Monthly Archives: June 2012

Arab Women and Men See Eye to Eye on Religion’s Role in Law

Arab Women and Men See Eye to Eye on Religion’s Role in Law.


Gallup – research + analysis


Arab Women As Likely As Men To Support Islamic Law In Middle East After Arab Spring, Says Survey

By  Posted: 06/25/2012 5:27 pm Updated: 06/25/2012 5:50 pm

As Islamist political parties have gained influence across the Middle East since the Arab uprisings, activists and pundits have questioned the role religion will play in new governments, including how religiously influenced law will affect women’s rights.

A Gallup report released Monday found that Arab women are as likely as Arab men to want Islam to play a role in their countries’ laws and that religious Arab men are more likely to support certain women’s rights than men who are less devout.

The report, “After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding,” draws upon polls of men and women in six countries that experienced political upheaval in recent years and asked questions about religiously influenced law, women’s rights, quality of life and the economy.

Those who were polled hailed from Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya. More than three-dozen sets of interviewed were done with groups of about 1,000 people from early 2009 to late 2011. Those interviewed were spread equally between the different countries. The surveys took place before violence erupted in Syria this year. In Libya, they were based in eastern areas and did not include Tripoli.

Both men and women generally said their lives were worse now than before the Arab uprisings, yet respondents said they were optimistic that life would be better in five years. Only in Egypt did men and women say their lives were better now than under former president Hosni Mubarak. Speculation over the role of Islam in Egyptian government have increased since a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was declared the winner of a presidential election on Sunday. The Gallup polls were conducted before his election.

When asked what role Sharia should play in legislation, men were overall more likely than women to say it should be the only source for laws. But women were overall more likely than men to say Sharia should be “a source, but not the only source” for legislation. Women in Yemen were more likely than men to support strictly Islamic law, while Libyan and Tunisian men were more likely than women to say religion should be “a source, but not the only source” for lawmakers.

“There is no link between men’s support for Sharia as the only source of legislation and antagonism toward equal rights for women,” Gallup researchers said in their analysis. “The more men support women’s participation in the workforce in a given country, the more women are likely to work in professional jobs. If the economy continues to suffer, women’s rights may as well. This suggests that economic trouble may be a greater threat to women’s rights than public support for religious legislation.”

A majority of women said there should be equal access to education and employment and equal legal rights. A smaller majority of men agreed. Regarding divorce, religious Arabs were more likely to support women’s right to ask for divorce than Arabs who said religion was not important to them.

“Men’s views of women’s rights matter — and Gallup’s analysis shows far more pragmatic factors than religion drive men’s support for women’s equality. The more men are thriving, employed, and educated, the more they support women’s rights,” wrote Gallup researchers. “Arguments for minimizing Arab women’s roles in public life and society, however, are often cloaked in religious rhetoric. Arab men and women must work together to keep economic problems from turning into religiously justified limits on women’s rights.”

More Under the Veil: Women and Muslim Fundamentalism in MENA

by Shaina Greiff

It is important to begin any discussion related to religious fundamentalism with an exploration of what is meant by the term “fundamentalism.” The word “fundamentalism” was originally coined in reference to a movement within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century. In the broadest sense, fundamentalism can be understood as “a selective retrieval and imposition of…[religious] law and sacred texts as the basis for a modern socio-political order” (Hardacre 1994:130).


Beneath Ancient Facades. Beyond the many cradles of civilisation and science lie stories that betray democracy, human rights and modernity. In November 2009, the United Nations Committee Against Torture questioned Yemen’s practice of early marriages of girls as young as eight years old. Women are not deemed as credible and valuable as men in court proceedings and compensation claims. They likewise have limited access to property. It is for such reasons that women’s groups are stepping up their campaigns. The year 2009 saw the succesful amendment of citizenship laws, enabling children of Yemini women with non-Yemeni partners eligible for Yemeni citizenship.

Source: Amnesty International (25 November 2009). “Yemeni women face violence and discrimination.”

In photo is the city of Sanaa from Wikimedia Commons

But religious fundamentalism is not a monolithic entity. Around the world, there is a wide range of fundamentalisms and fundamentalist movements that display a number of similarities – most notably their interpretation of the family, gender roles and interpersonal relations – but in no way share identical plans. Generally speaking, the ideologies of fundamentalisms have translated into movements that show little respect for the principles of human rights and have little tolerance for people of other faiths. They are often anti-women (Rouhana, 2005).

