Forget the Egyptian economy - I want to know where my wife is

When a nasty declaration by the UN Commission on the Status of Women contradicts the established principles of Islam more than members of the Brotherhood beating a woman senseless outside their headquarters.

Ahmed Kadry
25 March 2013

It’s nice that President Morsi and his merry band of Brothers are on top of governing the country. Whether it’s healing the flagging economy or securing the policing of the state amidst growing reports of vigilantism, they are doing an upstanding job of taking a practical approach to finding solutions as well as ensuring they maintain their visibility in front of the nation and keeping everyone’s spirits up. Wait a minute…..

Full disclosure - I’m not a fan of the Morsi and the Brotherhood for what I see as a complete failure to govern and their obviously more important priorities of securing their power grab that they have craved for almost a century. That aside, I had no intention of writing about either the man or the party this week until I read this. In reaction to the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held this year between the 4-15 March in New York, the Muslim Brotherhood official website, IkhwanWeb, took the time out of its busy schedule in relating news and updates regarding Egypt’s lesser issues like the economy. Instead, they draw our attention to the ruthlessly devilish declaration that was drawn up in the Big Apple that is set to have apocalyptic consequences on Egyptian society and familial life.

Before I get onto their reaction, let’s start with the Commission itself. On its website it states its purpose as, “the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.” I can see why IkhwanWeb was in an uproar: “gender equality” and “advancement of women” certainly sound like the devil’s play thing. A closer look at the declaration shows that an array of topics were covered including the elimination of violence against women of all ages, equality before the law irrespective of gender, and “reaffirms that women and men have the right to enjoy, on an equal basis, all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

When I read “all their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” I immediately discerned that this facilitates the concept of choice. Now let’s have a look at the reaction from the Muslim Brotherhood on IkhwanWeb. Tackling each issue it has with the declaration, it starts with its own statement: “This declaration, if ratified, would lead to complete disintegration of society, and would certainly be the final step in the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies.” Ah, so this is their counter argument – they are afraid of neo-imperialism and the loss of Muslim identity to be swept aside and wholly replaced by some western surrogate.

As the Muslim Brotherhood have found since 2011, years of rhetoric on how tough it will be on Israel and how it will unite Egyptian society under Islam is a lot harder than it looks to put into practise – or they have at least made a royal mess of it. They can blame ‘the West’ as much as they like, but no one is buying that any more. On the note of “cohesion of Islamic societies,” I thought about Mervat Moussa being slapped to the ground outside the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters last week for protesting. Yes, this nasty declaration is what “contradicts established principles of Islam” as opposed to your members beating a woman senseless.

IkhwanWeb then goes onto list its qualms with the declaration and what it will mean for Egyptian gender relationships. I can’t list them all but let me share some of the most disturbing criticisms they have. They state that if implemented, the declaration will, “Give wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.” You may have to read that a couple of times just as I did to make sure you understood it correctly. According to that statement, the Muslim Brotherhood do not want a wife who is raped by her husband to have “full rights to file legal complaints” and they do not believe that a husband who has raped his wife should be punished as a rapist or sexual harasser might be punished under the law. I hadn’t realised that getting married meant I would have carte blanche to do whatever I wanted with my wife with no fear of repercussions. So much for the “renaissance project.”

The next point is a lot more concise but just as powerful: This declaration would lead to, “Cancelling the need for a husband’s consent in matters like: travel, work, or use of contraception.” So in essence, the Muslim Brotherhood does not like to see a woman have the basic right to choose her holiday destination or where she goes to work every day, let alone her choice of whether she wants to have a child or not.

IkhwanWeb’s stentorian conclusion is that, “these are destructive tools meant to undermine the family as an important institution,” - while I shall conclude with the irony that the state, in this case The Muslim Brotherhood, is focusing so intently on family life, which has nothing to do with the state and everything to do with the decisions of each citizen and family, while  those areas very much the responsibility of the state are tackled at best half-heartedly, with seemingly no plan or ideological framework. 

If they had as much focus on the economy or policing the state as they did with obsessing over controlling everyone’s moral compass, perhaps Egypt today would not be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

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