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People Who Shouldn’t Talk About Egypt Talking About Egpyt

By Taylor Marvin

At Slate’s XX blog, Rachael Larimore wonders if the awful rape of CBS correspondent Lara Logan suggests that post-Mubarak Egypt will be more violent for women. This is one of the most insipid and borderline offensive pieces I’ve read in a while. Ms. Larimore obviously did no research at all, and it shows:

“I wish I could say I was surprised by the news. But amid the cacophony of revolution, however, quieter voices expressed concern about what life would be like for women after the revolution, drawing comparisons to the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the ouster of the Shah led to reduced freedoms for women.”

Like Ms. Larimore, I too wish I could say I was surprised by the news that one woman has been raped in a foreign country. I also have been recently surprised to discover that Iran is actually not the same country as Egypt, and that the largely secular Egyptian protest movement has little in common with the Iranian revolution. Never mind. If a popular revolution in a Muslim country 30 years ago led to reduced freedoms for women, one in a completely different cultural and political environment 1,200 miles away must end the same way.

“There’s debate over whether the Muslim Brotherhood is secular or Islamist, and how will women will fare if Sharia were to be imposed in Egypt.”

Make a list of the countries where a strict interpretation of sharia law is enforced: Afghanistan under the Taliban, rural Pakistan, parts of rural Saharan Africa, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. Strict interpretations of sharia law, the kind Americans typically associate with Islam, are rare in the Muslim world.

Conservatives like to stress how similar the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is to Hamas, which originated as an offshoot of the Brotherhood. The two have ideologically diverged considerably since Hamas’ founding in 1987. The Muslim Brotherhood has grown more moderate in the past two decades, and seems to have pragmatically accepted the status of Israel while Hamas has remained more militant. However, it’s worth noting that Hamas has not imposed strict sharia law in the West Bank, despite having over 3 years to do so. This is a strong indication that the more moderate Brotherhood has no interest in forcibly imposing strict sharia law on Egypt. It’s also worth noting that the Brotherhood doesn’t seem to enjoy the public popularity necessary to dominate Egyptian society. In the Egyptian election of 2005 the Brotherhood managed to win 20% of the legislature, a figure that will likely fall with the emergence of other opposition parties in Egyptian politics. If the Brotherhood was interested in imposing a strict interpretation of Islamic law on Egyptian society, they would be unsuccessful.

“Is Logan’s attack an anomaly, or is it to be expected from men raised in a culture that treats women as lesser citizens?”

Is there any data that shows a high level of rape in Egypt? Suggesting that Egypt’s incidence of rape is unusually high is a very broad claim to make without reporting any supporting evidence. This is extremely sloppy journalism.

The post’s subtitle asks “who, exactly, celebrates by raping a woman?” Ms. Larimore insinuates that Muslims do. Let’s not forget what this article actually is: Ms. Larimore takes the rape of one woman, and uses it as a springboard to suggest that the entire Egyptian protest movement is a step backwards for women’s right, and that Egyptian men are inherently violent. By not offering any data to support her insinuations Ms. Larimore is either admitting that reality doesn’t support her assumptions, or saying that she doesn’t owe her readers well researched journalism. Claims require evidence. Ms. Larimore doesn’t seem to understand this. There’s a term for making this type of gross negative generalizations about a foreign culture. I’ll let you figure out what it is.

Thanks to Sarah Alaoui for posting the original XX post.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. What I find interesting is the fact that during the revolution in Egypt some people were saying that Egypt may turn into another Iran-like regime and now it seems that the people of Iran were in fact inspired by the revolutionary movements in Cairo.

    February 17, 2011

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