The issue of women – their status, rights, roles and responsibilities, both within the family and the community – is one of the main focuses of fundamentalist discourses.

For quite some time, women from Middle East and North Africa have been the subject of concern. Yet there is much more to be explored about their methods of resistance.

Women are seen as the bearers of cultural authenticity (Kandiyoti,1993) and their complicity within the religious framework is necessary to its survival. As Gita Sahgal and Nira Yuval-Davis in Refusing Holy Orders pointed out, “(t)o conform to the strict confines of womanhood within the fundamentalist religious code is a precondition for maintaining and reproducing the fundamentalist version of society.”

For quite some time, women from the Middle East and North Africa have been the subject of concern and the rallying point of feminist advocacies and campaigns whose language has been coopted by right-wing fundamentalist regimes in the West on many occasions. Yet there is much to be teased out the deprivation and violence these women experience and much more to be explored about their methods of resistance.

Muslim Fundamentalism in MENA

The rise of Muslim fundamentalisms since the 1970s should be viewed through the trends towards modernisation and perceived threats of neocolonialism. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, which is characterised by the rapid spread of globalisation, newly-formed nation-states attempted to hastily develop and compete in a globalised world.

In many regions, this often translated into the adoption of neoliberal economic policies and the further inclusion of women in the public sphere. Women had already begun to take a more active public role through anti-colonial and independence movements.

New nation states indeed emerged in the 1950s, many of them formally severing their links to various empires. There are obvious exceptions to this trend though such as Palestine as it is still in the throes of its struggle for independence and Iran which was never a formal colony.

This resurgence could be partly viewed as a backlash against the failure of secularised states to effectively develop and maintain “cultural” integrity – the issue of women’s sudden inclusion in public spaces being at the forefront. It was a period of great upheaval in reaction to social failures such as the non-provision of basic social services, rampant corruption and the growing gap between rich and poor, among others.

The dissatisfaction in the Muslim Middle East was further bolstered by the Arab states’ defeat by Israel in the 1967 war and the Western powers’ support for Israel, which was perceived as an outright attack on Islam and Arab “cultural authenticity” and an entrenchment of neocolonialism. All of these forces culminated in the coming of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the first and only Islamic state in the region. But these factors have strengthened the resolve of Muslim fundamentalist movements across the entire region and have shaped the essential elements of Muslim fundamentalisms in the Middle East today.

Hijab_rallyBattle for the Hijab 
In 2008, people gathered on the streets of Ankara to protest the decade long ban on the hijab or the head covering in public places and univeristies. While the government saw it as an aid to women who would like to participate more in public life, the ban has discouraged many women to study. The hijab, which covers the head up to the nape and the niqab, which covers the whole body save for a slit for the eyes, have been donned by Muslim women in the name of modesty. Islamic scholars remain torn though in interpreting the use of the hijab in moden times. But Open Democracy’s Fred Halliday put it nicely, “There is only one consistent, universalist and secular position on the wearing of religious headwear – for Muslims, Catholic nuns, or Orthodox Jewish haredim alike: to be against it, but to defend the right to wear it.” Hijab-choice

Sources: Al Jazeera (6 June 2008). “Turkey’s AKP discusses hijab ruling.” ; Asser, Martin (5 October 2006). “Why Muslim women wear the veil.” and Halliday, Fred (16 December 2004). “Turkey and the hypocrisies of Europe” 

Photos from Story og a Muslimah and the Lebanese Development Network

Muslim Fundamentalisms and Women

While women’s attire in Muslim contexts, the hijab – chador, burka, abiya – always receives ample attention from Western news sources, it is far from being the most important issue that women face in their confrontation with Muslim fundamentalisms.

In reality, it is the Shari’a–derived personal status laws governing women and the family where the influence of fundamentalisms is felt most acutely. Personal status laws govern marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance (Ziai,1997). In essence, personal status laws outline what women’s rights are and what they are allowed to do within the confines of the dominant interpretation of Islam in each specific country. Whether it be “Islamisation from above” or “Islamisation from below,” these are the most contentious laws around which both Islamists and women mobilise (Legrain,1994).

