‘Veiled-Women Only’ Channel Stirs Up Controversy In Egypt
Imagine channel surfing only to stumble on to this
visual. While it might seem like a gathering of shadows, it's actually part of a new programme devised by Egyptian satellite
television channel Marya, which is solely managed by a staff of women
dressed in niqaab (fully veiled).
The channel’s general manager Sheikha Safaa was quoted as saying that the television will be “exclusively female” and that men would not be allowed to interfere in its editorial policies or programme content. She tells Egypt's Alarabiya:
“The work in operations of the channel will be handled by the sisters in
charge of management, especially as women are the best one to talk
about their needs,” she said, adding that the channel “aims at lifting
injustice” on veiled women who suffer from marginalization.
However, Safaa did note that the channel’s owner, ultraconservative Salafi Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmad Abd Allah, will have a “consultative” role to play because of his “media and scholastic expertise.”
The channel's direction hasn't exactly been a hit with viewers. One veteran Egyptian TV host, Tarek Habib, denounced the idea of a TV channel only for veiled women, saying that the niqab has repeatedly been used in crimes. He also said it was essential to know the identity and the gender of who goes on air and speaks to millions of viewers.
Egyptian actress Athar Al Hakim, meanwhile, was also quoted by women’s magazine Majalatouki as criticizing the channel. “I have the right to know who is talking to me on the television screen,” she said. “The issue of niqab is a national security one and it is unacceptable in Egyptian society despite the religious diversity.”