Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Harassment in Ramadan?

Ramadan is supposed to be a month of spiritual development and internal reflection. It is supposed to be the month in which Muslims try to tighten their bond with God via fasting, praying, reading the Quran and doing good. The month is also supposed to be all about abstinence, not only from food and drink, but also from any harm-doing, this includes refraining from insults, lustful leering and thoughts, and gossip among other things. Harassment is definitely one of the no-nos of Ramadan.

This Ramadan to add to my spiritual development, I decided to include an exercise program so that I can improve my overall health. After all, we are instructed in Islam to keep a fit body as well as mind. I thought it would be the perfect month because mostly people keep to themselves and streets are empty early in the morning. My exercise program included biking early in the morning (after dawn) and power-walking with a friend before Iftar, that way I am ensured least water expenditure possible.

The first 10 days of Ramadan went smoothly with no harassment whatsoever, and then while power-walking, I noticed that people's looks have changed. They look straight ahead at us, leering in a disgusting way and making eye contact without any fear. They also linger and seem to be enjoying the fact that you took notice of their harassment. I shrugged them off to me being paranoid.

Then the following morning, I went biking as usual. A guy in a car tried to harass me. I quickly stopped the bike and started spewing insults left and right with the loudest voice I can manage. He sped away without looking back. I shared the incident with my family. My mother suggested that I go a little later in the morning so that people would have gone home after being up all night, and my father told me that this was a singular incident and that it would not happen again. However, for my safety, he bought me some pepper spray.

I decided to take my mother's advice and go a bit later and also I took a day off because my legs was tired. So today, I went biking and by the 3/4 of my usual lap, it happened. Two guys in a car verbally harassed me, they just came out of nowhere and insulted me while speeding off. I insulted them back, spewing all sort of dirty, barbaric insults and for the first time in my life, I used an insult that I despise and would have never dreamed of using. They came back again, this time insulting me and giving me the finger. I insulted them back and dared them to stop the car and come tell me in the face, egging them on with the words "if you were men". They didn't come back.

I was irked, not only because of them, but because of my reaction and the way I responded. First of all, this is the second day I lost my temper in Ramadan, something I am trying to avoid. Secondly, with every harassment, I lose a little bit of myself and my humanity. I am becoming as barbaric as those people and for what? They don't care if they were insulted, some of them even like it. So, all I am doing is losing my temper and messing up my own serenity, and for what? Nothing.

I asked myself, how come the first 10 days were harassment free?

And then it hit me, it is the effect of our media. Everyone of my female friends have commented on the amount of insults and abuse (emotional, physical and verbal) that are portrayed in this Ramadan's shows and commercials. Women are being hit, insulted and laid to the ground  by "macho" men, who are revered in those shows. In addition, commercials encourage the idea of treating women as "objects".

In this Birell commercial a guy is telling his girlfriend on the phone (in a "macho" tone): Do not go outside alone. He is giving her an order in a derogatory manner, and then when he is off the phone, his friend asks him if she is Mona, and he tells him "No, I am done with Mona, this is Hanaa". He shows him a photo of her and other guy's eyes widens and says "Auff!" Meanwhile, every time the guy says something "macho", he grows a beard and then when he doesn't he becomes a woman. The slogan of the campaign is "be a man" and this is their interpretation of manhood.




In a series of commercials, a communications company called Etisalat is encouraging customers to break away with their old companies and come to Etisalat by mimicking the breakup scene. Men (customers) call women (company representatives) and break up with them in all sorts of derogatory and offensive manners, while the women plead with them, telling them they must have done something wrong. Below you will find the worst of the bunch.




In another Vodafone commercial, actor Samir Ghanem is at the hospital being treated by a nurse when another actor Al Adl comes in. Samir Ghanem points at the nurse and says "my fiance" and then Al Adl looks at her in a leering way and says in a "come hither" tone "ahlan wa sahlan" or hello. This might be the least offensive, but it still promotes the idea of harassing women at work with negative attention, so not at all excusable.