Although women in these contexts are sometimes represented as passive victims of fundamentalists’ projects, this is far from being the case. As previously noted, women were active participants in the struggle against colonialist and neocolonialist impositions and even up to the present with the continuing fight for Palestinian statehood. Moreover, women, including those observing the hijab, have actively mobilised around the perceived injustices enshrined in personal status laws. The One Million Signatures Campaign in Morocco in 1992, the One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran since 2006 and the protest movement in Iraq against the abolition of Iraq’s progressive personal status laws in 2003 are only a few examples of women-led mobilisations. These courageous women often expose themselves to reactionary criticism and risk being targeted as “puppets” in the neocolonial project.

Unlike bygone colonial times, when the enemy was defined quite clearly as the foreign occupier, during the current times of neo-colonialism and ongoing imperialism, “the other” can be found in the midst of the national fabric. And, the “other within” generally turns out to be the westernised middle classes, the nouveau riche, the religious and ethnic minorities, and . . . the human rights activist trying to uncover his or her government’s atrocious human rights record. But the “real favourites” when it comes to identifying “traitors” and “infiltrators”; are those “appalling women” who dare to defy tradition and struggle for their legal rights and greater equality. (Al-Ali, 2001:5)

The concepts of women’s rights as human rights and feminism are presented by these reactionary forces as a Western import in contradiction to “authentic” Muslim culture. These forces oppose proliferation of women’s rights movements and foreignfunded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), coupled with the new rhetoric propagated by the international community of women’s rights for democracy – as if democracy is inherent only to Western culture. But as Aili Mari Tripp in Global Feminism: Transnational Women’s Activism, Organizing, and Human Rights pointed out, “Regardless of the common perception in the West that ideas regarding the emancipation of women have spread from the West outward into other parts of the world. In fact, the influences have always been multidirectional, and that the current consensus is a product of parallel feminist movements globally that have learned from one another but have often had quite independent trajectories and sources of movement.”


Another Day, Another Campaign. One of the long-running campaigns among women’s groups in the region is the One Million Signatures Campaign on women’s human rights and gender equality.

Photo from Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty.

Furthermore, various feminisms have developed in the South. But even though there is ample evidence that feminism is by no means a purely Western conception, oftentimes just the use of the word feminism evokes accusations of Western cooption in confrontation with Muslim fundamentalisms.

Feminism is not a monolithic entity. In fact, feminism in Muslim contexts, has taken many forms. I will break down these feminisms into two broad categories, but it should be noted that these categorisations are in no way static and are continuously subject to debate. There are feminists, both non-religious and religious women, who choose to work within a secular framework in the articulation of their rights. These women demand that the laws governing the family not be based on Shari’a. They are, of course, under the most pressure from fundamentalisms.

Recently the term Islamic feminism has also joined the debate on feminism in this region. Broadly speaking, Islamic feminism works to reconcile feminism with Islam in its cultural and political forms. This is why there is more than one conception of what Islamic feminism is. The first and most often articulated notion stresses a rereading of textual sources and a more egalitarian approach to Islam yet is also not hostile towards Western feminism. The women’s magazine Zanan, which began publication in Iran in 1992, can be seen as an example of this brand of feminism.

Zanan zanan
After 16 years, Iran’s leading women’s magazine was ordered to be closed in early 2008. Meaning “women” in Persian, Zanan was accused of “offering a dark picture of the Islamic Republic through the pages of Zanan” and of “compromising the psyche and the mental health” of its readers by providing them with “morally questionable information.” Zanan featured articles on health, parenting, law, literature and other women’s issues. 


Shahla Sherkat, Zanan’s founder. 
Photo from the International Women’s Media Foundation.”

In photo is the city of Sanaa from Wikimedia Commons

However the government’s actions were read as a deliberate attempt to curtail press freedom especially as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad desperately needed to prevail in the parliamentary elections and ultimately, the presidential elections. As a New York Times editorial said, “The only psychological threat Zanan posed was to the regime’s authoritarian and antifeminist pathology.” 

More than 120 academics and humanMore than 120 academics and human rights activists like Noam Chomsky, Jurgen Habermas, Betty William and Shirin Ebadi protested the ban. Zanan was founded by one of Iran’s leading feminists, Shahla Sherkat. 

Sources: Tehrani, Hamid (14 February 2008). “Iran: Protests over ban of women’s magazine.”; Learning Partnership (8 February 2008). “Zanan, Iran’s Leading Women’s Magazine, Shut Down by Government.” and New York Times (7 February 2008). “Shutting Down Zanan.” 


