Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Female Egyptian parliamentary candidate representing the Salafi movement, Muna Salah, believes that women are lacking in intellect and religious conviction and that it is not permissible for them to exercise guardianship (walayah) by holding the office of the presidency.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Salah defended her candidacy for the People’s Assembly by saying that deputyship was a partial guardianship, not a full guardianship like the presidency of the republic. The Salafi movement candidate added that she would strive to implement Islamic law, cut off thieves’ hands, forbid the mixing of the sexes, and assign black garments to women and white ones for men.
Among the thousands of candidates scheduled to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, Muna Salah, the head of the charitable society Pulpits of Light (Manabir al-Nur), remains one of the more controversial figures. She is one of two fully veiled candidates in the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held on Monday the 28th of November.
Despite major criticisms regarding her candidacy in the elections as a woman who wears the niqab, Muna says in a voice full of astonishment: “What are people going to do with my appearance? The important thing for them is what I do. God doesn’t look at your images or your bodies; He looks at your works.” Muna, who participated in the January 25 revolution by going into Tahrir Square, believes that the Islamic currents gave the revolutionaries strength and made the revolution successful.
Nine years ago, Muna founded the charitable society Pulpits of Light, a private society that offers a variety of social and charitable services to the poor. It has frequently brought her into the media spotlight, but the spotlight is focused on her more intensely today after her announcement that she would run as a candidate on the list of the Salafist Light Party (al-Nur) for the constituency of North Giza, which includes fashionable districts as well as shanty-towns – her charitable society has been active in the latter – such as Imbaba, Usim district, Mansha’at al-Qanatir district, and al-Warraq. However, Muna states that she will not use the society’s resources in her election campaign.
Pulpits of Light charitable society is active in many fields. It includes an institute for women, one for children, three orphanages, and a home for cancer victims. Candidate Muna thinks that her chances for success would have been very great if she had run as an independent, but she thinks that matters are more complicated in the system of lists.
Candidate Muna is 53 years old, the mother of two daughters and a son. Although her younger daughter is studying at a coeducational non-Islamic secondary school, Muna Salah does not approve of mixing boys and girls. She will seek to separate them by proposing legislation to separate men and women. She says regarding this: “My daughter is studying in co-ed schools due to special circumstances; however, I will not allow boys to be educated with girls, whatever happens and under any circumstance.”
In a hall set aside for delivering Islamic teachings – usually divided by a curtain during religious meetings that bring men and women together – Asharq Al-Awsat met with the veiled candidate, who said: “Usually when there is an interview or meeting with men, a curtain is put up, because it is one of God’s commands and it must not be violated.”
Near a stand selling the isdal, the Islamic veil for women, at bargain prices, the candidate said: “I’ve always dreamt of being a female commander of the believers. I’d like there to be a single distinctive dress for women, as was the case among the first Muslims, when the men used to wear white and the women black.” This is something she said she would strive to implement by various efforts.
An election convention of the Light (al-Nur) Party a few weeks ago in Alexandria witnessed the covering of the statue of the sea nymphs. On one of the party’s election posters, a rose replaced a woman candidate’s picture on the party’s list. Observers took this as a sign of the party’s vision of women’s position and role.
Muna, by contrast, thinks that Egyptian women should have a role in society both inside the home and outside. She says: “A tradition from the Prophet – may God bless him and grant him peace – says that women are the sisters (shaqa’iq) of men.” She cited the role of the female Companions in the days of the Prophet – PBUH- participating in war, education, and commerce. She says this despite her being placed at the bottom of the list of the Light (al-Nur) Party.
While a great controversy rages in Egypt over calls for the implementation of Islamic law, Muna proclaims her complete support for its implementation. “Imagine,” she says, “if just one person’s hand were cut off, no one would steal and there would be no hooliganism.” She adds that the best solution for confronting hooliganism and rioting is Islamic law and application of the hadd punishments. She believes that Islamic law protects the Copts themselves and gives them large rights regarding marriage, divorce, and other things.
Prominently displayed on one of the walls of the society is a plaque inscribed with a Prophetic tradition that says, “Guard yourself against the prayer of the wronged.” The veiled candidate said that she hoped to visit former president Hosni Mubarak: “I hope to tell him that he feared the Islamic current for thirty years, but the fatal blow came to you from the young people of the American University.” She added that the Islamists had been subjected to injustice, mistreatment, arrest, and closure of businesses. She indicated that what had given the revolution strength was the religious currents.
While observers say that the coming to power of the Islamic currents in Egypt might be accompanied by a retreat in citizens’ personal freedoms, the candidate Muna, who put on the veil six years ago, says: “All the people are afraid of the Islamic Salafist orientation, but they don’t know that there are no more honest or better people than they.” She added: “They will fear God when it comes to the people and will build Egypt justly.”
Two weeks before the parliamentary elections, candidate Muna Salah remains without a definite political program. Her role in the elections will be based on themes related to women and social work, something she says she is good at handling and that will benefit her election slate.
Given the presence of women as candidates in Egypt’s presidential election, candidate Muna says that women are deficient in intellect and religion and that it is not permissible for them to hold guardianship, since they are subject to their feelings. She declares her support for the candidate Hazim Salah Abu-Ismail, a favourite of the Salafist current. Muna thinks that her candidacy for the People’s Assembly is different: “Guardianship in the People’s Assembly is a partial, representative guardianship, not a full one.”