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In the Arab world, why do woman-related stories dominate the headlines?

This is a question that recurs whenever extraordinary stories are published or broadcast by our media outlets.

An example is the Hijab debate in Egypt, which involved Culture Minister Faruq Husni, actor Hussein Fahmi and writer Iqbal Baraka. After that it was the Egyptian religious affairs minister’s position on the question of the Niqab and preventing the ministry’s official female preachers from wearing it.

In Tunisia, wearing the Hijab is still a controversial issue that has not subsided.

In Saudi Arabia, a recent incident where female members in the Spanish justice minister’s entourage were banned from entering a university, prompting the minister to cancel the lecture is being profoundly discussed within Saudi society.

Previously an even stranger incident occurred when a lecturer at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh refused to deliver his talk in the presence of female doctors in attendance and asking for them to be removed. How odd!

Islam allows woman to enter mosques and the Grand Mosque of Mecca while some prevent them from attending a lecture at a university or hospital.

These are all varied examples that demonstrate the failure of Arab societies in dealing with women as equals with the rights and dignity guaranteed by a great heavenly religion.

The Arab world is filled with rigid positions towards woman and now it is unable to find solutions to issues such as education and employment opportunities, gender mixing, the Hijab and the rights of woman as daughters, wives, mothers, divorcees, and widows.

The Arab world’s intolerance in dealing with woman is a cause of ridicule on one hand; while on the other, it is a source of disgust, for there are those of a supposedly liberal mind set, that claim to oppose the veil for women, but have no issues with indecency or using women as sexual marketing ploys.

There exists the fundamentalist current that denies woman their dignity and considers them an inferior being, neither representing the spirit nor the letter of religion.

The issue of women in the Arab world will remain the most important and delicate of issues.

Because of the failure to apply the human elements and the divine discourse that honored woman, views will remain rigid and ignorant and in turn will be the chief cause of vast violations, from family violence, social injustice, cultural and racial offenses and economic and political discrimination. Examples of this will persist as long as causes are not reversed and views not changed.

Like a social thermometer, the woman’s issue measures the Arab world’s ability to deal normally with half of its society and to provide woman all the rights that are guaranteed by divine words rather than by narrow human interpretations that if persevered will continue to be the cause of an imperfect society.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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