As Ziba Mir-Hosseini described, Zanan advocated a brand of feminism that “takes its legitimacy from Islam, yet makes no apologies for drawing on Western feminist sources and collaborating with Iranian secular feminists to argue for women’s rights.” It reveals the lack of correlation between patriarchy and Islamic idealism but it does not conceal the gender inequalities in Islamic law. Moreover, it addresses such inequalities within the very context of Islam.

The second strand of Islamic feminism is an incredibly contentious one. It generally refers only to a small group of Iranian women who “seek the amelioration of the Islamied gender relations, mainly through lobbying for legal reforms within the framework of the Islamic Republic” (Mojab, 2001:130). These women, unlike women in the more “liberal” view of Islamic feminism, are quite hostile towards the use of the term feminism and Western feminism in general. One should also consider that these women are working to enhance their rights within the existing political structure of Iran. Its hostility towards the West might be a purely strategic choice. Hence there is an ongoing debate, both within and outside academia as to whether or not these women can actually be categorised as feminists.1

Even with women in parliament, women’s issues are still not a priority or even on the agenda. Rather, they represent the party in power and are only there to toe the line.

Although women in Muslim fundamentalist-influenced societies have been incredibly active and have participated in the gradual growth of civil societies, this activism has not been incorporated into official political power structures to any significant extent. In recent times there have been more women representatives in political institutions, but this has not translated into the representation of women’s interests. For example, the new Iraqi Constitution requires that 25 per cent of the 444 parliamentary seats must be occupied by women. This was a hard fought battle by Iraqi women activists because as Sundus Abass stated, “the quota in Iraq was actually put in the Constitution by the influence of the Iraqi women, because even the Americans were against adopting the quota in the Constitution.”

Even with women in parliament, women’s issues are still not a priority or even on the agenda. Similarly Iran installed some women members in parliament but they are not interested in women’s issues. Rather, they represent the party in power and are only there to toe the line.


Grains behind the grandeur. Dubai is probably the most successful city that has emerged in the region in recent years. Despite its massive and ambitious infrastructure projects, it depends on mostly foreign labour. Although Dubai has yet to respond to many labour concerns especially now with its financial woes, it is worth noting that its own nationals, especially women have yet to further penetrate and lead the labour sector.

Sources: Brown, John (19 September 2005). “Semi-Slave Conditions for Foreign Workers in Dubai.”; Sharp, Heather (4 August 2005). “Dubai women storm world of work.” and Shreck, Adam and Jamal Halaby (7 January 2010). “Dubai downturn sends ripples throughout Arab world. ”

Photo by Josa Piroska from Wikimedia Commons.


I have painted a general picture here of the situation of Muslim fundamentalisms and women in the Middle East and North Africa. Even though similarities can be drawn between different movements all over the region, in truth, the details of each specific context have led to the emergence of a distinct type of Muslim fundamentalism. Thus it is difficult to compare the situation in Morocco with that in Iran. Although religious fundamentalisms have been on the rise for a long time in this region, women are in no way passive victims. Many women actively resist. They fight for their rights, engage in social justice projects, and espouse various forms of feminism. While there is no doubt that veiled, homebound and uneducated women exist, such image in no way encapsulates nor acknowledges the lives and struggles of women in Muslim contexts.

Shaina Greiff is a member of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML).


Abass, Sundus (2006). “Campaigning for Women’s Rights in Iraq Today”. In WLUML Occassional Paper 15: Iraq Women’s Rights Under Attack – Occupation, Constitution, and Fundamentalisms, edited by S. Masters and C. Simpson. London: Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

Al-Ali, Nadje (2001). “Reflections on Globalization”. Unpublished paper presented at annual Gulf Studies conference at the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies. University of Exeter.

Al-Ali, Nadje and Nicola Pratt (2009). What Kind of Liberation?: Women and the Occupation of Iraq. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gerner, Deborah J. (2007). “Mobilizing Women for Nationalist Agendas: Palestinian Women, Civil Society, and the State-Building Process”. In From Patriarchy to Empowerment: Women’s Participation, Movements, and Rights in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Edited by V. Moghadam. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.

Hardacre, Helen (1993). “The Impact of Fundamentalisms on Women, the Family, and Interpersonal Relations”. In Fundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education. Edited by M. Marty and R. Appleby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kandiyoti, Deniz (1993). “Identity and Its Discontents”. In Colonial Discourses and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader. Edited by P. Williams and L. Chrisman. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.

