Critic: Religion could limit Egypt's women

Sept. 7, 2012 at 7:43 AM

CAIRO, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- With a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood now serving as president in Egypt, some critics say religious restrictions will limit women's rights.

Three months into Mohamed Morsi's presidency, he has yet to fulfill a campaign promise to select a woman as his vice president, The New York Times reported. At the time he promised to protect the rights of women and include them in decision-making for the country.

He appointed 21 senior aides and advisers last week, three of which were women.

One of those women, Omaima Kamel, a medical professor at Cairo University and Muslim Brotherhood member, said she believes a woman should be able to work as much as she wants, but "within the framework of our religious restrictions."

"Let's face it, if your work took you away from your fundamental duties at home and if your success came at the cost of your family life and the stability of your children, then you are the one who stands to lose," she said.

Ibrahim el-Houdaiby, a researcher of Islamic movements and former member of the brotherhood, said such a philosophy constrains women.

"There is an absence of a well-defined vision, so they use words like 'religious restrictions,'" he said. "OK, sure, so what exactly are those restrictions, so we can know them and figure out how to deal with them? As long as we don't define what those limits are, then we can expand them to the point where women, practically speaking, cannot work."

Hania Sholkamy, an anthropologist and associate professor at the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo, said Egyptian politicians could find it easy to uphold patriarchal values.

"Those who deprive women of their rights, limit their freedom or place them in a subordinate position believe that the political cost of doing so is very low," Sholkamy said.

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