IS THIS A FEMINIST ACT?
“At last, the revolution has reached State Television.”
These are the words of Fatma Nabil, who made history in Egypt on Sunday as the first female anchor in the five decades of State Television history to wear the veil on air.
News anchor Fatma Nabil.
Under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring, women wearing the veil were banned from State television, despite almost 70 percent of the Egyptian population wearing some form of head covering.
Now, under President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, women wearing the veil are no longer discriminated against on television.
But it’s controversial. Commentators around the world are alternately suggesting it is a potent symbol of the wane of secularism in Egypt, or it’s another “breakthrough” in the extraordinary democratic revolution that was the Arab Spring.
Government bans on personal choices are always problematic.
Witness the controversy that blew up with the French Government’s plan to ban the burqa which, according to President Sarkozy, “imprisons women” and threatens French values of dignity and equality. You can read a fascinating piece about this here.
Certainly in the hands of extremists, the veil has been a symbol of the oppression of women, and because of this it has had an image problem in the West. Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, a woman could be flogged for not covering herself properly, for flashing merely an ankle.
In Australia, we value a woman’s freedom of choice. We celebrate diversity of culture and religion and the right to choose your own freedom of expression, and there has been no shortage of discussion this country about the veil.
But this is complicated.
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