Keddie, Nikki (2007). Women in the Middle East: Past and Present. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Keddie, Nikki (1998). “The New Religious Politics: Where, When, and Why do ‘Fundamentalisms’ Appear?.” In Comparative Studies in Society and History 40 (4): 696-723.

Legrain, Jean-François (1994). “Palestinian Islamisms: Patriotism as a Condition of Their Expansion”. In Accounting for Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character of Movements. Edited by M. Marty and R. Appleby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mira-Hosseini, Ziba (2005). “Muslim Women, Religious Extremism and the Project of the Islamic State in Iran”. In Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism, edited by N. Othman. Kuala Lumpur: Sisters in Islam.

Mojab, Shahrzad (2001). “Theorizing the Politics of ‘Islamic Feminism.” In Feminist Review, The Realm of the Possible: Middle Eastern Women in Political and Social Spaces, 69: 124-146.

Ottaway, Marina (2005). “The Limits of Women’s Rights”. In Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East. Edited by T. Carothers and M. Ottaway. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Rouhana, Hoda (2005). “Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) Network’s Understanding of Religious Fundamentalisms and Its Responses”. In Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism. Edited by N. Othman. Kuala Lumpur: Sisters in Islam.

Saghal, Gita and Nira Yuval-Davis (1992). “Introduction: Fundamentalism, Multiculturalism, and Women in Britain”. In Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain. Edited by N. Yuval-Davis and G. Saghal. London: Virago Press.

Shahak, Israel and Norton Mezvinsky (2004). Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel (New Edition). London: Pluto Press.

Tripp, Aili Mari (2006). “The Evolution of Transnational Feminisms: Consensus, Conflict, and New Dynamics”. In Global Feminism: Transnational Women’s Activism, Organizing, and Human Rights. Edited by M. Ferree and A. Tripp. New York: New York University Press.

Ziai, Fati (1997). “Personal Status Codes and Women’s Rights in the Maghreb”. In Muslim Women and the Politics of Participation: Implementing the Beijing Platform (1st ed.). Edited by M. Afkhami and E. Friedl. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.


1 This is an incredibly rich debate. It ranges from people like Hamed Shahidian who believe “Islamic feminism” to be an oxymoron, to those who believe Maryam Behrouzi – Iranian Majles deputy – to be a feminist. Maryam Behrouzi, who would not claim to be a feminist herself, pushes for more female political representation within the Iranian Majles (from her own conservative Islamist party). She and many other practising Muslims do not believe in equality between the genders, because the individual is not counted as the unit of society. The unit of Muslim society is the traditional family which is constructed by marriage between one man and at least one woman). Therefore, men’s and women’s roles, responsibilities, and hence rights are not equal but complimentary – for the sake of the family.

Year After Arab Spring, Digital and Social Media Shape Region’s Rebirth

Marked by Their Proven Influence in the Uprisings, Facebook, Twitter, Mobile Define ‘Normal’ Life — and Marketers Adjust Accordingly

By:  Published: June 11, 2012

When tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Egypt’s Tahrir Square in early 2011, the call for change was focused on bringing down President Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in office. After that, uprisings across the whole region, known collectively as the “Arab Spring,” deposed dictators, changed cultures and, in Saudi Arabia, won women the right to vote.

A campaign from Coke invited Arab youth to upload inspiring films about themselves to Facebook.

A campaign from Coke invited Arab youth to upload inspiring films about themselves to Facebook.

More than a year on, there is now, according to Tarek Miknas, Group CEO of Middle East network SP7, part of McCann Worldgroup, “a huge desire to live a normal life, go to work, earn money and eat out. For a lot of people it’s not really about democracy, it’s about fair play and a decent standard of living.”

For marketers, “normal” is now much more closely associated with digital and social media, after Twitter and Facebook proved their influence by helping to propel the uprisings into a full-scale revolution.

Facebook users in Egypt rose from 450,000 to 3 million in the six months following the revolution, and now stand at 5 million, according to Ali Ali, founder and creative director of Elephant Cairo in Egypt. He said, “There’s a belief in the power of connection on social networks — and because people believe in it, so do brands.”

“Social media and technology have given people a platform to share whatever they have, at scale,” said Mr. Miknas. “Before the revolution we knew we really needed to get digital into our own business, but clients weren’t crazy about it. Today we are almost a digital agency — everyone appreciates its power.”

