The joy of Eid

Posted on October 21, 2006


I know I am flogging a dead horse but I just want to let off some steam about some more Ramadan-based sexual/religious harassment. My sister was just telling me about how, yesterday, she was driving with two of her female friends when a car full of young men cornered them and blocked their way round a U-turn, swerving into their path and honking and shouting. Fearing for her safety my sister stopped, whereupon one of the men said to them: “Ana 3ayez a3raf Ramadan ma3nah bilnesbalko eh, bil elly into 3amleeno fe nafsoko dah? (I want to know what Ramadan means to you, with what you’re doing to yourselves – reference to clothing.) One of my sister’s friends dressed the guy down and abused him to within an inch of his life. Earlier that day, as my sister was walking on the street, a guy told her she was going to burn in hell.

What the fuck, seriously? My sister is enormously modest, and her friends are church goers. It is repugnant that during this month men feel that they have even more sanction than usual to practice their hatred and desire to control all women’s behaviour, everywhere, and impede our very lives. They are denying every woman the right to walk freely, and to interpret her religion how she pleases: but I see it as even more insidious that everyone, not just Muslims, is expected to dress pursuant to these people’s ideas. My friends, commenting on my earlier post to this tune, tried to tell me that I was mistaken in concluding that I, and other girls, were being harassed because we were Christians. They contended that they too are harassed because they are merely unveiled. But my point is simply that these self-righteous imbeciles assume that everyone is a Muslim; and if not, that they should be; and further, that every woman should be veiled. In effect, they are denying us the right to be Christians, and the corollary long-accepted right not to dress in accordance with (what some think) Islam teaches.

Thank God Ramadan is nearly over. I understand the exigencies of living in a place that practices any religion en masse. I don’t mind being inconvenienced – that’s just the way life is; things have to be arranged according to what suits the majority. But along with the things I accept as reasonable – not being able to eat when and where I want, to drink, and the insane crowds – come the raging fundamentalists who feel justified in intruding into my personal space and private religious freedom, and those on the flip side of the coin who use Ramadan as an excuse to extort and guilt and profit. Ifffff.

I might as well warn you, if I receive one comment about how sluttily I dress, or how slutty the women of Egypt are (because God knows the streets are full of harlots with their necks showing, and feet!) I will tear you a new one, reach in, pull out your lying tonsils and wrap them around your misogynistic delusional throats. You do not know me, and do not know how I dress in public. If you think I am too aggressive towards commentators, you have not seen anything yet.

SIDE NOTE: I just found out that the place where I work has a policy against veiling. They fire lawyers and sometimes even secretaries who take on the veil (in fact they warned me about it during my interview, but I didn’t think it would come to firing!). All the corporate law offices in Egypt and some of the banks do this too, apparently…any office that deals primarily with Westerners. This is, of course, a repugnant policy and dicriminatory on so many levels, and I know it’s just a form of Uncle Tomism. However, it also brings me secret pleasure that 1) here is a place where no one is pressured to adopt increasing religiosity, although of course banning the hijab is quite as bad for other people’s purposes; 2) er….less money for those people. Which means more money for me. Yes, I’m ashamed of these thoughts.

Posted in: Egypt, gender, religion