|Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens|
This week, after the tragic death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others at the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, all eyes have been on the current unrest in the Middle East. Anti-American protests have erupted in Yemen and Egypt, and some believe it was due to outrage over an "inflammatory" YouTube video while others believe it was a Taliban 9/11 "reminder."
Before the demonstrations began last week, I had been planning on blogging about what I consider to be an alarming situation in Cairo. A botany professor at the University of Cairo, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been holding "premarital counseling" classes that are a clear indication of how women in that part of the world are regarded.
The workshop is called "Bride and Groom Against Satan," and is sponsored by Family House, a charity financed by the Brotherhood. Family House also offers financial support to those in need, a matchmaking service, and group weddings for low-income couples.
The new President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even though the "Arab Spring" protests included many women, the chances of females faring well in Egypt's future social agenda are looking pretty grim.
During his lectures, Mr. Abou Salama asks his class, "Can you, as a woman, take a decision and handle the consequences of your decision?" Then, he lectures, "No. But men can. And God created us this way because a ship cannot have more than one captain." During the seminars men sit at the front of the room, and women sit in the back. The overall message is that women were created to be "obedient wives and mothers while men were created to fend for their families."
Since Mr. Morsi was elected in June, Family House's social outreach programs have grown dramatically, and in less then a year they have gone from one office to 18 different branches all around Egypt. They are encouraging all young couples to attend these seminars.
When Mr. Morsi was elected, he told voters that he would protect the rights of women, include them in political decision making, and appoint a female Vice President. Instead, his 21-member team of aides included only three women--one of whom has been a member of the Brotherhood
since 1981. She told The New York Times that "A woman can work as much as she wants, but within the framework of our religious restrictions."
The new President's political program (called "The Renaissance") has placed heavy emphasis on a woman's "Authentic role as wife, mother and purveyor of generations." It's worth noting that during the former Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed.
Walaa Abdel Halim, the coordinator who organizes the Family House's youth counseling workshops, has said "Shaping a religious individual leads to shaping a righteous family, and by shaping a righteous family, you get a righteous society that can choose a righteous leader."
The vast majority of women in Egypt already cover their hair and stay separate from men in coed environments. They sit quietly in Mr. Abou Salama's classes, and appear to understand and agree with him when he tells them "I want you to be the flower that attracts a bee to make honey, not the trash that attracts flies and dirt."
Looking forward to your comments...