Matt Simpson, head of digital at Omnicom Media Group, EMEA, said, “Social media has gone ballistic — we have more social-media specialists in the Middle East and North Africa than we do in the U.K. We have staffed up hugely in the region: From a digital perspective, [the Middle East and North Africa region] is one of our shining stars. There’s a lot of local talent.”

The explosion of digital media does not make up for the fall in marketing budgets, however. According to Ipsos, pan-Arab media spending fell by 31% during the revolution, with snacks, food and fast-moving consumer goods holding up best. Spending on major media in 2010 was $4.88 billion (ZenithOptimedia), but fell to $4.15 billion in 2011. The figure is expected to reach $4.20 billion this year and to grow again to $4.31 billion in 2013.

“It feels like the spring has given way to winter,” said Kamal Dimachkie, exec regional managing director of Leo Burnett Dubai. “It’s taken much longer than anybody would have hoped for. Removing a dictator is not like removing the wrapping from a Christmas present — there’s no instant gift inside. But scratch the surface and people still feel good about their achievements.”

The Arab Spring put the spotlight on the Middle East and made the rest of the world take a fresh look at the region. M.I.A.’s recent “Bad Girl” video — which glamorizes “drifting,” a type of wild stunt driving popular with Arab youth — is the epitome of “Gulf cool.” The TV drama “Homeland” also adopts a contemporary take on the Arab identity, blending Middle Eastern heroes and villains seamlessly with their U.S. counterparts.

For brands, the challenge has been to harness this pride without looking like they are exploiting it for commercial gain. Mounir Harfouche, CEO of Lowe in Middle East and North Africa, said, “It’s a precarious task: To resonate with customers we need to reflect their values and vision for a new world, but without being didactic or laying claim to be a “sponsor of social change’ in some way.”

“For a year after the revolution, brands were quiet, and the first ones to speak chose a patriotic voice,” said Mr. Ali. “Henkel stuck an Egyptian flag on a lot of ads, and Nestlé came out with an ice cream in the colors of the Egyptian flag. It was a patriotic, nationalistic time.”

Telecommunications companies, quick to capitalize on the role that mobile phones played in the revolution, were among the first to run with stirring, high-visibility marketing.

Leo Burnett Dubai’s “I am Arab and proud” campaign for Qtel centers on dramatically shot, commonplace scenes from Arab life. The ad — described by Mr. Harfouche as “a one-minute race to distill thousands of years of culture, art, heritage and hope for better things to come” — won a media Grand Prix in March at the Dubai Lynx, the Middle East festival run by the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Coca-Cola built on the sense of empowerment that the Arab Spring instilled, but chose to focus on individuals rather than group consciousness. The multilayered “Today I Will” campaign, created by FP7, invited Arab youth to upload inspiring films about themselves to Facebook, from which it created a TV campaign.

Stories included one from the first woman to win Olympic gold wearing a hijab, and a Saudi hip-hop artist explaining his ambitions and how they do not represent a betrayal of his Arab identity.

Coca-Cola’s focus on consumers rather than the drink is appropriate. “People are not as attentive to brands as they were before,” Mr. Ali said. “Their minds are preoccupied with more serious issues. If we shot an ad we liked, we used to post it on Facebook, but we don’t do that any more because Facebook feeds are so highly political and serious. Brands are focusing a lot on corporate social responsibility work instead. It’s one thing to go to a community and build a school, and quite another to stick a flag on your packaging. One is a lot more classy than the other.”

The flip side to this is that people also have a desire to get back to normal. “We’ve had enough of brands telling us how to live our lives and clean the streets. We want to see brands being brands, not politicians,” Mr. Ali said. “What’s fresh on TV ignores the revolution and goes back to selling product in an interesting way.”

At this year’s Dubai Lynx awards, the film Grand Prix went to a campaign for Kalbaz Crisps by Elephant Cairo. The two executions, “Ping Pong” and “Living Room,” feature a man playing with a gun that turns anything into a packet of Kalbaz. Ornaments, relatives, a baby, a chair, a table-tennis bat — nothing is safe. “We wanted to be silly,” Mr. Ali said. “We were always told in the past that consumers were stupid and would never get the idea, but the revolution has proved the consumer is not stupid.”

