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.
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.
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.
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.