Friday, October 20, 2006

Death Threats in Egypt

A woman Muslim scholar in Egypt has been subjected to death threats for questioning the need for women to be fully veiled. Italian news site AKI has the details:

An Egyptian female theologian and professor has received death threats for her comments that the niqab, the face-covering eyes-only veil, is not obligatory, Gulf News reports. Souad Saleh, former head of female religious studies at Cario's al-Azhar university, told an Arabic TV network this week that there was no unequivocal text in the Koran requiring women to cover their faces. Her comments came amid a row over the decision by a university hostel in Cairo to ban the niqab in its dormitories, for security reasons, and a wider debate over the use of face-hiding Muslim veils by women in Europe.

An angry male preacher told a mosque congregation in Giza, south of Cairo, that he was ready to kill Saleh for her claim, and was arrested and questioned by police, Gulf News reported Thursday.

Saleh, known in Egypt as "the women's mufti" for her numerous fatwas, or religious edicts relating to women, had already been fiercely criticised by some Muslim fundamentalists for her remarks.

The reason why this news is so disturbing is that Islamists have a frightening tradition of acting on their death threats, especially in Egypt. As Koenraad Elst has written:

Egypt has a history of Islamist violence that has affected even the country’s most renowned writer, Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz (b. 1911), who was stabbed with a knife to his neck and seriously wounded in 1994. Farag Foda, a Muslim liberal and long-standing critic of the fundamentalists, was murdered in June 1992; his son and other bystanders were seriously wounded. During the trial of several suspects in the Foda murder, expert witnesses defended the execution of apostates and blasphemers.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Hopefully, Ms. Saleh is able to avoid such a fate.


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