Egypt’s Islamist candidate woos women, Christians

WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012 03:27 AM +1000


After protestors burned the headquarters of his rival, Mohammed Morsi looks to shore up his large base



ILE – COMBO – This combination of two photos shows Egyptian presidential candidates, from left, Ahmed Shafiq, and Mohammed Morsi. The chairman of Egypt’s presidential election commission says the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister will context next month’s runoff vote. Farouq Sultan said Monday the official final results show the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander, as the top two finishers in the first round of voting on May 23-24. He said Morsi won 5.76 million votes, while Shafiq garnered 5.5 million votes.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra; Nasser Nasser, File)(Credit: AP)

CAIRO (AP) — The presidential candidate for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood wooed Christians, women and supporters of the ruling military Tuesday in a bid to expand his base of support and he also played up the stigma attached to his challenger, a senior figure in the old regime whose headquarters was burned down by angry protesters overnight.

The Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi made the new campaign promises in a news conference, vowing to ensure the full rights of the Christian minority and women if he is elected. He also tried to reassure the pro-democracy youth groups who drove the last year’s popular uprising by promising to protect the right to stage peaceful protests and sit-ins.

Overnight, protesters stormed and burned the campaign headquarters of Morsi’s challenger Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. In Tahrir square, birthplace of the anti-Mubarak uprising, protesters chanted slogans against both Morsi and Shafiq. Similar protests took place in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and elsewhere in northern Egypt.

Morsi claimed the top spot in the first round of Egypt’s landmark election last week, putting him in the June 16-17 runoff vote against Shafiq, also a former air force commander.

Both candidates are highly polarizing figures, and are scrambling to broaden their base by appealing to groups that didn’t support them in the first round.

Speaking to reporters in Cairo, Morsi said he planned to appoint Christians as presidential advisers and name one as vice president “if possible,” and said he would not impose an Islamic dress code in public for women.

“Our Christian brothers, they are partners in the nation. They will have full rights that are equal to those enjoyed by Muslims,” Morsi said. “They will be represented as advisers in the presidential institution, and maybe a vice president if possible.”

Women, he said, will have full rights in jobs and education. “Women have a right to freely choose the attire that suits them,” he said.

Morsi, 60, also praised the generals who took over from Mubarak, though he acknowledged that mistakes were made while they managed the transitional period.

“There is not a single Egyptian who doesn’t like the military. The military played a glorious rule in protecting the revolution,” Morsi said. “There were mistakes, yes, but also positive steps. Among those positive steps is the elections held under the protection of the police and military.”

Morsi said there would be no clashes or charges of treason against the military, suggesting that he has no intention of entertaining calls by some pro-democracy groups for the generals to be tried for alleged crimes during the past 15 months.

The groups blame the military for killing scores of protesters, torturing detainees and putting at least 12,000 civilians on trial before military tribunals.

Morsi also vowed to create a broad coalition government, and said the country’s new constitution would be written by a panel that is truly representative of the nation.

The Brotherhood and other Islamists who control more than 70 percent of parliament’s seats packed the original constitutional panel with their own supporters in a bid to influence the charter. However, a court ruling disbanded it on the grounds that it did not observe the rules of selection spelled out in a constitutional declaration adopted last year.

Morsi and Shafiq qualified for the runoff after they finished as the top vote-getters in the first round of voting on May 23-24. Morsi won close to 5.8 million votes, or almost 25 percent, while Shafiq garnered 5.5 million votes, or nearly 24 percent, according to final official results announced on Monday.

Morsi also pledged to lift the decades-old state of emergency, which gives police wide powers of arrest and detention.

Stop Using Us: Women’s Votes in the Egyptian Presidential Elections


June 4, 2012 By emanhashim 1 Comment

During the Egyptian elections campaigning, women were, of course, targeted by those looking for votes.

Akher Kalam – Final Words – is one of the most viewed TV talk shows in Egypt.  As with most Egyptian media outlets lately, it has been paying much attention to the elections, and its coverage of women’s issues in the Egyptian elections is typical of how many other media outlets were talking about these topics. That show had earlier had an episode with Christian guests, to focus on issues of interest to them, and in its May 16 episode, it turned its attention to women.

The guests on the episode dedicated to women’s issues were representatives of five of the thirteen final candidates for stage one of the presidential elections.  The guests themselves could give you some indication on the audience each candidate has chosen to attract, and more importantly, the Egyptian women who were willing to participate actively in such an experience.

