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Wednesday, December 11, 2013 

An Egyptian cartoonist who can't make up her mind

The BBC's written about an Egyptian cartoonist who's drawn up a heroine called Qahera who combats misogyny...but also "Islamophobia":
The name Qahera is the Arabic word for Egypt's capital, Cairo. It also means the conqueror or the vanquisher.

Deena [Mohamed] says she had her superheroine with the all-powerful name wear a hijab to combat a widespread stereotype that women wearing the Islamic attire cannot be strong.

"There is already so little representation of women who wear the hijab, although that is the majority of women I see around me, and it did not make sense not to make her wear hijab," says Deena, who does not wear a hijab herself.

Hijab - the principle of modesty in Islam that includes manners of dress - is a religious obligation stipulated by the Koran, according to scholars at Al-Azhar, the highest seating of Sunni Islam.

Deena says she had her eye on a Western audience from the beginning, another reason why her character wears a hijab, and episodes are written in English.

"I wanted to send a message about the general Islamophobic backlash, and if I was going to address that, I needed to make a statement.

"Women who wear hijab usually bear the brunt of Islamophobia," she says.
Oh good grief. What about the Muslim women who are abused and oppressed by the Muslim men in Islamic regimes? Why is she acting as though Islam's adherents don't believe in forcing women to wear veils? This isn't a question of whether women who wear isolationist outfits can be strong, it's a question of whether she's legitimizing an outfit that the male domineers of the Islamic world force women to wear, including wife-beaters.
One of her comics is tackling the Western misconceptions on submissive Muslim women.

"Look, it is a Muslim woman," says one of the characters in a story featuring Western feminists.

"Sister, take off your oppression!"

But the superheroine reacts angrily to their call.

"You have constantly undermined women. You seem unable to understand we do not need your help!"
No, the cartoonist herself doesn't get it. Western feminists have turned their backs on women in Islamic regimes for years, making their beefs selective only, usually against white men who aren't Muslims. Many of them don't even condemn the persecution while using a whitewashed approach that avoids slamming the Koranic beliefs that led to all this.
Street harassment

In the past few years, sexual harassment of women on the streets of Egypt has become a growing phenomenon.

While most women are usually helpless in this situation, Qahera does something about it.

Deena created an entire episode about harassment, where Qahera dons her long black hijab and carries a sword as she chases down male abusers, and flies to fight wherever a woman is mistreated.

"Never bother another woman again!" Qahera warns a beaten-up culprit.

The past few decades saw a majority of Muslim women in Egypt adopt the attire. On the streets of Cairo, there are few women with their hair uncovered.

But the modest Islamic attire fails to protect women from being abused.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women said in a recent report that 99.3% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, whether physical or verbal.

Deena says the theme is based on real experiences with street harassment. However she does not encourage women to react the way Qahera does.
Surely that isn't defeatist, in a way? And she fails to comprehend that these kind of assaults are part and parcel of the Koran. If she is a Muslim and read the Koran, then she's not being truthful about it.

And even if she hasn't condemned Islam for the crimes it condones, there's no chance any devout, hardcore Islamist will approve of her story, and failure to encourage some kind of self-defense practice for women only scuttles the comic even more.

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