Actions speak louder than words. That is one true statement, but where does it stand when we apply it to the Egyptian society?
On the 1st of June 2009 the Arab and Muslim World woke up to a tragic incident of hate crime committed against the “veiled” victim Marwa El Sherbiny. Marwa was killed by a man who was found guilty of insulting her using words such as Islamist, terrorist and slut and sentenced to pay 780 Euros. The murderer did not accept the verdict and stabbed her 18 times before stabbing her husband all the while yelling “You don’t deserve to live”.
El Sherbiny was mourned by thousands who chanted slogans condemning the Egyptian and German governments for lack of proper reactions. The issue was made into a public opinion matter and everyone talked about the inappropriate discrimination against a woman for being veiled.
But wait a minute; as much as everyone should feel sorry for the loss of El Sherbiny’s family and as much as the crime is appalling, we should look first at the discrimination we have at home, right under our noses, in the confines of our beloved Egypt.
Veiled women are not admitted into many public areas around Egypt.
This “trend” is rapidly sweeping over lots and lots of Egypt’s “hot spots”. Out of my personal experience, numerous times I would call a restaurant or a club only to be warned by the person registering the reservation that “Veil is not allowed” or would be turned back from entering one of the crème de la crème nightlife spots because one of my friends is veiled. Once, when calling one of the very famous restaurants in Zamalek to make a reservation and asking if they could make an exception for just one veiled girl, the manager informed me they would allow the exception ONLY if she took the veil off inside!
Ragia Mito, 21 and veiled, disclosed that she gets offended from not being allowed into places just because of her veil. She thinks it is prejudiced that she doesn’t get to go to these places even though “Arab veiled foreigners” are allowed. “It is shameful that I’m Egyptian and I don’t receive the same treatment of foreigners inside my own country”. When asked if she thinks this sort of decision taken by such places is due to them serving alcohol, she said she believes this excuse is none sense. “They always allow underage boys and girls in, but it’s because they consider veiled women as people who lack fashionable sense and low class they don’t want them in”.
This phenomenon is not only becoming prominent in nightclubs and restaurants but also among events administered by young people. This became apparent when a veiled friend of mine complained that she wasn’t allowed to buy a ticket to one of her university’s graduation after parties that are organized by the students themselves because the event does not admit veiled girls. When a group on Facebook was created in defense of all the veiled girls not allowed to go to their own after graduation party, the organizers claimed it’s a “private event where only their friends are allowed in”. The response is a big hoax because it was an event advertised for on Facebook and on campus for all the students to attend.
Before we condemn other people for being racist or discriminating against our religion, and before we accuse other nations of being Islamophobists, we should start questioning the new definition of who is hip, stylish and a la mode. We should not make the decision for other people based on their hair cover that they shouldn’t be around “alcoholic drinks”. Believe me, when someone walks into a night club, alcohol is NOT something that will take them by surprise. We should not make exceptions for “veiled” foreigners and discriminate against our own natives. We should not deem someone as “not good enough” for going into a public place inside his/her OWN country because of what they choose to wear.