Akher Kalam

Still image from the Akher Kalam episode focused on women’s issues in the Egyptian presidential elections. Via Al-Mogaz.

The Abou El-Fotouh andHamdeen Sabahy campaigns chose university students as their representatives among the show’s guests. Hamdeen had built his whole campaign on being secular, unlike Abou El-Fotouh, who is categorised as an Islamist.  It’s no surprise, then, that a division could be seen between their two representatives (one was veiled and the other was not) – that’s how people see them, and how they want to be seen.

Morsey, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, sent a trained member of the MB, who knows a lot about the history of who Muslim Brotherhood are. She works as a university professor.

The Moussa and Al-Awa campaigns chose older women with more experience, in opposition to the glamour of some of the younger representatives.

Contrary to my initial impression, youth was not a positive factor. Most of the time, the two younger guests sounded like they were memorizing words.  The MB member was the most experienced one of them regarding what to say, and how to say it, together with Moussa’s representative, who also looked, sounded and acted confident.

For the first 10 minutes, it was really boring! Fouda reading news about families breaking because different members were supporting different candidates, and jokes about whether mothers tried to affect their daughters’ votes in the kitchens!

Islamic politics” will be bad for women: That could have easily been the title of that episode. All the discussions were focused on how a religious state will oppress women and discriminate against them. No one tried to look a few steps backwards to see if the previous “military” state gave women in Egypt any rights whatsoever.

Personally I am against Muslim Brotherhood taking over the country, but not only for women’s sake, for the whole country’s sake. For their vision when it comes to rotation of powers, for their faulted interpretation of Islamic economy, and for their minimal – if any – belief in all what citizenship means, not only based in gender, but related to race, religion, and orientations as well.

Women are used – and often, as in that episode, by women – as a tool for propaganda. “Don’t vote for Islamic candidates or your daughter will be circumcised!” is the sum up of most of the so-called secular candidates. While on the other hand you hear the words “Islam has always valued women!” in the speech of every supposedly Islamic candidate.

The whole thing is a show. Fouda’s introduction was about how women in Egypt are not a small sector, and how according to the last population numbers, they make up the equivalent of 5 Qatars!

This is statically true, but in reality it is of no importance when it comes to elections since women are not a unit of their own like some other countries when you see candidates are addressing certain issues that specifically concern women. Women movement in Egypt has not yet developed into stating their priorities and main targets when it comes to what they expect from their governments.

Even now, while we are waiting for stage two of the elections to start, women again are being used as a tool. Right now we are either to choose a religious fascist state with the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, or a military oppressive state with the former regime candidate, and all that social media seems to care about is not to vote for the MB candidate or else women will suffer like they did in Iran, Gaza and Sudan!

So women were not suffering during Mubarak regime when human trafficking was all over the country and 14-year-old girls were forced to marry old Gulf men for money? Do you know that the Egyptian law stating the maximum difference of age between a married couple was adapted to Mubarak’s son who was 21 years older than his wife?  Were women not suffering when Mubarak’s  police used to arrest and torture women who were members of the opposition parties and torture them?

I am not in any way defending the religious state over the military one. I just refuse to be fooled into thinking that only religion is what could be used against me. Patriarchy has no religion, and no political affiliation when it comes to women.  Either way, its effects are the same.

So a message to all candidates:
We have many NGO’s working for women in this country.  You can collaborate with them on how to build a real women’s union around which all women of the nation gather, and you can start facing the real core of the problems.  For example, you can send some of your funds and active youth to Upper Egypt and the rural areas to see how laws have not reached these places yet: where women have minimal education and sometimes none, little girls are being circumcised, beaten up, and forced to marry and have children before they turn 20, and where mothers have no real internal power to deliver to their children.
Otherwise, please stop saying you believe in women’s role in the country.

Message to all Egyptian women:
Over the years, we have been used and not given anything in return. It is either laws that look fancy but with no window for any realistic application, or a religious discourse that was twisted to prove to the whole world that God only created religion to give men power over women, or a fake secular community that stripped a woman from all what she really is and just focused on her body, how it looks, and is it covered or not.
Religion is what you believe in your heart, politics is what you want for your children, and women’s rights is letting you chose and enjoy both religion and politics, with no one imposing their beliefs on you.
Let them have their shows and enjoy their games, but don’t allow them to use you to win points… at not least without you winning anything too!