Add to this a myriad of shows where women continually bear and suffer emotional, physical and verbal abuse by men who treat them like scum. However, the women refuse to leave them because they love them or whatever flimsy reason the show offers. In addition, shows portray women as bubbly airheads, who think about nothing other than getting married, and for that she would suffer anything. Sure, some women are like that, but as much as media is portraying a social phenomenon, it is also solidifying a social trend where women are abused and happy about it. In this area, media is supposed to be the awareness channel in which men know that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Yet, is there one single campaign against harassment in TV midst all those shows and commercials?

NO. Even though several women and reporters were harassed physically this year and the past year in different areas of Egypt, some escalating to group rape, and yet the trend goes unaddressed by media and government.

The way we are going, this will only get worse and barbaric men will find this a way to assert whatever dominance they lack at home or work or whatever. The media is encouraging this trend and add the fact the sweeping Islamist trend of considering women "unmentionables", who need to be locked up and treated like shit, well, then you have a recipe for disaster.

I honestly, truly, hate this country.

12 comments:

zaghaleel said...

I am truly happy that you wrote your thoughts and your opinion, its very important that you speak out. The problem is not only Egypt its every where France, Belgium, the USA and others...Women and men must come together and find a collective solution for this shitty behavior.

dont feel bad about losing your temper, Allah wouldnt have wanted you to accept or put up with Abuse.

Sina said...

Thank you for your kind comment :)

Mohammed Khairy said...

What u say is very true and honest, I hate how harassment lately became an ordinary thing on screen, your words and listing of facts we live everyday is a big proof egyptians r not religious men as they appear to be, they r turning into savages and mannerless people. But we must workon changing this... Trust me, u will find honest egyptian men helping u as well, a woman's dignity is a real man's dignity

Kari said...

Your article is most interesting and I am so sorry that you have had to put up with those dogs (I wouldn't call them men). Harassment should not be tolerated.
I am a Muslim girl too and if someone harassed me, I would shout back at them. So don't feel bad to lose your temper during fasting. Anyone in your situation would be just as angry.
Hopefully one day this harassment culture will change. :)

Sina said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes, a lot of work is needed to fix this social trend, but it will only be corrected if all aspects of society are involved, and that won't happen now with a broken country and authority.
Also, it is not about a woman's honor and diginity, it is about respecting a fellow human being.

Sina said...

Thanks Kari, and hopefully one day it will inshAllah :)

Aala'a Emara said...

Chapeau !

I totally agree , i must add Ahmed Mekki's ad to the list of degrading TV series/ ads .. It's disgusting !

Its a sick society but as an earlier commenter said .. it will change sooner or later insha'Allah

Thanks for sharing this :) Ramadan Kareem and enjoy your daily exercise :)

Sina said...

The portrayal of a strong woman as a man-eating creature, typical patriarchal Eastern society!

Hopefully it will change.

Thanks and Allah Akram :)

Ahmad Mohanna said...

I am pretty sure nothing I say would make all this pain you suffer, along with almost all other girls, feel any less of a nightmare.

Let me just say that I commend your honesty and courage. Please know that some of us out there do not condone this sick and repugnant behavior, and do everything we can to do something about it... (but failing miserably unfortunately).

I apologize to you. I have never in my life harassed a girl. Still, I apologize. It pains me that women in my country have to live in such misery. Please accept my apology, it might be insignificant, but I promise you it is sincere.

Ahmad Mohanna said...

I am pretty sure nothing I say would make all this pain you suffer, along with almost all other girls, feel any less of a nightmare.

Let me just say that I commend your honesty and courage. Please know that some of us out there do not condone this sick and repugnant behavior, and do everything we can to do something about it... (but failing miserably unfortunately).

I apologize to you. I have never in my life harassed a girl. Still, I apologize. It pains me that women in my country have to live in such misery. Please accept my apology, it might be insignificant, but I promise you it is sincere.

Sina said...

Thank you for your comment Ahmed and for your sincere apology :)

However, it is not your fault, but the fault of the society and culture that breeds that kind of behavior.

White Knight said...

i really like your post and i believe there is more than you wrote

but i believe that many good people still exist


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