Monday, May 26, 2008

Female Maazun in Egypt

The first female maazun , Amal Soliman, has been appointed in Egypt. A maazun is the public notary who performs wedding ceremonies and authorizes marriage and divorce certificates. Her appointment has been the cause of much controversy in the Islamic country, due to laws banning women from mosques when they have their period. However, Soliman said she will make house calls, if necessary, during the times she cannot legally enter a mosque.

Still, her acceptance has been met with resistance among the young, traditional Muslims. "She can't do the job. I mean, there are so many reasons that she can't, but when it comes down to it, women are not made to be in positions of power," Heba Mahmoud, a female student at Cairo University said. Her belief is being echoed throughout the country.

Soliman, however, is excited to begin and believes her gender as female will aid her in one aspect of her job, making sure young brides are not being coerced into the marriage. 1 in 3 brides under the age of 18 in Egypt are forced into marriage.

As happy as I was to hear this news, Soliman said something that bothered me. "I don't want people, especially the West, to take me as a victory for women in Egypt and the Middle East. I am Egyptian and a Muslim so what I am doing is for here and not for the West."

How are Western feminists perceived in countries in the Arab world. Does Soliman truly believe that Western feminists would claim her victory as our own? We stand in solidarity with her and women all around the world, and we are excited women's successes everywhere, but we don't claim them as our own successes.

Thoughts?

13 comments:

La Pobre Habladora said...

Great post! As for Amal Soliman's comment, I think that she perhaps meant that she does not wish her appointment as Maazun to be seen as a victory for either Christianity or secularism over Islam. She wants to make sure that she is seen within her proper religious and cultural context. That seems fair to me. She is correct in believing that there are certain western political leaders - yeah, I'm looking at you, W. - who, in searching for a justification of their actions, have claimed to be interested in women's rights. She wants to make it clear that this is not about them.

Anonymous said...

cleopatra so easily forgotten?

Kate said...

Haha. True, anonymous.

I guess the first Maazun in modern Egypt.

Lindsay said...

I can see where she's coming from in saying it's not a victory for Western feminists. Otherwise it'd just be something else for middle class white feminists (all things I identify as) to appropriate for their own good. I think we have to be careful to celebrate other people's achievements without hijacking them for our own causes and this is a good example of that.

Irishgirl said...

I geniunely think many feminists, especially the self proclaimed liberals, are busybodies. I love my country and nothing has me snarling in the corner like someone feeling sorry for me, assuming that she knows my culture and telling me what I should do. We can figure it out for ourselves.

The female maazun is correct. So many American feminists regard all women as public property and believe that everyone should do as they're told. It's obnoxious busybodies like that who make it impossible to publicly identify as a feminist. La pobre habladora: you can't blame the conservatives for this one. Feminism's bad reputation is at least partly justified.

Kate said...

Your comment made me really think, Irishgirl.

Is there a way for feminists in the west to celebrate victories without taking credit for them?

Did my post step over the celebration line into appropriation territory?

Can feminists from around the world really never help each other and teach each other what we have learned?

La Pobre Habladora said...

Liberals= busybodies is a content-free insult unless you back it up with some evidence relevant to the post, and just coming to a site to hurl insults makes you a troll. It also seems like an ironic insult to throw at liberals, seeing as liberals were the ones who did NOT want to force a regime change in a foreign country without more substantial evidence indicating an actual threat. Seems to me like the current administration's policy of 'aggressively bring democracy to the middle east' makes conservatives the bigger busy bodies.

"So many American feminists regard all women as public property and believe that everyone should do as they're told." Hummm.... perhaps you feel like feminists' demands that women get paid fairly for the work they do makes women public property and implies women should do what they are told? Or our wanting to protect women from sexual assault makes women public property? Perhaps you feel like women daring to make their own decisions about how to balance work and family makes them public property? Wait, none of that makes sense... If you could name one way that "American feminists" have treated women as public property, perhaps you ideas would merit consideration. Otherwise, you are still in content-free territory.

