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Egypt’s Islamists have outraged the civilized world by proposing several pieces of legislation that begin the process of rolling back the meager gains made by women in that country over the last decade.
The first proposed law would lower the legal age a girl can marry to 14. The second proposal, inspired by a fatwa from a Moroccan cleric, would grant husbands permission to have sex with their wives within 6 hours of their death.
Another Islamist-sponsored piece of legislation would repeal the right of women to seek a divorce from an abusive husband without obstruction from her spouse. Still another proposal would mandate the barbaric practice of female circumcision.
The series of proposals, as well as others under consideration that would severely restrict opportunities for women and girls in education and employment, aim to roll back the modest progress on women’s rights that advocates won during the Mubarak era. The laws threaten to reduce women to the status of chattel where they will be literally owned by their husbands who will be able to control all aspects of their personal lives.
The proposals come as the Obama administration appears to have accepted the rule of Islamists in Egypt, Tunisia, and other “Arab Spring” countries while exposing their naive belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is “moderate” and “secular” in its nature.
And the proposals make a mockery of promises by the Muslim Brotherhood that they would seek to implement Sharia law slowly. In a few weeks, women in Egypt may see their status return to those of their ancestors in the Middle Ages.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is being pushed by the more radical Salfis (al-Nour) to quicken the implementation of Sharia law. The presidential election is partly responsible for this, as the al-Nour candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail, was declared ineligible to run by the country’s election commission and the FJP’s second candidate (their first candidate was also disqualified), party chief Mohammed Morsi, has had to tack to the right in order to gain the support of the Salifis. Thus, Morsi declared that a council of Muslim scholars will “advise” parliament on all proposed legislation and added “The Qur’an is our constitution, and sharia is our guide!” This push to satisfy the Salifis led to an important endorsement from the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, a panel of clerics mostly from the ultraconservative Salafis and new Islamist parties. It is likely to gain him another endorsement soon from a hard-line organization of extremist clerics as well.
With gradual “reform” of women’s rights out the window, the proposed legislation has angered the small group of advocates who fought for the secularization of Egyptian society in the last decade. Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) President Dr Mervat al-Talawi, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Assembly, warning that the proposed changes were “marginalizing and undermining the status of women” and “would negatively affect the country’s human development.”
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