Egypt's National Council for Women by Leslie Koch
The process of shaping post-revolutionary Egypt to conform to the postmodern imperial world is proceeding apace. Egypt's long history of invasion and occupation by first France (under Napoleon) and then Britain, and less formally from 1970 on under first Sadat and Mubarak, means there is a strong secular tradition, and the current attempt by Islamists to reverse this accommodation of western norms--'good' and "bad'--is meeting fierce resistance, with women and their "rights' at the forefront.
Though we hear complaints that Egyptian women are having a tough time these days, fearing restrictions by Islamists on their public lives, at least two prominent women have already left their mark, defying Egypt's move towards a more religious-focused society.
Booby trap I
Uncelebrated, but key to the current political turmoil is Tahani el-Gebali, deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court. After the brief period of unity in 2011 between the minority of westernized secularists and the overwhelming majority of devout Egyptians, when the secularists were forced to reach out to their political rivals out of dire necessity to depose Mubarak, the battlelines quickly changed. While accusing the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of colluding with the military over the transfer of power, it was in fact the secularists who worked behind the scenes with the military to disband the democratically-elected Islamist majority. Chief conspirator was Gebali, who advised the generals to "plant a booby trap", making the elections vulnerable to annulment by the judiciary.
Shockingly for Egyptians of any stripe, she later boasted about this conspiracy (surely impeachable, if real culprits were ever to be caught in such legal snares) in the New York Times (4 July 2012). The panicky, clueless generals agree to the hatchet-woman's proposal to seize the president's powers (just in case the MB candidate Morsi was elected), and disband the MB-dominated parliament using the Supreme Constitutional Court, dissolving the first transparently-elected parliament in Egypt's history, ensuring that the Mubarak-era generals would oversee drafting of the constitution.
When the elected parliament, dominated by MBers, sought to assert control over the interim military-appointed government, the generals' hand-picked Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri rang up the hatchet-woman, and she proceeded to dismiss the parliament.
Newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi, though inexperienced in the tricks of the trade, proved to be not such a shrinking violet. But even after producing a constitution (approved by 65%), Gebali's friends on the Supreme Administrative Court recently scuttled the proposed elections to replace the parliament she disbanded last year (now being appealed). It seems Egypt's secularists, with feminists in the lead, have decided if they can't win elections, then they won't let them happen at all. Sometimes, it is necessary to destroy the village in order to save it, as certain other secularists argued back in 1968, faced with similar (communist) intransigence in poor Vietnam. Even Mubarak has had enough, calling out against violent protests and for Egyptians to "rally around their elected president", according to his lawyer Farid el-Deeb.
Morsi's rule has been rocky to say the least. From the start, he has faced incessant, at times violent protests calling for his resignation. MB headquarters have been torched and MB activists killed. Western and westernized critics have denounced the new Egyptian constitution, warning that it was anti-women, demanding formal equality as in western constitutions. The constitution (horror of horrors) refers several times to the role of women as "caregivers". Worse yet, one article says that the state will provide necessary services for mothers and children free, and will ensure a balance between a woman's family responsibilities and work in society. Egyptian judge Ali Mokhtar, head of the Cairo court of appeal, sees this as a threat to women, complaining that this allows the government to determine the balance between women's rights and their role within their families. "This broaches on society's personal ethics." Tsk, tsk.
Booby trap II
Morsi's most recent female thorn is Mervat el-Tallawi, head of the National Council for Women (NCW), who headed the Egypt's delegation to the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women last week. She charged the MB, which issued a statement highly critical of the Commission's draft statement, with tarnishing Egypt's international image, telling delegates that, "Women are the slaves of this age, particularly in our region." She called for "international solidarity for women's empowerment", which easily morphs into "international pressure to make sure Egypt conforms to a western agenda'.
The issue of women's "rights' is now shaping up to be another booby trap for the Islamic awakening and the attempt by the Islamists to go beyond the bankrupt order bequeathed to them by their westernizers. If the US had its way, Egyptian women would live in a social and political order reflecting western values, where men and women are strictly the same before the law, and traditional roles and the family are quaint shibboleths.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the associated UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1981) are intended to ensure that certain basic standards for women are observed around the world. Fair enough. But the CSW and CEDAW are dominated by western secularists, who promote a lowest-common-denominator levelling process of men and women. The identity politics pushed by these western-funded organizations (and the thousands of NGO spin-offs) have little to contribute to solving the real problems that the billions of poor women around the world face.
Legalized abortion, free distribution of contraceptives to teenagers, lesbian rights are much cheaper and easier to promote than universal healthcare and education, and financial assistance to promote small-scale production in villages, and indeed work to undermine morality and society, as the MB statement asserted, much to Tallawi's dismay. The MB criticized the draft CSW charter for, among other articles, allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslims, condoning homosexuality, "replacing guardianship with partnership, and full sharing of roles within the family between men and women", and calling for equal inheritance rights for men and women. These and other recommendations it called "destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution" that "would drag society back to pre-Islamic ignorance."
Coverage in the western media was intended to expose the MB as a laughing stock, but for anyone who sees western society as licentious, and understands the importance of the family in Muslim society and the great advance that Islam was over the pre-Islamic order, their words ring true. Oblivious to any of this was Norway's "Gender Equality" Minister (I'm not making that up) Inga Marte Thorkildsen, who chortled, "I am very happy that it was possible to isolate some of the most reactionary groups, including the Vatican and Iran." Do your homework, Inga -- Iran is one of the leading countries providing sex-change operations.
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