"feminism's bad reputation is at least partially justified" We only have your word that these obnoxious busy-body feminists even exist, and no details about what they've been obnoxious about. So, based on this, it is you - someone who does not identify as a feminist - who is giving feminists a bad reputation, by spreading nasty unjustified rumors about feminists.

Kate, women can and should work to help one another. The secret is not judge other people for being different or not wanting the same things we do, or assume that they will feel solidarity with us despite being in very different places. We can help one another, but we can't necessarily apply 'what we've learned' to societies that are very different from our own. Not without doing some learning of our own, anyway.

Irishgirl said...

la pobre habladora, I'm sorry you're upset, but you have to look at it from other perspectives. You objected to the Iraq war? Wonderful. That in itself does not make my criticisms wrong.

I have met many foreign women, especially Americans, who seem to think they understand my culture and have the right to comment on it. This usually involves giving unsolicited advice about what we should do about abortion, pay, maternity leave, pornography etc. I can sypathise with Soloman. In my experience, and that of the people I know (which is all I can speak for), Americans of all political persuasions like to lecture.

Feminists want equal rights for women, which is wonderful, but please do not use that as an excuse to butt into other cultures. You make change much more difficult when it becomes associated with cultural imperialism. Yes, liberals can do that, too. This is not something on which you can blame conservatives.

Criticising one part of the feminist movement is not damaging it, nor is it spreading lies. In my experience, Americans need to let women worldwide sort out these issues themselves, not tell them what to do in the guise of "helping". At least wait until you're asked for your opiniosn before giving it.

No Kate, I don't think you were appropriating, but you didn't seem to understand how closely linked feminism is in many countries with US attempts to control. It's not that these women don't want different legal systems, customs etc., it's that they - we - want these changes to be brought about from the ground up. We want control over our own lives and changes brought about by our own efforts. It's human nature to rebel whenever an outside with no (ot worse, a little) understanding of the situation starts telling us what we need to do and have.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Hey, no hard feelings -thanks for the clarification, Irishgirl. I liked your point that we don't "seem to understand how closely linked feminism is in many countries with US attempts to control." I wonder what has made that link in people's minds? Surely not the efforts of organizations like MADRE and the Global Fund for Women? Is the linking of feminism with US control based mostly on the tenor of conversations that people have with visiting US citizens? With the type of 'US forces will make women's lives better' rhetoric from politicians? From views that US women are 'uppity'?

La Pobre Habladora said...

Hey, no hard feelings -thanks for the clarification, Irishgirl. I liked your point that we don't "seem to understand how closely linked feminism is in many countries with US attempts to control." I wonder what has made that link in people's minds? Surely not the efforts of organizations like MADRE and the Global Fund for Women? Is the linking of feminism with US control based mostly on the tenor of conversations that people have with visiting US citizens? With the type of 'US forces will make women's lives better' rhetoric from politicians? From views that US women are 'uppity'?

Andrew said...

Irishgirl, I'm an American who has been studying in Ireland for about five months now, and I'd just like to make you aware of the fact that I also have been the target of "lecturing" as you call it from many of the people I've met here. Sometimes it's been a genuine, productive political conversation, and other times it's just been snide and sarcastic comments that probably would have made me feel very unwelcome if I hadn't been able to just sort of laugh them off.

I'm not trying to turn this around and point the finger at Irish people; what I'm saying is that everyone, regardless of nationality, can be caught telling others how they should live from time to time. Unfortunately, the current US administration has gone off the deep end telling the rest of the world what to do, which exacerbates an already existing negative stereotype of Americans.

Anonymous said...

is feminism going to destroy the middle east now, too?

Anonymous said...

It makes me extremely sad that this woman feels Western Feminists are trying to steal her life and claim possession of her. I thought we wanted all women to be their own being, not "claimed" or "owned" by other people. It makes me even sadder that she is right to feel this way--some feminists treat women who aren't Western with the same patronizing attitude that colonists and chauvinists have, as though these woman are unable to succeed, accomplish, or progress without our "leadership".

I wish to share joy with my Egyptian sister and her accomplishments. It is not "my" success, it is hers, and I wish her nothing but goodwill. Walk with God, Amal Soliman.