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Egypt: Salafi leader forces TV presenter to wear hijab | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Alexandria, Asharq Al-Awsat- A strange predicament occurred at Alexandria’s official television station (Channel 5), during a live broadcast which led to the female presenter and all crewmembers being investigated by the station’s management. The crisis occurred after the presenter and crewmembers submitted to demands by a Salafi leader being interviewed, who insisted that all women present should wear the hijab during the show.

“The Youth Cafe” show had decided to interview Dr. Abdul-Moneim al-Shahat, spokesman of the Salafi current in Egypt, and its candidate in al-Montazah electoral district in Alexandria for the upcoming parliamentary elections. However, the young female presenter Eman al-Ashraf and her studio crew were surprised when Dr. al-Shahat said that he would not appear on the show unless the presenter wore a headscarf, a dispute that led to an extended a commercial break until an agreement could be reached. However, attempts to convince Dr. Shahat to agree to appear with the presenter wearing her ordinary clothes failed, and she eventually had to wear a headscarf to salvage the situation.

Eman al-Asharaf told Asharq al-Awsat that she “asked al-Shahat: what is the difference between you talking to me now [off camera] whilst I’m sitting without the hijab, and talking to me on-camera with the hijab? He answered; you can wear any hijab, even a Taiwanese one [a more liberal version of the veil]. Then he added: I cannot appear in public whilst you are not wearing the hijab. Then I said, but now you are sitting with me and speaking to me extremely politely, so what is the difference? He answered: I can speak with you without a camera, but the situation will be different in front of the camera, and he asked me to put on a Taiwanese hijab – meaning a semi-hijab. He said you can wear a Taiwanese one – not the complete version – because what matters is that we convey a message to the viewers. When I refused at the beginning he said, laughing, wear the hijab willingly now, before you wear it unwillingly later on.”

She went on to say “We had two options: either cancel the show, which had already begun, or wear the hijab to complete the show for the audience. We chose the second option, but as soon as the show resumed, I announced to the audience that I was wearing the hijab unwillingly and at the request of the guest Sheikh Abdul-Moneim al-Shahat. As a result, we received a torrent of phone calls on air. During one phone call, a female caller asked al-Shahat if the Salafis are attempting to impose the hijab on a female presenter now, before they have even reached power, what will they do to the people if they reach power? Al-Shahat declined to answer the question.”

For his part, Bassam al-Zarqa, member of the Supreme Authority of the Salafi al-Nour Party, told Asharq al-Awsat that al-Shahat’s position does not mean that the hijab would be imposed upon women if the Salafi current were to come to power. He added that “What the presenter did was not an act of coercion, rather she only responded to her guest’s request, which was very hospitable of her.” He added “As for her being investigated by the channel’s management, this is an extreme measure, for it is an infringement upon the presenter’s right to choose how she dresses.”