Sunday, July 09, 2006

To Veil or Not To Veil.


Recent news that one of Egypt’s best loved actresses, Hanan Turk, was taking up the Islamic veil or higab has been the talk of the town. The popular talk show al-Beit-Beitak—literally, The House is Yours meaning ‘feel at home’, broadcast on the national TV Channel II, could not let the matter pass without comment. The host introduced the story as if the actress had finally found illumination and was being guided along the correct path, while the actress-turned-preacher lectured the audience with a sermon on religious opinions and morality.

Clearly it is not for us to comment on whether or not any woman decides to wear the veil, which is a very personal matter. We do have a right to comment, however, on the fact that the conversation on the show switched to a discussion and an implied comparison on life before and after wearing the veil, where life before the veil was characterised by lack of religiosity and life after by spirituality and devotion. This comparison is a slap in the face for a freedom of choice based on liberalism and coexistence, a principle that should overrule other conventions.

Since the decision to wear the veil is personal and warrants no comment from viewers, the same should apply to the decision not to wear the veil. Biased opinions should not be broadcast on national TV, which is financed by all tax payers in the country—Muslims, veiled and non-veiled, and Christians—and feeds the concept of viewing the non-veiled woman as less pious and less moral than the veiled.

Worth noting is that these views were broadcast on the same TV channel that shows non-veiled women broadcasters who are very open-minded, and many programmes, video-clips and films that lead to comments on ‘extra’ liberalism. What does all this mean? Is the host of al-Beit-Beitak recording an objection against the association he works for? Or is he transmitting his personal opinions on life and religion? Or is the whole issue just a conflict of coincidence, reflecting the lack of a definite media policy? The answer may be all of the above.

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