Slate recently ran a piece about Azza al Garf, dubbing her a “culturally regressive trailblazer,” and likening her to well-known American female conservatives such as Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin. Azza al Garf, a female member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party who was recently elected to the post-revolutionary Egyptian Parliament, had not been coy about her intentions should she win a seat in the new Parliament.
As reported earlier by Egypt Independent, Azza al Garf claimed that if she won, she would work toward reversing “women’s and children’s laws that were promulgated in the defunct [Mubarak] epoch and violate Islamic Sharia and human nature.”
This is disconcerting, as some of the “women’s and children’s laws” publicized during Mubarak’s time are, for example, laws that give women the right to divorce, that criminalize female circumcision, and that give women the right to register their children even if the father is unknown. Whether al Garf was referring to these laws or not remains to be seen.
While there is legitimacy in the doubts Slate author Nina Burleigh raises, as to whether a conservative female Member of Parliament can mirror the changes which Egyptian women hope to see from the new government, her approach is all wrong.
Instead of writing an insightful article on what Azza al Garf’s election to Parliament means or might mean for women’s rights in Egypt, she instead resorts to making stereotypical deductions and drawing subjective parallels between al Garf and her supposed Western “counterparts”.
The first of such grossly derisive comments is made in Burleigh’s first paragraph when she describes the men of the Muslim Brotherhood Party as having “protuberant prayer calluses on their foreheads resembling large warts.” Such abrasive sentiments show Burleigh’s true colors—an attitude of intolerance and disregard for others’ religious practices. Not to mention painting the hackneyed picture of “scary” Muslim men.
The article goes on to call al Garf, and other women members of the party, “oxymoronic creatures: culturally regressive trailblazers.” How exactly these women are “culturally regressive” and whose culture Burleigh is referring to is not made clear. Burleigh does not point out specific policies that al Garf endorses that may drive the struggle for women’s rights in Egypt into a backsliding motion, but instead draws parallels between al Garf and American female conservatives like Bachman and Palin to illustrate that al Garf is a “culturally regressive trailblazer.” [Read more...]