions and the excellent work at Spittoon and elsewhere, Houriya.

  17. Faisal Gassy
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

    One question – how much are cheap flights to Cairo?

  18. Houriya
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for you response Abu Faris. With the recent controversy surrounding Lubna Hussayn, has this inspired women to campaign against social conservatism in Sudan and are there more women campaining for their rights etc. or changes in law? Generally, do men and women mix? And are non-married couples mix in public together, or is it like Iran – where the police randomly check whether a couple are married? You say there is a crackdown – does it go as far as that? What about socially, is it alright for the different sexes to mix in public? And is Khartoum more free in this regard as opposed to anywhere else?

    Sorry, hope you do not mind me asking you a thousand questions, I would actually very much like to visit sudan, and I am fascinated to find out how social life is like there, becuase from my experience all my sudanese friends back in Gulf always mix in public. And going to sudanese weddings is soo much fun, cos everyone dances together, the old and young, mena nd women, (not club style dancing) but you know what I mean.

  19. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    You touch upon a number of really central issues about Sudan and its culture, Houriya. I am more than willing to answer even a million questions about this place and its people who I love so dearly.

    I had a Sudanese wedding – and did we dance! In fact, the traditional dance for the bride and groom from the tribe from which my wife comes involves me, as the only man in the room, whilst my wife-to-be (before the mosque and signing off by Qadi) dances around me to drumming and singing from her female relatives. As she dances, she deliberately falls and I am to catch her fall. If I fail, it is said, the marriage will not last! I caught her every time. Elsewhere, the men will dance with sheathed swords held aloft with the women.

    Women did not traditionally wear hijab. Burkhardt, who visited northern Sudan at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, records the care the women took of their hair, plaiting it and greasing it with ghee so that it shone when visitors called. In fact, traditionally, women wore very little at all.

    The Islamist regime at first tried to enforce chador upon Sudanese women – in imitation of Iran (a country with a long recent relationship with Islamist Sudan), however this did not go down well and women began to wear the Thuwb in a sort of quiet rebellion against this weird regulation. The Thuwb is worn by married women, together with henna-ed feet (hence the reason why a young man always checks out a girl’s feet!) and many gold bangles. Handbag and shoes must match – the best Thuwbs are made from cloth from southern Africa, incidentally.

    Generally, men and women are not encouraged by the authorities to mix – even though traditional Sudanese society allowed such free mixing. When my wife and I first met, we made sure to meet in public places during daylight – and yet there was still the time when a POP officer shouted at us for sitting too close together in a very public place. We were stopped and had our ID confiscated by Secret Police on our way to the Court to get our marriage license too, because we were sitting together on the bus. We always carry copies of our marriage certificates when we are out together. This is partly due to the fact that we are a mixed couple and the authorities immediately assume that a Sudanese woman with a non-Sudanese man must be “up to no good.”

    I am still trying to understand what exactly the present crackdown is about – certainly, Ramadhan this year was one of the laxest I have ever seen here. Yesterday, there was an illegal demonstration on streets near to where I live. This ended abruptly with gunfire and then a riot van with two corpses in the back roared past my apartment block, their dead feet bouncing up and down from where they poked from under the blanket thrown over the corpses. Street cigarette dealers are wary about selling whole cartons of cigarettes, asking whether one “works for the government” before handing over the bounty. Today, internet was shut down at around the Call to Prayer and restarted just as the throngs were decanting from mosque.

    There are very courageous women (and men) campaigning to end the reign of Islamist puritanism in this country and for restoring the spirited, moderate Islam that is quintessentially Sudanese. I hope and pray they succeed for the happiness and future of this beloved land.

  20. Abu Faris
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 7:41 PM | Permalink

    Houriya,

    One such women’s group working for peace and democracy in Sudan is the Women Empowerment for Peace and Development Network (WEPDN).

    More about the aims and activities of WEPDN can be found here, at the website of their German NGO partner:

    http://sudan.ded.de/cipp/ded/custom/pub/content,lang,2/oid,13211/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/WEPD_-_Women_Empowerment_for_Peace_and_Development_Network.html

    Contact details for WEPDN are given on that site.

  21. Houriya
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Abu Faris!

  22. Yawn
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 3:52 PM | Permalink

    why is “modest” in quotation marks in the title ? Is the author suggesting women who wear the hijab arent modest, yet claiming she who doesnt wear it somehow is?

    Bizarre bizarre individual. Obviously has alot of jealousy and resentment at muhajjibas !

  23. Muqtar
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    And so there should be. The practice is a Wahhabi aberration.

  24. green
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    Muqtar

    And so there should be. The practice is a Wahhabi aberration.

    So Abu Faris’ wife is a wahabbi aberration. Well I never……

  25. Abu Faris
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

    Nope, Green -

    Hijab (as in headscarf) is not niqab – and Muqtar was writing of the latter.

    Just so you know, my wife wears one because in the Islamist dystopia where we live she is effectively forced to wear it.

    Sorry to disappoint and all that.

  26. Black Muslim X
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

    And Muqtar is right.

  27. Abu Faris
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    Correct, BMX.

  28. bizarre
    Posted October 13, 2009 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

    Abu Faris

    Hijab (as in headscarf) is not niqab – and Muqtar was writing of the latter.

    No he wasnt illiterate. He responded to Yawns comment and the article itself talked about hijab

    Yawn
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
    why is “modest” in quotation marks in the title ? Is the author suggesting women who wear the hijab arent modest, yet claiming she who doesnt wear it somehow is?

    Bizarre bizarre individual. Obviously has alot of jealousy and resentment at muhajjibas !

    Muqtar
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
    And so there should be. The practice is a Wahhabi aberration.

    Abu Faris

    Just so you know, my wife wears one because in the Islamist dystopia where we live she is effectively forced to wear it.

    Sorry to disappoint and all that.

    Didnt you say on another thread you think your wife looks nice in hijab ?
    And this comment is agreeing with muqtars condemnation of hijab

  29. Abu Faris
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

    Bizarre

    My wife does look nice in a hijab – that does not imply that she would wear it unless she had to.

    I fail to see the contradiction, Bizarre. Perhaps you could explain?

    Muqtar was writing about the niqab. Do learn to follow a conversation before interjecting in the hope of looking clever at others’ expense.

  30. Posted October 14, 2009 at 9:24 AM | Permalink

    To be clear about what I meant:

    The practice of the niqab (black face-covering over-garment) is a Wahhabi aberration and forcing women to wear it is an example of cultural imperialism not religious obligation.

  31. Abu Faris
    Posted October 14, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    As I thought you meant, Muqtar. I agree entirely. Thanks.

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